Press review

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French health insurance fund misses chance to be reimbursed millions by Sanofi

PARIS, 31 Jan (APM) - France's national health insurance fund for employees, Cnam, has missed the chance to be reimbursed millions of euros by Sanofi, reports Les Echos on Friday (p.4).
According to a decision from Paris' commerce court, Cnam has waited too long to go after Sanofi for over €115 million, linked to the pharma's drug Plavix (clopidogrel) for the relapse of serious cardio-vascular diseases.
In 2009, Plavix was the fourth most widely sold drug worldwide, and so when its patent expired, Sanofi not only decided to produce its own generic to protect sales, but also to send staff all over France to convince doctors and pharmacists to favour its drugs.
The former were encouraged to directly prescribe Plavix and to write ''non-substitutable'' on prescriptions and the latter to dispense Sanofi's generic over those from other companies when it was not specified that the brand name had to be prescribed.
In 2013, France's competition authority fined Sanofi €40.6 million for abusing its position and Sanofi's generic competitors - Teva, Sandoz (Novartis group), Salutas and Lek - also went after the company for damages.
However, as its case was only launched in 2017, Cnam is deemed to have acted too late to recoup the €115 million it says it is owed. Cnam did not comment to the paper - saying it is planning to appeal the decision - and Sanofi also refused to comment.

New drugs behind Novartis growth

Novartis has registered an exceptional year, due to its innovative drugs division, reported Le Figaro on Thursday (p.24) (APMHE 66026).
The pharma recorded sales of $47.4 billion (+6%) in 2019, although its net worth was down 7% to $11.7 billion.
The group's re-organisation - which saw eyecare division Alcon spun off in 2018 - has regrouped Novartis' innovative drugs division to include drugs recently released on to the market which the group is concentrating on.
Sales of its leading drug Entresto (valsartan + sacubitril) for heart failure soared 71% last year and five drugs with huge potential have just been approved.
One of these is Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec) for spinal amyotrophy - previously incurable - which is looking to be one of the world's most expensive drugs at over $2 million.
Novartis is expecting 2020 to be good as well - although it fears the impact of coronavirus in China. When asked about the possibility of developing a vaccine, chief executive Vas Narasimhan said it would take over a year.
Les Echos also reported on the topic on Thursday (p.22).

Pfizer 'in the red'

Pfizer finished 2019 in the red, reported Le Figaro in a brief on Wednesday (p.21) (APMHE 66017).
The paper noted that this was mostly down to generic competition, with its sales falling 3.5% to $51.75 billion.
Pfizer has just finalised an over-the-counter (OTC) drugs co-company with GlaxoSmithKline and is buying generic specialist Mylan.

Nestle buys Allergan's Zenpep

Nestle has bought Allergan's Zenpep (pancrelipase) for patients with pancreas failure, Le Figaro reported on Tuesday (p.24).
Zenpep has sales of $237 million and will become part of Nestle's nutrition and Health Science division, which represents 17% of the group's business.
Ever since the arrival of Mark Schneider as chief executive in 2017, the group has expanded into specialised nutrition, including food supplements and infant milk.
In addition to Zenpep - which Allergan is selling off ahead of its acquisition by AbbVie - Nestle has already bought Atrium Innovations - specialised in health supplements.
Nestle also has its own therapeutic products for patients with gastrointestinal disorders, noted the paper, including Pepatman and Optibfibre - for absorption, constipation, Crohn's disease - and Vitaflo - for metabolic issues.
Les Echos also reported on the topic on Tuesday (p.18).

UCB Pharma's Distilbène causing problems three generations on

UCB's Distilbène (diethylstilboestrol) - prescribed between 1948 and 1977 to prevent miscarriages - is accused of causing problems in the grandchildren of the women who originally took it, reported Le Parisien on Thursday (p.10-11).
After being withdrawn from the market in 1977 because it allegedly caused vaginal and cervical cancer as well as malformations in girls who had been exposed to it in the uterus, it is now being accused of causing malformations three generations on.
In March 2019, the French justice system officially recognised that the grandchildren of women who took the drug could be affected and now those affected are campaigning to have a ''status'' of Distilbène girl to get specific medical monitoring reimbursed at 100%.

Number of Levothyrox alerts dropped between 2018-2019

The number of alerts raised over Merck KGaA's Levothyrox (levothyroxine) fell by 90% between April 2018 and April 2019, reported Le Parisien on Thursday (p.12).
France's drugs' regulator ANSM reported on the slump in numbers in its fourth report on the topic. In 2017, a change in the formulation of this thyroid treatment caused numerous adverse events.

France to start therapeutic cannabis trial in September

ANSM has announced that a therapeutic cannabis trial involving almost 3,000 patients will start in the country in September, reported Le Parisien on Monday (p.17).
The patients involved have serious diseases - epilepsy, neuropathy pain, chemotherapy side effects, palliative care and multiple sclerosis.
The drug will be consumed as an oil or dried flowers and will be prescribed by a specialist doctor - notably a neurologist or a pain doctor - as a last resort, after other treatments have failed.
It will be dispensed for the first time in a hospital pharmacy, but in community pharmacies afterwards.
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