Press review

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Walgreens Boots Alliance explores $70 billion buyout

Country : Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, U.S., UK

Keywords :
LONDON, 8 Nov (APM) - Walgreens Boots Alliance has been exploring the possibility of a record $70 billion deal to take the U.S.-listed high street chain private, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing people with direct knowledge of the matter.
The discussions follow more than a decade of aggressive deal-making by Italian billionaire Stefano Pessina, who owns 16% of Walgreens shares and who has assembled a retail and drug wholesaling business that now spans 25 countries, the FT said. The group includes more than 18,750 stores in 11 countries and has annual revenues of nearly $34bn.
One of the FT's sources warned that such a deal was a long shot and would face a number of challenges — not least the size of the transaction. The current record buyout, of energy company TXU in 2007, was valued at $45 billion, the FT said.

Labour warns that NHS is vulnerable to privatisation under Conservative government

The BBC carried an analysis piece on next month's general election, published at the weekend, looking at Labour's claims that the National Health Service (NHS) is vulnerable to privatisation under the Conservatives.
The party has developed a new attack line,that any post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. will open the door to big U.S. health corporations. It has also picked up on suggestions that the U.S. authorities will demand that the NHS pays more for drugs supplied by U.S. companies.
In essence, Labour is alleging that the NHS is not safe after a Brexit presided over by the Tories, said the BBC,
The Conservatives have strongly denied that the NHS is in any way "up for sale". They argue that there will be red lines with the UK position in any trade talks, which protect the current status of the health service and the drug purchasing regime.
Fuelling this row was a documentary by Channel 4 Dispatches which asserted that the price the NHS pays for U.S. medicines could rise steeply in any future trade deal with the U.S.
The programme reported that "drug pricing" had been discussed in six initial meetings between trade officials from the UK and the U.S. and that there had been "secret meetings" between pharma companies and UK civil servants.
In response to the programme, the government said: "We could not agree to any proposals on medicines pricing or access that would put NHS finances at risk or reduce clinician and patient choice."

AstraZeneca's China deal

AstraZeneca has signalled its confidence in China's biotech sector by partnering with state-owned investment bank CICC on a $1 billion fund to invest in local start-ups, the FT reported on Tuesday. (APMHE 65010)
The UK pharma would contribute a "substantial" amount to the fund, which would have Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek as a partner, and would finance mainly "smaller ventures", said chief executive Pascal Soriot.
It would be AstraZeneca's largest fund, said Soriot, adding that he expected it would reach its target within four years.

U.S. sues Gilead over HIV infringements

The U.S. is suing Gilead Sciences for infringing government patents for the use of two of its flagship drugs to prevent HIV, saying the company has reaped billions of dollars by capitalising on taxpayer-funded research, the FT reported on Thursday.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Health and Human Services Department said it filed a lawsuit seeking damages over the company's alleged infringement of HHS patents for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to bring drugs Truvada and Descovy to market.
Gilead had originally obtained FDA approval for the therapeutic use of Truvada — which is priced at $20,000 a year in the US — to treat HIV in combination with other drugs. It then obtained approval for the preventive use of Truvada and Descovy, a newer drug, by using data from Centers for Disease Control, a government agency, HHS said.
HHS said that Gilead refused multiple attempts to get it to try to license the patents. 

Teva puts further $468 million aside for U.S. opioid legal settlements

Israel's Teva has put another $468 million aside for legal settlements related to the U.S. opioid crisis, taking its provisions to almost $1.2 billion so far this year, the FT said on Wednesday
The group, which is also battling against generic competition to its multiple sclerosis drug, reported a net loss of $314 million for the third quarter, widening from a loss of $273 million the same time last year (APMHE 65045).
Teva is trying to settle outstanding opioid lawsuits as part of a global deal worth up to $48 billion.
Under the proposal, the company will pay $23 billion for medication to treat opioid abuse disorder over ten years. But it has not admitted liability for the crisis that has seen two million Americans become addicted to opioids. 
The deal is far from finalised as attorneys-general from four states — North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Tennessee — push to get other states, cities and counties to sign up. 

Flu vaccine shortage leaves UK children at risk

UK schools have been told to cancel flu vaccination sessions because a worsening vaccine shortage threatens to pile pressure on over-stretched hospitals heading into winter, The Times reported on Thursday.
GPs have been told to prioritise the sickest children as a result of delays delivering vaccines, which health chiefs blamed on the manufacturer, AstraZeneca, it said. A million children could be left unprotected after a quarter of this year’s supply was held back by testing problems.

CVS lifts full-year forecast on higher prices for brand name drugs

CVS Health boosted its full-year earnings outlook as it reported quarterly results that exceeded expectations, boosted by higher prices for brand name drugs, the FT reported on Wednesday.
The healthcare group, which has businesses in insurance and pharmacy, said revenues jumped 36.5% from a year ago to $64.8 billion, eclipsing analyst expectations for around $63 billion, the newspaper cited a Refinitiv survey of Wall Street analysts as saying. The boost came primarily from the company’s $69 billion acquisition of Aetna last November as well as higher prices for brand name drugs, despite criticism from politicians over high prices.
Revenues in the company’s pharmacy services division, which includes pharmacy benefit management services to employers, climbed 6.4% from a year ago. Meanwhile sales in its retail unit, which includes pharmacy prescriptions, a wide range of general merchandise and healthcare services through walk-in clinics, rose 2.9%, the FT noted.

UK has fewer doctors than most of the developed world

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses serving its population than many other countries in the developed world and spends less money on its health service, according to a Friday report from The Times, citing an official report.
The study, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), found that the UK had 2.8 doctors and 7.8 nurses for every 1,000 people, ranking it below Costa Rica, Russia and Hungary, but slightly above the U.S. and Canada. The average across the OECD’s 36 member countries was 3.5 doctors and 8.8 nurses.
Health spending in the UK was significantly lower than most other western European countries, at 9.8% of its gross domestic product (GDP), the newspaper noted. This was about one percentage point higher than the OECD average, but lower than spending in Switzerland, Germany, France and Sweden. The U.S. spent the most, at 16.9% of GDP. Switzerland was the next highest spender, at 12.2%.

Boris Johnson promises cut-price and eased immigration process for NHS staff

Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for half-price visas and preferential immigration processes for doctors and nurses wanting to work in the UK but faced calls to exempt them from the health surcharge, The Guardian reported on Friday.
Johnson said the new NHS visa costing £464 would be part of the points-based immigration system he wants to introduce after Brexit. Under the proposed fast-track process, the Conservatives said applicants would be guaranteed a decision within two weeks and extra points would be awarded to those coming to work in the NHS.

NHS treating 5,000 people with diabetes a day

UK hospitals are being deluged by 5,000 type 2 people with diabetes a day, new figures reveal as one in 10 patients are now suffering from a form of the illness linked to being overweight and inactive, The Telegraph reported on Monday.
There were more than 1.7 million admissions to hospitals last year for people with type 2 diabetes, costing the NHS an estimated £22 million a day.
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