Press review

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Fresenius Kabi's China business hit by coronavirus epidemic

BERLIN, 21 Feb (APM) - Fresenius Kabi's China arm is the group's business which is being most affected by the coronavirus epidemic, FAZ reports on Friday (p19).
Even if the group is not yet able to quantify the impact but only refers to "non-significant negative effects", production in some plants has been at a standstill for a longer period than the usual New Year holidays and its sales force has a more limited access to hospitals.
Despite that, Fresenius aims to increase its net profit in constant currencies and excluding special items by up to 5% in 2020, chief executive Stephan Sturm said on Thursday at the annual results presentation, Handelsblatt (p21) and FAZ report on Friday.
In 2019, group sales rose 6% to €35.4 billion and profits firmed 2% to €1.9 billion.

Launch of coronavirus vaccine could take years

It could take years to introduce and make a coronavirus vaccine available, even if scientists manage to find a vaccine in a few weeks' time, Handelsblatt reports on Friday (p49).
If the authorities, doctors and companies agree on an unbureaucratic procedure and "special speed", clinical trials would take at least 1.5 years.
However, fears about the severity of the disease are higher than it really is and well below the Sars virus, which killed about 10% of all those who fell ill in 2002/2003, according to Christian Drosten, director of the Institute for Virology at the Berlin Charité university hospital.
The coronavirus mortality rate is assessed very differently, between 1.4 and 2.5% according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but according to Drosten it is likely to be around 0.5%.

Preparedness to fight highly contagious virus is low

Healthcare structures are ill equipped to fight highly contagious viruses such as the coronavirus, according general manager of Gavi vaccine alliance, Seth Berkley, interviewed in Die Welt on Wednesday (p12).
The previous epidemics with the Sars virus 17 years ago and the Mers virus 10 years ago were serious warnings, but no significant investment has been made, with countries ignoring the danger that such pathogens pose to mankind, Berkley said.

Berger and Germany's GPs concerned over drug shortages' risk

Consultancy firm Roland Berger and Germany's general practitioners (GPs) are concerned about the risk of drug shortages related to the recent outbreak of coronavirus in China, SZ reported on Wednesday (p6), FAZ on Thursday (p16) and Handelsblatt reports on Friday (p48).
Price pressure on the pharma industry has led to a concentration of compound manufacturing and a limited product variety, Ulrich Weigeldt, chair of the national GP association told FAZ.
According to Morris Hosseini, a healthcare consultant for Roland Berger, a majority of the active ingredients and starting materials for antibiotics, including penicillin and cephalosporins, are manufactured in China, SZ and Handelsblatt said.
At present, the supply can still be guaranteed by stockpiling, but the supply chain could rupture by the end of the month if Chinese factories keep standing still, Hosseini said.

Drug importer Ilapo profits from drug shortages

German drug importer Ilapo, specialising in the individual import of medicines, is benefiting from supply bottlenecks in the market, Handelsblatt said on Thursday (p44).
When a drug is failing in all German pharmacies, "we look for availability abroad" managing director Sabine Fuchsberger-Paukert told Handelsblatt.
With the agreement of payers, Ilapo also imports drugs which have no approval in Germany, such as Radicut for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) approved in Japan only and Idhifa for acute myelotic leukaemia (AML), or which are not available in Germany such as liver cancer drug Stivarga.

Drug sales in Germany rose 4.6% in 2019

Drug sales paid for by Germany's statutory health insurance GKV increased 4.6% in 2019 to €41.7 billion, while hospital and pharmacy sales grew 7% to €46.4 billion, according to consultancy firm IQVIA, FAZ reported on Saturday (p20).
Pharma lobby vfa's chair Han Steutel said that GKV's drug spend increased 4% and not 4.6%, as discounts on drugs "have reached a record". Steutel added that money spent for drugs is "a good investment", as it promotes health and wellbeing, as well as workforce productivity.
GKV spent 40% of the sales increase of €1.9 billion for oncology drugs. Rheumatology drugs and medicines to prevent strokes were also among the sales drivers.

Defeat in U.S. Dicamba trial renews investors' concerns over Bayer

Bayer's defeat in the first U.S. trial over herbicide Dicamba has renewed investors' concern about the company, reported Handelsblatt on Tuesday (p20-21).
Bayer's shares lost up to 2.5% to €75 on Monday after a Missouri jury awarded a farmer $265 million in a lawsuit that claimed Bayer and BASF's Dicamba destroyed his peach orchard. Bayer and BASF said they plan to appeal the verdict.
As around 170 similar cases are pending in U.S. courts, the loss puts big pressure on Bayer. The company already faces separate multi-billion-dollar litigation over the Roundup weedkiller. Negotiations are ongoing to reach a settlement.
In addition, the next wave of trials will start in March in the U.S. on Bayer's contraceptive medical device Essure. More than 30,000 users are claiming damages for side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted its use in April 2018 while Bayer stopped selling the product in the U.S. because it was no longer generating business in 2019.

Merck KGaA sells allergy business

German pharma company Merck KGaA has signed a deal to sell its allergy business Allergopharma to Germany's generics and over-the-counter (OTC) drugmaker Dermapharm, without disclosing any financial details, FAZ reported on Thursday (p19) (APMHE 66288).
The deal, which is expected to be completed in the second quarter, was struck as Merck plans to focus its pharma division on its pipeline to develop drugs for serious diseases, FAZ said.

Water industry wants pharma to pay for waste water fund

The German association of energy and water industries (BDEW) wants pharma to contribute to a public fund in order to finance an additional sewage treatment, Die Welt reports on Friday (p12).
An annual investment of around €1.2 billion is necessary to main water quality, according to a study commissioned by BDEW.
As drug residues are partly responsible for this investment, BDEW suggested a levy on all prescription drugs.
The pharmaceutical industry has rejected such a proposal, arguing that the removal of residues should be financed through additional wastewater tax.
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