PARIS, 29 May (APM) - Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there are no signs the pharma industry's biggest and most profitable market - oncology - is slowing down, reports France's Le Figaro on Friday (p.24).
According to consultancy firm IQVIA, the market had sales of $150 billion in 2018 and is expected to be worth $240 billion by 2023.
The market is changing as well. Once dominated by Roche, Merck Sharp & Dohme and AstraZeneca are starting to catch up. The latter in particular is set to present a study on Tagrisso (osimertinib) - sales of €4 billion - in stage 3 lung cancer at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) which will take place virtually this year.
Biosimilars are also starting to impact the oncology market. Although their market share is still fairly small - despite the patent expiration Roche's Herceptin two years ago - they are causing prices to fall by around 30%.
Sanofi to sell stake in Regeneron
Sanofi is selling most of its stake in Regeneron - equivalent to 20% of the company's total shares - reported Les Echos on Tuesday (p. 19).
Sanofi will keep 400,000 shares to monitor the drugs the two companies have developed together such as Libtayo (cemiplimab) and Dupixent (dupilumab).
The change in their relationship - which dates back to 2003 - follows the arrival of new Sanofi R&D head John Reed and new chief executive Paul Hudson. Hudson announced last year that Sanofi's partnership would be restructured.
Breaking off this partnership means Sanofi can sign new research agreements and partnerships, Les Echos noted. It also means the French pharma can sell its products in the U.S. itself.
In a small op-ed on Wednesday (p.38), Les Echos remarked that Sanofi will have problems finding another partnership as fruitful as the one with Regeneron.
Merck & Co announces three Covid-19 projects
Merck & Co - known as Merck Sharp & Dohme outside the U.S. - has announced three Covid-19 projects, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p. 22).
The projects consist of one antiviral treatment and two vaccines (APMHE 67495
The pharma's treatment is similar to Gilead's remdesivir, but would be administered as a pill, rather than an injection which gives it an advantage. Roger Perlmutter, Merck & Co's global head of R&D, told Les Echos that the drug could stop patients from being hospitalised. Phase II trials are taking place in the UK and U.S.
The first vaccine comes from Themis Biosciences, a vaccine and immunomodulation specialist Merck & Co has bought for an unspecified sum. Themis' vaccine platform comes from French research institute the Pasteur Institute which sold it a licence.
The second vaccine comes from a Merck collaboration with International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). IAVI looks to develop an HIV vaccine and Merck has already used its vaccine technology to develop its highly effective Ebola vaccine which has a 99% protection rate.
France turns away from hydroxychloroquine following observational study
Numerous papers reported this week on France turning away from malaria drug hydroxychloroquine after two trials - one French and one Chinese reported Les Echos on Monday (p.19) - published results that did not show a decrease in mortality in Covid-19 patients and an observational study published in the Lancet showed an increase in mortality for Covid-19 patients receiving the drug.
Following a request from French health minister Olivier Véran, the country's high council of public health (HCSP) was set to update its recommendations on the drug, La Croix reported on Monday (p. 8). Le Figaro (p.7), L'Humanité (p.8) and Le Monde (p.7) also covered the story on Monday (APMHE 67493
On Tuesday, the HCSP delivered its new recommendations - that the drug no longer be used to treat patients with Covid-19 in hospitals or clinics regardless of how serious their disease is - reported Libération on Wednesday (p.1-5).
Moreover, the paper continued, the HCSP said its use should be restricted to clinical trials and only after its benefit-risk ratio has been examined rigorously.
On the same day, Le Parisien reported in a brief (p.14) that France's drugs' regulator had gone a step further and stopped its use in clinical trials evaluating its effect on Covid-19 patients (APMHE 67540
ExtraCure uses digital twins to optimise Covid-19 treatment
French start-up ExtraCure has given hospitals in southern France access to its digital twin technology, reported Les Echos on Monday (p.28).
The technology means doctors can add a patient's personal details (weight, age etc.) to the technology and simulate how effective a treatment will be.
ExactCure's technology is using data from the PharmaPendium platform to simulate how patients will react to Covid-19 treatment.
France yet to join WHO patent sharing platform for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines
France has not joined the World Health Organization's patent-sharing platform for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines reports L'Humanité on Friday (p. 14).
The project, launched by Costa Rica and supported by non-governmental organisations, aims to make any Covid-19 vaccine developed a global common good so generics can be manufactured worldwide.
Despite initial support from French President Emmanuel Macron when the project was launched at the end of March, the country has yet to sign up and, according to the drug policies transparency observatory (Otmeds), is now trying to stop the WHO's platform.
However, France is not the only country to have denied its support to the platform, with the left-leaning daily pointing out that Europe as a whole has been silent on the matter.
The paper also notes that pharma lobbies are protesting the platform, stating that making the patents would damage an industry which has already suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.