Press review

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Biotechs more agile than big pharma to develop coronavirus vaccine - German press

BERLIN, 31 Jan (APM) - Biotechs are more likely than big pharma companies to develop vaccines against the coronavirus because of their higher agility in the vaccines arena, reports Wirtschaftswoche on Friday (p52-54).
"Biotechs are much more agile and quicker to make decisions than their major competitors," Curevac's head of infectious disease unit Lidia Oostvogels told Wirtschaftswoche.
Three biotechs - Germany's CureVac, U.S.-based Moderna and Inovio - have begun the search for a vaccine against the coronavirus, all three projects funded by epidemics preparedness alliance Cepi, Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday (p5).
Research and development to find a vaccine is expected take a year at least, general manager of Gavi vaccine alliance Seth Berkley told Handelsblatt.
Vaccines regulator Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI)'s chair Klaus Cichutek hopes that the first vaccine candidates will enter clinical Phase in six months' time, as first pharma companies have sought PEI's early advice about approval procedures, FAZ reports on Friday (p37).

Rush on respiratory masks in German pharmacies

The fear of coronavirus in Germany is leading to a nationwide rush on respiratory protection masks and other protection products, Die Welt reports on Friday (p1,8,9, 24).
Wholesalers Gehe and Phoenix reported being sold out of protective masks, while demand for disinfection gels has risen 70%, it said.
In Germany, general practitioners reported growing concern of a potential epidemic in the population but experts consider influenza to be the bigger problem, Die Welt says. Germany, like many countries, has instituted health checks for passengers arriving from China

Companies react differently to coronavirus threat

Companies have taken precautions to prevent infections among their employees, Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday (p5) and FAZ on Thursday (p22).
Merck KGaA has told its 4,000 employees in all of its divisions (healthcare, life sciences and performance materials) in China to work from home over the next two weeks, FAZ said.
Other companies, such as Bayer, have not given any advice to their employees related to business trips or the coronavirus epidemic, Handelsblatt said.

Distribution of Roche coronavirus diagnostics in China difficult

Roche is ramping up manufacturing of its coronavirus diagnostic test. Distribution poses a problem to the Swiss pharma's sales people, as many cities have been cordoned off, FAZ reports on Friday (p21).
"Working out a solution is of high priority to us. Our people are creative and will find a way," Thomas Schinecker, head of Roche diagnostics, told FAZ at Roche's results presentation on Thursday.
Roche's chief executive Severin Schwan said that supplying a diagnostic test without delay means a reputation boost for Roche in China and could improve the relationship to governmental agencies in the centralised country.
Schwan predicted that China will be one of the most important markets for Roche in the next decade, as patent protection and approval conditions have greatly improved. In 2019, Roche's China sales totalled $5 billion, more than double Novartis' China sales, FAZ said.

Draft bill on 'patient data protection' in Germany

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has presented a draft bill on "patient data protection" to prevent electronic patient data "falling into the wrong hands", Handelsblatt reports on Friday (p13).
The goal is also to create added value for patients, Spahn said. After a consultation phase, the bill could be approved in cabinet in March or April.
It is planned that from 2022 onwards, vaccination card, maternity pass and the dental booklet will be available in digital form.

Settlement over $15 billion for glyphosate litigation could restrict Bayer's pharma investments

Bayer could be forced to reduce its planned pharma investments if the German group agrees to a settlement of more than $15 billion to end up to 80,000 lawsuits in the U.S. over glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer causing cancer, Handelsblatt said on Thursday (p1,4-5). (APMHE 66049)
According to Handelsblatt, Bayer has given an unofficial financial framework of about $10 billion to settle litigation. Chief executive Werner Bauman is planning to present a solution at the annual meeting in April.

AbbVie/Allergan sell pancreatic enzyme Zenpep to Nestlé

AbbVie and Allergan have signed a deal to sell Zenpep (pancrelipase), a preparation of pancreatic enzymes to treat exocrine pancreatic insufficiency due to cystic fibrosis and other conditions, to Nestlé, SZ reported on Tuesday (p19) (APMHE 65995).
The deal, whose financial details are not known, is expected to complete at the same time as AbbVie's takeover of Allergan. In 2018, Zenpep's sales totalled $237 million.

Novartis plans to double its $2.2 billion sales in China

Novartis plans to double its $2.2 billion sales in China, as increasing numbers of people gain access to innovative drugs in the country, FAZ reported on Thursday (p21).
For the full-year 2019, sales were 6% higher at $47.5 billion. For 2020, the company expects sales to grow in the mid to high single digits (APMHE 66026).

Stada appoints new CFO

Generics manufacturer Stada has announced that Wolfgang Ollig will succeed Mark Keatley as chief financial officer (CFO) on 1 February, FAZ reported on Thursday (p18, 39) (APMHE 66027).
Keatley, who became CFO in 2017, is stepping down for personal reasons.

Novartis confident of CAR-T Kymriah blockbuster potential

Novartis is confident that its CAR-T cell therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) will become a multi-billion blockbuster if the company can resolve manufacturing capacity issues, Die Welt (p9) reported on Thursday.
To date, Novartis cannot deliver enough Kymriah doses, although the company tripled manufacturing capacity in 2019 and opened a Swiss site in Stein am Rhein (APMHE 65330), Novartis oncology head Susanne Schaffert told Die Welt.
Novartis expects to meet capacity requirements at the end of the year.

Mail-order pharmacy DocMorris seeks alliance with local pharmacies

Dutch mail-order pharmacy DocMorris is seeking to build an alliance with local pharmacies in an online platform uniting DocMorris's online services and local pharmacies' delivery and takeaway services, Handelsblatt reported on Thursday (p19).
The announcement comes several months before the launch of an online marketplace involving all 19,300 German pharmacies, which was initiated by pharma wholesalers and pharmacy publishing house Wort&Bild, Handelsblatt said.

German pharmacy student challenges mail-order pharmacy business

Benedikt Bühler, a German pharmacy student, is challenging mail-order pharmacy business
through a petition which has gathered more than 400,000 signatures since spring 2019, said Handelsblatt on Monday (p47).
The petition, which is said to be the largest petition in the history of the Bundestag, is calling for a ban on the sale of prescription drugs via mail-order pharmacies.
Bühler said a ban is the only way to guarantee a nationwide supply of pharmacies, as prescribed by the solidarity system, because mail order companies are "always exposed to the danger of not being able to guarantee a complete supply due to technical risks".

Low price of epirubicin for cancer blamed for shortage in Germany

The low price of epirubicin, mainly used in chemotherapies in breast cancer, in Germany is partly responsible for its shortage on the German market, Der Spiegel said on Saturday (p65).
While Pfizer and an important Ukrainian supplier reported production disruptions, other suppliers, including Aqvida, Puren Pharma and Bendalis, told the reimbursement price in Germany is below the production costs. Aqvida has already ceased production, while Puren Pharma will soon stop.

African initiative to fight counterfeit drugs

Seven African countries - Gambia, Ghana, Congo-Brazzaville, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Uganda - have launched the 'Lomé Initiative' against counterfeit drugs, Der Spiegel said on Saturday (p79).
Counterfeit drugs are said to cause the death of more than 280,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa each year, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization's director General, said. Malaria drugs and antibiotics are among the most frequently counterfeited drugs.
According to the WHO, around 10% of drugs marketed in low income countries are counterfeits, a proportion which can go up 60% in African countries.
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