Press review

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Data protection issue on health apps in Germany

BERLIN, 8 Nov (APM) - The German bill meant to increase the use of health apps by easing reimbursement from health insurance companies has raised concerns about data protection issues, said Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on Tuesday (p29) and Friday (p18) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Friday (p7).
Data protection is a key issue in the development of health apps, said FAZ, pointing out at least three cases of major data privacy breaches recently discovered within app providers already working for German health insurance companies.
The Ada app, developed as a chat programme to provide advice to insurees on medical care, was transferring data - including personal medical information - to tracking services even before the user had agreed to the data protection regulations.
A very similar issue occurred with the Vivy app, meant to transfer health record data between physicians and patients and the Docdirekt app last year, as patients could be easily identified.
Professor Gerd Antes, who chaired Cochrane Germany until 2018, told SZ that health apps and connected devices measuring body functions could harm patients, especially if manipulated by hackers.
Health technology assessment (HTA) procedures for these products should therefore be thorough and not only conducted by drug regulator BfArM, as is planned under the new bill.
FAZ also reports on Friday that a widely-used pharmacy software marketed by pharma wholesaler Phoenix, has been piling up personal patient data in the IT system of pharmacy cash registers, thus breaching current data protection regulation.

Unfounded fears on future German health data centre

The planned set up of a health data centre gathering anonymised social data and billing data from German statutory health insurance (APMHE 64983) has raised a "data protection panic", Handelsblatt says on Friday (p19).
Earlier this week, the Green party criticised the fact that data of all 73 million insurees would be transmitted without their initial consent. The higher chamber of Parliament Bundesrat also criticised the risks for insurees' personal rights, FAZ said on Monday (p2).
Handelsblatt says that such concerns are based on "unfounded fears" that a "Health Big Brother" would be created.
The bill on "better care by digitisation and innovation" (DVG) which will create this health data centre introduces regulations that take into account data protection and will make the German healthcare system more digital, Handelsblatt says.

China becoming Big Pharma's great hope

The $2.7 billion deal between Amgen and Chinese biotech Beigene (APMHE 64961) illustrates the growing importance of the Chinese market for big pharma companies, Handelsblatt said on Tuesday (p16-17).
China has developed into a key growth driver for big pharma companies such as Merck & Co (+87% sales in the third quarter in China) and AstraZeneca (+40%), and no shift is likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
The market has become the world's second largest for pharma worldwide, totalling 11% of global pharmaceutical sales and having more than tripled its volume since 2008 to $137 billion in 2018. Its size will jump to $170 billion in 2023 according to Iqvia, or even $200 billion in 2022 according to GlobalData.
The Chinese government wants to set up a powerful Chinese pharma industry, especially in biologicals, that would compete with Western companies on the national market but also worldwide.

Stada invests €1 billion to buy 20 Takeda brands and Czech OTC manufacturer

Stada has invested €1 billion in two deals to acquire a Takeda portfolio of 20 drugs for €600 million and Czech over-the-counter (OTC) manufacturer, Walmark, for a three-digit million amount, FAZ reported on Tuesday (p37) and Wednesday (p25) (APMHE 64993).
Takeda's OTC and prescription drugs are sold in Russia, Georgia and other countries from the Commonwealth for Independent States (CIS) (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan)
On Tuesday, Stada announced the acquisition of Czech OTC product manufacturer Walmark, owned by buyout investor Mid Europa Partners. Walmark employs 540 people, sells its products to more than 40 countries worldwide, and focuses on Eastern Europe.
FAZ quoted Stada's chief executive as saying that Stada looks to further enlarge its portfolio, which includes new drugs and indications as well as new markets.

Number of drug shortages rose sharply

Pharmacists association ABDA has warned that the number of prescription drugs affected by a shortage has risen sharply, Die Welt reported on Monday (p14).
However, it noted that it is mostly single manufacturers of antidepressants, beta-blockers and anti-acids which are concerned of shortness of supply, and that these treatments can be substituted by equivalents from other companies.
In the less frequent matter of a drug which is in shortage without an alternative, patients need a new prescription of a different drug.
As the reasons for shortages lie in globalised drug manufacturing and exclusive discount agreements between payers and pharma companies, shortages will remain an issue, Die Welt said.

Effect on digital pills studied on patient adherence

Clinical studies in the U.S. using digital pills are monitoring patients' adherence in taking their drugs based on Proteus's devices, Die Welt reported on Sunday (p62).
A study at the university of Pittsburgh has found that 30% to 50% of adult patients do not adhere to their medication plan, resulting in up to $100 billion of unnecessary costs per year. Another study showed that 98% of patients taking beta-blockers in the form of digital pills could reduce their blood pressure, compared to 52% taking usual pills.
Otsuka's Abilify MyCite was the first drug with a digital ingestion tracking system to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (APMHE 55591), Die Welt wrote.

Pessina exploring taking Walgreens off the stock exchange

The main shareholder of US-listed drugstore group Walgreens Boots Alliance, Stefano Pessina, is exploring the possibility of taking the company off the U.S. stock exchange, Handelsblatt said on Thursday (p53).
Pessina, who is the company's largest shareholder with a 15% stake, is holding talks with several private equity groups about a $16 billion deal which would be the largest buyout in history.

Corbyn attacks UK Primer Minister Johnson about secret deal on drugs with Trump

The UK's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of making a secret deal with U.S. President Donald Trump to provide full market access for U.S. drugs in Britain, Die Welt reported on Wednesday (p5).
The deal would betray the National Health Service (NHS) in "a sell-out to Trump" because it would increase the prices for drugs paid by NHS.
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