Press review

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French HTA body rules out HCV test for whole population

PARIS, 13 Dec (APM) - France's healthcare assessment technology body HAS is ruling out a population-wide hepatitis C (HCV) test, reported Liberation on Wednesday (p.19).
HAS analysed scientific literature on the subject to see whether it was more economical to promote universal testing, or targeted testing.
Its research showed that the percentage of people with chronic HCV in France is decreasing, hence HAS decided it was more necessary to increase testing in at-risk populations, than to carry out universal tests.
However, patient associations and the French association for liver study (Afef) are not happy. The Afef in particular states that targeted testing focuses on young people, not women aged 40 to 70, or older men who might be unaware that they caught HCV before the virus was detected in 1989.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the target of removing HCV as a threat to public health by 2030. In France, there are an estimated 133,000 people with the disease, 19% of which are unaware that they are infected.

Sanofi's new CEO sets out strategy

Sanofi's new chief executive Paul Hudson laid out the company's new strategy in a meeting with analysts on Tuesday, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.21) (APMHE 65437).
The first item on the agenda: refocus the company's portfolio. Sanofi will now concentrate of Dupixent (dupilumab), with the aim of getting it annual sales of €10 billion and six other pipeline drugs: fitusiran, BIVV001, vengulstat, SERD, nirsevimab 4 and BTKi. The economic daily pointed out that each one has something that makes it stand out from the competition.
However, the paper added this is not the case for the company's diabetes and cardiovascular departments - and so new research into those will end.
Praluent (alirocumab) is also being rejected as competition from Amgen and Novartis, which means it does not have high hopes.
Hudson also announced financial aims on Tuesday, stating that the goal is to increase the operational margin from 25.8% to 30% in 2022, through savings of €2 billion and to increase free cash flow by 50%, using the 2018 €4.1 billion as a base.
Sanofi's consumer healthcare unit is set to become an autonomous public entity - prelude to a future sell-off or spin-off on the stock exchange, Les Echos wondered.
Le Figaro also reported on the topic on Wednesday (p.26).

Sanofi buys biotech Synthrox for €2.26 billion

Sanofi has bought biotech Synthrox for €2.26 billion, reported Le Figaro on Tuesday (p.23) (APMHE 65421).
This is the most significant acquisition Sanofi has made since buying Ablynx and Bioverativ - both specialising in rare diseases - for €14 billion almost two years ago, the paper continued.
With the acquisition of this cancer biotech, Sanofi confirmed its aim to invest in oncology, the biggest and most promising pharmaceutical sector which is set to be worth €180 billion by 2022.
It also shows the beginning of the new road map set out by new chief executive Paul Hudson, who joined the company in September (APMHE 64571).
Synthrox specialises in treatment aiming to prolong and improve the lives of cancer patients or a defunct immune system. Its main drug, which could be combined with other Sanofi drugs, is at the clinical development stage.
Sanofi is catching up in the oncology after being one of the leaders in the sector in the 1990s it underwent a quiet period. Despite the approval of cancer drug Libtayo (cemiplimab) by the Food and Drug Administration last year, it still faces stiff competition from pharma such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and Merck Sharp & Dohme.
One way for Sanofi to catch up is to acquire biotechs, as another big pharma trying to catch up - GlaxoSmithKline - did last year by buying Tesaro for $5.1 billion.
Le Monde (p.16), Les Echos (p.20) and La Croix (p.17) also reported on the story on Tuesday.

French drug regulator tells patients not to stop metformin-based drugs despite impurities

France's drugs' regulator ANSM has told patients taking metformin-based drugs, often used for overweight diabetics, not to stop taking it, despite the presence of possible impurities, reported Le Parisien on Monday (p.15).
ANSM said that stopping taking the drug could quickly cause hyperglycaemia.
Traces of NDMA (N-Nitrosodimethylamine), probably due to a manufacturing problem, have been detected in some batches of metformin sold outside the European Union, the paper continued.
However, ANSM said that the possible presence of this carcinogen does not pose an acute risk to health.

Aelis Pharma raises €11 million for cannabis addiction and psychosis drug

French biotech Aelis Pharma has raised €11 million in its second funding round, reports Les Echos on Friday (p.26).
Aelis specialises in drugs for brain diseases and its most advanced drug - AEF0117 - targets cannabis addiction and cannabis-caused psychosis.
It is currently in Phase II in California where there is significant interest from the U.S. authorities and the FDA.
French centres will be involved in Phase III which are set to start in 2023.

Indian researchers have developed male contraceptive injection

Indian researchers have developed a male contraceptive injection, reported Le Parisien on Wednesday (p.12).
The injection should be available in the first half of 2020 and is a world-first. According to Dr Sharma interviewed in the article, the injection is completely ready to go, having undergo prolonged Phase III trials with a success rate of 97.3% and no reported secondary effects.
The contraceptive, which sees a gel injected into the canal linking the prostate and the testicles, is a Risug - reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance - the idea of which has been around since the 1970s.
If it is given regulatory approval, it could be manufactured within six months and on the market shortly afterwards.
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