Press review

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End of an era at Bayer with chairman Werner Wenning set to depart

BERLIN, 28 Feb (APM) - The departure of Werner Wenning as chairman of Bayer's supervisory board marks the end of an era, said Handelsblatt (p1, 14), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) (p22) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p17) on Thursday.
The German press pointed out the importance of Wenning at Bayer, having worked more than 50 years in the group and as its chief executive from 2002 to 2010 (APMHE 66360).
Moreover, he has a close relationship with the current CEO Werner Bauman, seen as his protégé.
His departure, effective after the next general assembly on 28 April, might be seen as him taking the responsibility for the consequence of the Monsanto acquisition which has led to a huge U.S. litigation on glyphosate-based weed killer, said the papers.
His successor, Norbert Winkeljohann, former head of consultancy and auditing company PwC in Germany, will be the first chairman without a carrier at Bayer. Handelsblatt pointed out that he has no experience as CEO of a major industrial group in the areas relevant to Bayer.

Bayer CEO finds backing in strong operative figures

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann on Thursday presented 2019 results showing that the $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto in 2018 is profitable, Handelsblatt (p20, 27), FAZ (p24), Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p19), Die Welt (p11) write on Friday.
These results, including the higher ever adjusted earnings achieved (€11.5 billion, +28%) is a strong backing for Baumann against the ongoing criticism that has been directed at him and the entire group management since the U.S. glyphosate litigation, inherited from Monsanto, has emerged as a major threat for the group (APMHE 66371).
However, the now U.S. 48,600 plaintiffs still overshadow the operative success of the company (APMHE 66384).
Bayer has for the first time stated that the lawsuits could, in the worst case, lead to the company having to sell parts of its business or carry out a capital increase, FAZ points out.
However, chief financial officer Wolfgang Nickl said the group has not yet established special provisions for a possible settlement and the free cash flow was developing well, notably thanks to the $7.6 billion divestment of the veterinary business to Elanco.

China is testing a plasma therapy against coronavirus

China National Biotec Group is testing a plasma therapy against Covid-19, using antibodies from patients who recovered from a SARS-CoV2 infection, reported Die Welt on Thursday (p18).
Already ten patients in critical condition who received the treatment showed improvement within 12 to 24 hours, according to Chinese authorities. Health authorities have called for a huge blood plasma donation.
According to German drug regulator Paul Ehrlich Institute, this could be a first therapeutic option as long as no vaccine or immunoglobulins are available for prevention. However, plasma also carries risks because it can pass several pathogens.
The RNA-vaccine candidate from U.S. biotech Moderna, mRNA-1273, will also be tested in humans in China.

Incentives needed to support research on infectious diseases

The coronavirus crisis shows that a better incentive system is needed to strengthen pharma research on infectious diseases and developing new vaccines and drugs, Handelsblatt writes on Friday (p26).
Under current conditions, it is financially unattractive for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to develop drugs against sporadically occurring diseases or even to prepare for as yet unknown pathogens, the newspaper says.
However the emerging idea of building a large, state-controlled and global research initiative would not be the solution, it said, sadding that it would not be able to develop a new, safe drug against a pathogen such as the coronavirus in just a few weeks or months, Handelsblatt adds.

Sanofi to create a standalone company on manufacturing

Sanofi is planning to create a standalone company focusing on the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients for the group and other pharmaceutical companies, said SZ on Tuesday (p22) and FAZ on Wednesday (p18) (APMHE 66341).
Philippe Luscan, Sanofi's head of global industrial affairs, told the paper the new separated company is meant to become a "European champion" in drug manufacturing and thus contribute to greater stability in the drug supply for millions of patients in Europe and beyond.

Stada grows by buying some GSK OTC brands

Germany's generic drug manufacturer Stada has strengthened its non-prescription drugs business with the acquisition of 15 branded products from GlaxoSmithKline, Handelsblatt (p21) and SZ (p22) wrote on Tuesday (APMHE 66339).
The products, including the cold remedy Coldrex, the venous remedy Venoruton and the vitamin preparation Cetebe, will be marketed in more than 40 countries. Stada did not comment on the price. According to circles, the price was around €300 million.

Novartis shares down on safety signal on Beovu

Novartis shares lost almost 5% to 86.78 Swiss francs on Tuesday after unexpected side effects were reported with its newly approved eye medication Beovu (brolucizumab), FAZ said on Wednesday (p21) (APMHE 66346).
The American Society of Retinal Specialists reported 14 cases inflammation of the retinal vessels, with severe complications in eleven of these, with Beovu, indicated in wet age-related macular degeneration.
Beovu is one of the great hopes of Novartis as it is expected to generate more than $1 billion in annual sales. It is a competitor to Bayer's Eylea and Abicipar, which Allergan and Molecular Partners plan to launch shortly.

German statutory payers record deficit in 2019

German statutory health insurers companies have recorded around €1.6 billion deficit in 2019 after a €2 billion surplus in 2018, according to FAZ estimates on Monday (p15).
This first deficit since 2015 is mainly explained by a sharp rise in expenditure per insured person. The increase in expenditure was particularly strong for medicines and remedies.
However, the situation looks more dramatic than it actually is, as the deficits are politically intended so that the €21 billion reserves in the statutory payer system will melt away.

Doc Morris makes a U-turn and seeks alliance with German pharmacists

Dutch mail-order pharmacy DocMorris is seeking to build a cooperation on a "drug marketplace" with German pharmacists, making a U-turn to its previous strategy, Handelsblatt said on Monday (p16-17) and Wirtschatswoche on Friday (p24).
The marketplace would be an online service where customers can order medicines through Doc Morris and have them delivered to a pharmacy or to their home. It would be introduced with the start of the electronic prescriptions in Germany in 2021.
Doc Morris would no longer offer discounts on prescription drugs -which has caused major disputes with brick-and-mortar pharmacies and led to a ruling by the European court of Justice in 2016.
"We have changed", said Doc Morris chief executive Olaf Heinrich to Handelsblatt.

Use of Cytotec in obstretrics needs framework

The off-label use of ulcer drug Cytotec (misoprotol) to induce labor needs a precise guideline, wrote FAZ on Sunday (p53).
The initial report made by SZ earlier in February on serious side effects being ignored or undermined by gynaecologists was denied by physicians but raised concerns among pregnant women.
What is now needed is uniform and detailed educational material, a legal obligation to report complications and a dosage scheme, FAZ said.
Cytotec, manufactured by Pfizer but sold in Germany only through importers, is dosed at 200 micrograms whereas only 25 micrograms are needed to induce labor.
The Danish pharmaceutical company Azanta is planning to file Angusta, a dosage of 25 micrograms of misoprostol, for approval before the end of 2020. It has already been approved in sixteen European countries, including Sweden and France.
However, FAZ said, it is likely that German hospitals will go on using Cytotec.
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