BERLIN, 6 Mar (APM) - Merck KGaA considers itself well structured to face an economic crisis, Handelsblatt (p20) and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) (p23 and 26) report on Friday.
During its 2019 annual results call on Thursday (APMHE 66453
), chief executive Stefan Oschmann described Merck to investors as a company that delivers consistent growth even in turbulent times, precisely because it has three individual divisions - healthcare, life science and performance materials divisions - that operate independently of each other.
For 2020, Oschmann held out the prospect of increased earnings despite the headwind caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Merck will not benefit from the coronavirus crisis but industries such as biopharma and life sciences will also be less affected than others, Oschmann said.
Merck shares rose more than 6% in trading on Thursday, FAZ says.
Handelsblatt also points out that Merck has reached a €51 billion market value and, for the first time, is rated higher than its much larger competitor chemical group BASF.
Oschmann also managed to talk about another topic than coronavirus at the presentation, FAZ says. He presented three innovative projects at early stage such as synthetic DNA to be used as an energy-efficient data storage medium, 3D printing of tablets to save time and money and Clean Meat, a biologically produced substitute for meat and dairy products, in order to reduce the global carbon footprint.
German pharmas restrict meetings and business travel due to coronavirus
Bayer has restricted its international meetings to cases that are "absolutely necessary to do justice to patients, consumers and customers", due to the coronavirus outbreak, Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday (p5).
Participation in major external meetings with international participation is to be suspended and internal meetings in large groups should also be avoided, it added.
Merck KGaA cancelled its results presentation planned on Thursday in Frankfurt and replaced it with a conference call (APMHE 66453
), FAZ reported on Tuesday (p41).
However, the crisis in China might be positive for some pharma companies, FAZ added. The German subsidiary of Sanofi said that several companies contacted it in the last weeks as their usual Chinese usual suppliers could no longer deliver, particularly anti-inflammatory drugs.
Growing concerns of potential drug shortages
Concerns of potential drug shortages in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak are growing after India decided to ban the export of 13 compounds, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p17) and FAZ (p17) say on Friday.
Among them is paracetamol, one of the most widely used painkillers, antibiotics tinidazole and erythromycin, the hormone progesterone and vitamins B1, B6 and B12 (APMHE 66450
Even if the situation is not yet as restrictive as for protective masks, "there is the fear that the knock-on effects will lead to an undersupply of these drugs", said World Health Organization (WHO)'s head of logistics, Paul Molinaro.
India's decision belongs to the "first alarm signals", according to Morris Hosseini, pharma expert from consulting firm Roland Berger, quoted by SZ.
However, German pharma companies estimate the risk of shortages due to the Indian decision is low or, at least, still difficult to estimate.
"We won't feel the effects of a Covid-19-related production disruption until the summer at the earliest," German generics lobby Pro Generika told SZ. Manufacturers do not produce "just in time" and they have "sufficient storage capacity"
Pharma lobby BPI stated that it is currently not possible to make serious forecasts but emphasised that the topic is "explosive", FAZ writes. "The corona crisis shows once again that the relocation of production to Asia makes supply chains more vulnerable."
CureVac's CEO met U.S. president over SARS-CoV-2 vaccine
CureVac's chief executive Daniel Menichella was invited by U.S. president Donald Trump to a Monday meeting to discuss the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, SZ reported on Wednesday (p15).
Menichella was the only representative of a German company. The other invitees included GlaxoSmithKline's chief executive Emma Walmsley, Gilead head Daniel O'Day, Pfizer's head of R&D Mikael Dolsten and Johnson & Johnson's head of R&D Paul Stoffels.
CureVac is working on a mRNA-based vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
Drugs against COVID-19 soon available, according to RKI
Drugs effective against COVID-19 virus will be soon available for the treatment of the increasing number of patients worldwide, according to Robert-Koch Institute (RKI) president Lothar Wieler, Die Welt says on Friday (p1).
"We are optimistic that such drugs will then also be used in Germany in the coming weeks," he added.
Vaccines which need more time to be developed, will come but not until next year, Wieler said.
Italian generics company Angelini booms with disinfectant Amuchina
Italian generics company Angelini Pharma is seeing unexpected success with an old disinfectant, Amuchina, in the course of the coronavirus epidemic, reports FAZ on Friday (p26)
In the first two months of 2020, the demand for Amuchina, with a chlorine solution base, was twice as high as last year, said Pierluigi Antonelli, hired as head of company last year to develop research into generic drugs. The product usually generates a mid double-digit million euros turnover.
Amuchina is sold through channels, as disinfectant for hospitals, as a wound disinfectant and hand gels in pharmacies and household disinfectant in supermarkets.
Antonelli said the company will not raise prices and does not want to react to this unexpected success with expansion plans for the time being. His goal is to give a new impetus to generic drugs by developing research. In 2019, Angelini Pharma generated sales of €902 million with 2,750 employees.
Ex-Sandoz Germany boss goes to Stada
Stephan Eder, head of Novartis' generic division Sandoz until February, will join competitor Stada to run the Russian and CIS subsidiary, FAZ (p20) and Handelsblatt (p46) said on Wednesday.
Russia and CIS is Stada's second biggest market and is expected to further expand as the company has recently bought a portfolio of 20 over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs from Takeda (APMHE 64993
The $660 million acquisition, the largest ever deal the German company has made, was completed on Wednesday, Handelsblatt (p23) and FAZ (p19) said on Thursday.
Roche Germany sets up digital subsidiary
Roche Germany is setting up a new subsiduary, RoX Healthcare to support promising start-ups with expertise and capital, Handelsblatt said on Wednesday (p17).
"RoX Health's goal is to bring Roche's own digital healthcare solutions and those of start-ups in the healthcare sector in Germany into mainstream care," said Robert Schnitzler, who is heading the new entity, based in Berlin.
The plan is to enable young companies to be guided through the regulatory jungle of the German approval process with innovative ideas from Roche experts. Capital from the 500 million Swiss francs Roche Venture Fund is available for investments in start-ups.
Pfizer has already founded a "healthcare hub" in Berlin along with several incubators, supported by venture capital funds.
Qiagen becomes takeover candidate following strategic errors
Genetic testing and molecular diagnostic company Qiagen has become a takeover candidate because its long pursued and expensive strategy has not worked out, said Handelsblatt on Wednesday (p16-17, 29).
Qiagen, expected to become part of the U.S. group Thermo Fisher group in 2021 (APMHE 66419
), has failed in its strategy of placing its own next-generation gene sequencer on the market alongside industry giants such as Illumina.
Both Handelsblatt and FAZ (p21 and 22) say they regret that a German biotech, which was successful for more than three decades, will disappear after being bought by a U.S. company.
Pharma companies' profits higher than other industries
The profits of the 35 biggest pharma companies are double the profits of other industries, according to JAMA and JAMA Internal Medicine, SZ reported on Wednesday (p14).
Between 2007 and 2019, drug prices increased 159%. The U.S. price of AbbVie's top-selling drug Humira (adalimumab) has risen 19% since 2018, which has increased the U.S. drug send by $1 billion, according to estimates, SZ said.
From 1999 to 2018, the pharma industry has spent $4.7 billion on lobbying or support of election campaigns for congressmen or presidential candidates, more than any other industry.
U.S. pharma share buybacks eclipse R&D spend
The 12 largest U.S. pharmaceutical groups spent more money on share buybacks than on research and development (R&D) in 2018, according to news service Axios, FAZ reports on Friday (p22).
In that year, in which the U.S. tax reform took full effect, companies spent $69 billion on share buybacks - instead of $25 billion in 2017- and $66 billion on R&D.
However, the picture changed completely in 2019, when the 12 companies spent $49 billion on their own shares, but almost $70 billion in R&D. In addition, R&D investments exceeded the purchase programmes over a period of four years (2016-2019), with $251 billion compared to $183 billion.
Amgen and Biogen are two exceptions, spending less money on the development of drugs and therapies than on share purchases. Amgen explained its comparatively large stock programme to Axios by the opportunities created by the tax reform to repatriate off-shore earnings.
Demand for cannabis-based drugs rises in Germany
Sales of cannabis-based drugs and extract have rose 51% from January to October 2019 to €12.44 million, Die Welt reported on Tuesday (p20).
The demand for cannabis-containing preparations also rose almost 75% between January and October.
GW pharmaceuticals' Sativex, used for severe spasticity in multiple sclerosis, achieved sales of €1.96 million from January to in October, around €540,000 more than in January.
LSD as psychiatry drug
A drug based on 'magic mushroom' substance psilocybin and acting similarly to LSD, is being developed by UK biotech Compass Pathways in a Phase IIb study in depression disorders, FAZ reported on Sunday (p53).
One of the biggest trials on psilocybin in severe depression will soon start in collaboration with Mannheim and Berlin university hospitals, involving 144 patients FAZ said. It could be launched within five years, according to Compass Pathways.