Press review

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Big pharma turn to start-ups for R&D - France's Le Figaro

PARIS, 20 Dec (APM) - Big pharma companies are turning increasingly to start-ups to profit from their low-cost agility, their advances in new technology and to blow a breath of fresh air into their R&D teams, reported Le Figaro on Monday (p.27).
The start-ups get funding, mentoring, workshops on research, production and regulation, while the pharmas get access to their research. These partnerships can lead to acquisitions - the 'dream' scenario for many start-ups the paper continued.
Johnson & Johnson has been running its incubator 'J-Labs' for seven years and has signed 110 partnerships with the 450 companies incubated.
Many other companies start partnerships with start-ups through their investment funds.
Amgen recently announced the creation of its investment fund 'Amgen Innovations' (APMHE 65565) while Pfizer recently invested in French biotech ImCheck Therapeutics via its own investment fund Pfizer Ventures.

Novartis drops Kymriah patent following NGO pressure

Novartis has dropped a patent for its gene therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) following pressure from non-governmental organisations (NGO) Médecins du Monde and Private Eye, reported L’Humanité on Tuesday (p.15) (APMHE 65540).
Médecins du Monde pointed out that the technique used to create the drug was not new and has been used in a public hospital in Barcelona. Head of the medication price and healthcare systems mission at the NGO Olivier Maguet also highlighted in an interview with the paper that Kymriah involved taking the patient's white blood cells - and Novartis could not patent those.
Given that hundreds of drug patents are given in Europe each year, the paper questioned how many other mistakes like this one have been made.
Les Echos also reported on the story on Tuesday (p.22).

AbbVie's Rinvoq approved in Europe

AbbVie's Rinvoq (upadacitinib) has been approved in Europe for rheumatoid arthritis, reports Les Echos (p.23) on Friday (APMHE 65573).
The drug is seen as a successor to AbbVie's blockbuster Humira (adalimumab) as sales from the latter are starting to fall as biosimilars arrive on the market.
As was the case with Humira, AbbVie is looking to get Rinvoq approved in other indications, with nine programmes already underway. U.S. analysts are optimistic, banking on sales of $11 billion for it and AbbVie's other new immunotherapy Skyrizi (risankizumab), currently approved for psorasis.
Rinvoq has several advantages, the paper notes, stating that it benefits from the fact that Skyrizi sales significantly surpassed expectations and that the likelihood that it is likely to have a better benefit-cost ratio than Humira.
With other drugs including Pfizer/Amgen's Embrel and Merck Sharp & Dohme/Janssen's Remicade, the immunology market is set to be worth €30 billion by 2025.

French drugs' regulator updates information label for MSD's Propecia

France's drugs' regulator ANSM has updated the information label for Merck Sharp & Dohme's baldness treatment Propecia (finasteride) to draw attention to the drug's long list of potential adverse events, reported Le Parisien on Monday (p.16).
In addition to listing all the adverse events linked with Propecia - which range from sexual problems (erectile dysfunction) to suicidal thoughts - ANSM has noted the adverse events can take several years to appear.
ANSM has also added recommendations for prescribing Propecia, including that potential takers should tell their doctor about all previous health issues - depression, anxiety - and any other treatment they are taking.
ANSM also advises patients to reflect before starting Propecia and that if patients feel any mood changes, they should stop taking it immediately.

Europe approves Advicenne's drug for rare kidney disease

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved Advicenne's ADV7103 for rare kidney disease cystinuria, reported Les Echos on Thursday (p.27).
There was previously no treatment for the disease which affects 1 in 10,000 with 70,000 cases in Europe.
The drug is also in Phase III in the U.S., Canada and Europe for renal tubular acidosis, for which the medicine has already been designated orphan status.

French HTA recommends HPV vaccination for boys

France's healthcare technology assessment body HAS is recommending that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination be expanded to boys, reported La Croix (p.7) in a brief on Tuesday (aPMHE 65527).
The vaccine would be given to boys aged 11 to 14 years to combat the sexually transmitted virus which can lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine is already recommended for young girls.
HAS hopes to roll out the new vaccination programme by summer 2020. Around 4,580 new cases of cancer caused by HPV are diagnosed in women in France each year and 1,750 in men.
Les Echos (p.14), Le Parisien (p.10) and Libération (p.17) all reported on the topic on Tuesday as well. Le Monde Science & Medecine (p.3) and La Croix (p.18) also covered the topic on Wednesday.

Pharmacists' powers in France set to increase

Pharmacists' in France are to be given greater power, enabling them to prescribe drugs for certain diseases without prescriptions, reported Le Figaro on Monday (p.13).
In the next few months, pharmacists will be given the power to prescribe drugs without a prescription for a variety of diseases such as cystitis and tonsillitis. They will be guided by decisions from France's healthcare technology assessment body HAS, the paper added.
To ensure patient safety and reassure nervous doctors, only pharmacists who belong to a healthcare professional community or who work with other healthcare professionals such as doctors will be able to prescribe these drugs, the paper continued.
There is also talk of pharmacists having the power to adapt drug doses, to reduce the 1.5 kg of drugs each French person throws out each day. Pharmacists already do this for 65% of drugs used to treat chronic diseases.
Supporters of the measure point out it would save the health insurance money. However, doctors are not happy, saying pharmacists would act as censors "tasked with rationing health spending".
Le Figaro also reported on the topic on Tuesday (p.21).

Pharmacists to have more control over aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen sales

French pharmacists are to have more control over aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen sales, as the drugs are moved behind the counter in community pharmacies, reported La Croix in a brief on Wednesday (p.18) (APMHE 65546).
However, the drugs will still be available without a prescription, the paper added. France's drugs' regulator ANSM said on Tuesday that it wanted to control their use and limit the risks linked to their misuse.
When taken in too high doses, the drugs can cause serious, even deadly, liver lesions which result in the patient needing a transplant.
Le Figaro (p.23) and Les Echos (p.15) also reported on the topic on Wednesday. Le Monde (p.26) reported on it on Thursday.
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