Press review

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Labour claims NHS would pay U.S. pharma companies under Conservative trade deal

LONDON, 1 Nov (APM) - The Times on Friday carries a comment piece from its Whitehall editor Chris Smyth that looked at Labour's claims ahead of the general election that the National Health Service (NHS) would be under threat under a Conservative government looking to make deals with the U.S.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said: "Boris Johnson's planned trade deal with Trump will mean yet more NHS money taken away from patients and handed to shareholders."
The paper said the Conservatives "have realised that they cannot simply ignore this attack", adding that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has had to insist repeatedly that the NHS is "not on the table" in trade talks with the U.S.
It also said that Corbyn is right that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is pushing trade negotiators to make the UK pay more for its drugs, saying the country has some of the lowest medicine prices in the world because of its cost-effectiveness assessment.

UK will not be 'held to ransom' by pharma - Hancock

The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday carried an opinion piece from Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss.
They said the recent negotiations for Vertex's cystic fibrosis Orkambi have shown the UK "will never be held to ransom by pharmaceutical companies".
They go on to say: "Patients will always be put first and the NHS will continue to have the freedom to negotiate discounted deals for new treatments that are affordable and fair to all parties."
The piece was responding to criticism that the NHS could be put on the table in future trade talks after Brexit.

NICE backs Elmiron for bladder pain

The Mail on Sunday reported that England's NICE has recommended bene-Arzneimittel's Elmiron (pentosan polysulphate) for bladder pain syndrome - also known as interstitial cystitis.
The paper said the pill, which was first developed 40 years ago to break up blood clots, is believed to repair the damaged lining of the bladder.
This protects the delicate tissue and nerves underneath from irritating substances in the urine and prevents the onset of symptoms.

NHS England CEO calls to revoke accreditation for Society of Homeopaths

The chief executive of NHS England's call to revoke the accreditation of the UK's biggest homeopathic society was widely covered on Monday.
The Society of Homeopaths is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA).
Now Simon Stevens, NHS England's CEO, has written to the PSA to demand that the society's accreditation be revoked when it comes up for annual renewal in January, saying that that accrediting homeopaths increased the risk of "chancers being able to con more people" out of their money.
His comments were reported in The Times, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

GSK and AZN go head to head in cancer

The Sunday Times carried a feature comparing the success of the UK's two major pharma companies GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca.
The paper said that when AstraZeneca's's chief executive Pascal Soriot arrived at the company seven years ago, both companies were facing tough competition from generic copies to big-selling drugs.
The picture is different now, said the article, noting that both GSK and AZN are "racing to find cures for cancer", with Soriot transforming AZN into a pharma specialist and GSK, under the leadership of new CEO Emma Walmsley, spending $5.7 billion on cancer drug developer Tesaro to bolster its efforts.
"In the battle for a slice of the lucrative market, the bosses of Astra and Glaxo have gone head to head. They both have something to prove," said the paper.

GP practice refuses to routinely prescribe opioids

The Times on Wednesday reported on a GP practice in Scotland that is no longer routinely prescribing a range of commonly-used opioids.
Critics have said the the policy will fuel demand for illegally made pills on the street, reported the paper.
It quoted Paul Sweeney, the Labour MP for Glasgow North East, who said that the policy needed to be reviewed urgently. "If we want to understand why street dealing of prescription medicines are causing drug deaths, then prescribing policies of GPs is certainly a worrying contributing factor," he said. "The demand will be met on the streets and in a much more harmful way."

UK insurers facing payouts over opioid crisis

The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday said that UK insurers are braced for a wave of legal battles over the U.S. opioid crisis.
Insurance companies linked to Lloyd's provide cover for a string of companies accused of fuelling the opioid epidemic, said the paper.
Firms responsible are expected to face a total bill as high as $50 billion (£38 billion).

Older people face being poisoned by medicines tested on younger population

The Daily Mail on Wednesday said that older people are facing toxicity risk from medicines as clinical trials tend to involve younger people.
It quoted Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair in medicine at the University of Liverpool and a consultant physician at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, who was giving evidence to a House of Lords committee.
He said older patients are often unable to process strong pills yet can be prescribed between 10 and 20 different types of medication at once. He said this led to the risk of adverse effects when drugs interact with each other.
"Most drugs have been tested in younger people and tested in people without multiple diseases," he told the committee. "When we use a drug at a dose that is licensed, we're often poisoning the elderly because of the doses we are using."

Third-quarter financial results

The FT reported on the third-quarter financial results of several pharma companies this week.
On Tuesday it said Merck & Co had "soaring sales" for cancer immunotherapy Keytruda, helping it beat expectations (APMHE 64912).
The same day it said that Pfizer lifted its forecast for the year after strong sales growth in the quarter in China also helped it beat expectations (APMHE 64913).
Also on Tuesday the FT said Amgen beat expectations and raised forecasts for the full year despite increased competition for some key products (APMHE 64920).
On Wednesday, the FT said GlaxoSmithKline raised its earnings outlook for the second consecutive quarter after strong sales of shingles vaccine Shingrix in the last three months. (APMHE 64932).
GSK's results were also picked up by The Times, which said Shingrix countered falling sales for Advair in the U.S. where sales weakened by 64% to £117 million.

J&J says baby powder does not contain asbestos

The FT on Wednesday said J&J is claiming that new tests show that its baby powder product contains no traces of the carcinogen asbestos.
The firm is defending itself in thousands of lawsuits that claim the powder caused cancer.

Bayer facing more Roundup lawsuits

Bayer is facing more lawsuits alleging a link between its Roundup pesticide and cancer, said the FT on Wednesday.
The paper quoted the German firm as saying that "lawsuits from approximately 42,700 plaintiffs have been served in the U.S. in connection with the crop protection product glyphosate" as of 11 October, up from 18,400 three months earlier.

Access to medicines under universal health coverage

The FT on Wednesday carried an opinion piece from Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Association (IFPMA).
He discussed the importance of the UN's goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, saying that how innovative medicines are priced can be a major barrier to access for patients in low and middle-income countries when patients have to pay out of pocket.
UHC could improve this but the solution lies in balancing the need to incentive research in the future innovative treatments and insuring that medicines are affordable for health systems, he said.
This can be helped by strengthening local healthcare systems, with a focus on primary healthcare, educating and training healthcare workers, repairing weak regulatory systems and streamlining supply chains, he said.
"We need to change the rules of the game, as the UN declaration recognises."

Hope for TB vaccine

The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday reported on a study of a new tuberculosis vaccine, saying it was found to protect half of those who received it in a three-year trial.
The new vaccine, M72/AS01, is made up of proteins from bacteria which trigger an immune response and has been developed by UK pharma GSK and non-profit organisation IAVI, said the paper.
The trial, which took place in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia, involved just over 3,500 HIV-negative adults with latent TB.

Amgen's AMG 510 can shrink tumours

The Daily Mail on Wednesday reported on trial results for Amgen's AMG 510, saying it has been shown to shrink tumours by up to 67% in just six weeks.
Researchers tested the drug on four patients, two of whom saw their tumours shrink. It did not work for the others, said the paper.
It said the tumour works by turning 'off' the KRAS gene. Mutated forms of the genes are permanently trapped 'on', causing cancerous cells to multiply.
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