Press review


England's NHS to scrap paper prescriptions

LONDON, 25 Oct (APM) - England's NHS plans to scrap paper prescriptions next month under a plan to save £300 million over two years, said the Guardian at the weekend.
Jo Churchill, the primary care minister, announced all prescriptions across England will be digitised.
The electronic prescription service (EPS) will be rolled out nationally after a trial run in 60 GP practices and hundreds of pharmacies.
At least 70% of all prescriptions are already being prescribed and dispensed through EPS and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has already received positive feedback from GPs and pharmacies.

NHS England and Vertex agree on access for cystic fibrosis drugs

The deal between NHS England and Vertex to secure access for the company's range of cystic fibrosis drugs was widely covered on Thursday and Friday (APMHE 64858).
The Guardian said up to 5,000 children and young people in England will soon get access to the new drug Orkambi, which has a price tag of £100,000 per patient per year, but will be available on the NHS at lower prices after the two parties agreed a confidential deal.
The Daily Mail said the deal is thought to be in excess of £500 million and gives NHS England access to the medication for five years.
The Daily Telegraph said Vertex has agreed to submit its drugs for a full NICE review, as part of the deal.
It follows three years of negotiations between the NHS and Vertex to secure the drugs, after NICE previously rejected Orkambi because it was deemed too expensive.
The Times spoke to Gemma Weir, who has campaigned to get the drug on the NHS for her six-year-old daughter Ivy for the past four years.
She said: "I'm completely ecstatic, as I can't believe the government agreed to it. My daughter's life expectancy has just doubled and she will no longer have to live with a horrible life expectancy hanging over her head."

Migraine drug Aimovig not reimbursed on NHS in England

The Mail on Sunday carried a feature looking at the lack of availability for Novartis' migraine drug Aimovig (erenumab) in England and Wales.
The paper said that doctors have claimed the drug is one of the most important advances in migraine therapy in decades but that NICE - the NHS’s spending watchdog for England and Wales - refused to fund it, even though health chiefs in Scotland have already given it the green light.
NICE said there was not enough proof the drug was clinically more effective than existing treatments, such as regular injections of muscle-relaxing Botox.
The paper aid that hundreds of patients have been paying around £5,000 a year to private clinics for monthly injections of Aimovig in the stomach, thigh or arm. Those numbers are expected to rise further in the wake of NICE's rejection, it added.

No-deal Brexit preparations ramping up

The Sunday Telegraph said preparations for a no deal Brexit have been ramped up in the UK after the Commons vote forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask the EU for an extension.
Michael Gove, the cabinet minister who is responsible for Brexit planning, said the vote had triggered Operation Yellowhammer, the government's no-deal contingency plan, because it increased the chances of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement on 31 October.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has started putting out contracts for freight, warehouse space and fridges which will be used to stockpile medicines. It will fly in medicines which cannot be stored, like radioisotopes for cancer treatment. Of the £2.1 billion pledged for no-deal preparations, £434 million has been set aside for this, said the paper.

Drug research 'locked behind paywalls'

The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday covered research by Open Pharma that shows that the results of much of the work of the pharma industry is "locked behind paywalls on scientific publishers’ websites".
The paper said that often, information is only available to people who pay a one-off charge of about £25 or who buy an expensive journal subscription. This means important data are often beyond the reach of doctors and scientist in the developing world, said the paper.
It quoted Chris Winchester of Open Pharma, who said: "So far, organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust have led the debate about free access to the results of vital medical research.
"Such access informs future work aimed at developing new, better and safer treatments for patients or to prevent disease. We feel it is time that the industry, which funds half that work, joined that conversation."

Opioid trial in U.S.

Litigation regarding several companies' involvement in the opioid abuse crisis in the U.S. was widely covered this week.
On Monday, the Guardian said that four major companies agreed to a multimillion-dollar payout, hours before a "landmark federal trial" in which they were facing accusations of a conspiracy to profit from addiction and death.
The companies are pharma firm Teva as well as drug distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen. They will pay a total of $260 million to settle the first of thousands of lawsuits by communities across the U.S.
The FT said the deal headed off the first federal trial related to the opioid epidemic, which was due to open in Ohio on Monday.
On Tuesday, The Times and the FT covered a separate offer from Teva to pay $250 million in cash and a supply of Suboxone, an opioid addiction treatment, worth $23 billion to settle sprawling litigation against the company.
The news lifted its shares by nearly 9%.

J&J recalls Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson has issued a voluntary recall of one lot of its talcum Baby Powder after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found traces of asbestos, which causes cancer, as widely covered at the weekend.
Papers including the Guardian and the Daily Mail reported on comments from J&J that the recall was issued out of "an abundance of caution", as the amount of asbestos it found was "sub-trace" and limited to samples from a single bottle.

GSK sells travel vaccines for £800 million

GlaxoSmithKline is set to make more than £800 million from the sale of two travel vaccines to Danish biotechnology firm Bavarian Nordic, the Daily Telegraph said on Monday (APMHE 64804).
The paper said the UK firm is offloading rabies drug Rabipur and Encepur, a vaccine for viral infection tick-borne encephalitis.
The story was covered by the FT on Tuesday.

Promising research in DIPG

The Observer on Sunday carried a feature on research into diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare condition that leads to the development of tumours in children, leading to their deaths.
Professor Chris Jones, of the Institute of Cancer Research, London, has worked on the role of a mutant gene, ACVR1, that is involved in driving the progression of DIPG tumours.
He is now working with Canada's M4K Pharma on developing treatments that can target the gene and treat the condition.
"We have identified five lead candidate drugs for further preclinical studies and expect to begin clinical trials within two years," Owen Roberts, chief executive of M4K Pharma, told the Guardian.

Biogen plans to file aducanumab for Alzheimer's disease

The Times and the FT on Tuesday covered Biogen's plans to see approval for aducanumab as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease after previous trial failures.
The Times said doctors welcomed a "turning point" in treatment for the condition after a bigger analysis of aducanumab trial data, involving more than 3,000 people, showed that at high doses it reduced symptoms in patients caught early.
The company's share price climbed from $58.35 to $281.87, adding more than $10 billion to Biogen's market value, said the FT.
The Times also quoted Brian Skorney, an analyst at Baird, a U.S. investment bank, who said that Biogen would, however, "have an uphill climb" to convince regulators that positive outcomes in the new studies "were anything more than random chance".
Both papers did follow-up stories. The Times' science editor Tom Whipple said in a comment piece that Biogen's data give "hope" to scientists working in the area.
The FT also focused on the "hope" angle in its follow-up piece, although it said the "unmistakable excitement was tempered by a battle-hardened caution".

FDA approves Vertex's triple combination for cystic fibrosis

The Daily Mail on Thursday covered the U.S. approval of Vertex Pharmaceuticals' triple combination therapy for cystic fibrosis.
The paper said Trikafta has been approved for patients 12 years and older who have at least one F508del mutation, the most common genetic mutation of the damaging lung disease.
This means the new drug could treat up to 90% of cystic fibrosis patients, meaning roughly 27,000 people in the U.S.

AstraZeneca's shares rally on 'strong' Q3 results

AstraZeneca's third-quarter financial results were picked up by the FT, the Daily Telegraph and The Times on Thursday (APMHE 64853).
The FT said the company had "strong sales performance", posting its fifth successive period of rising revenues. The Times said shares have rallied to new highs this year.

Eli Lilly's Q3 results

The FT covered Eli Lilly's third-quarter results on Wednesday, saying the company raised earnings guidance for 2019 with revenues being driven by greater volume of sales (APMHE 64848),
The company now expects non-GAAP earnings per share for the full year to be between $5.75 and $5.85, up from previous guidance of $5.67 to $5.77.



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