LONDON, 12 June (APM) - Several newspapers at the weekend reported on speculation that AstraZeneca had approached Gilead about a takeover deal, but have since quoted experts questioning the logic of such an acquisition.
The Daily Telegraph and The Times both referenced a Bloomberg article that cited sources familiar with the matter who suggested UK-based AstraZeneca had made an informal approach to U.S.-based Gilead.
The Telegraph said the deal could be one of the biggest ever in healthcare, suggesting it could be as high as £216 billion, highlighting that Gilead is developing remdesivir, one of the leading prospects as a Covid-19 treatment.
However, The Times said industry sources have talked down the prospect of a deal, noting it would distract its own drugs pipeline, especially promising oncology drugs, and from attempts to produce a successful coronavirus vaccine.
The Telegraph on Tuesday examined the timing of AstraZeneca's approach, saying it could not have come at a worse time, with itschief executive officer Pascal Soriot involved in running the business and dealing with developing the vaccine with Oxford University for Covid-19.
It jokingly said that the "Frenchman had been secretly raiding the drugs cabinet that day". In terms of the economics, it said most big deals destroy value and the risks and costs of a transaction of this size would be "eye watering".
The paper urged Soriot to carry on with his "day job". It added: "The whole world needs Soriot to remain focused more than ever."
The Times also followed up with a comment piece suggesting it is "hard to pick a worse time to plot AstraZeneca mega-merger".
The Guardian also had a comment piece on Tuesday with the headline: "What on earth is the boss of AstraZeneca up to with his approach to Gilead?"
AstraZeneca developing antibody treatments for Covid-19 patients
The Sunday Telegraph and the Observer reported on AstraZeneca's efforts to develop antibody treatments for elderly and vulnerable with Covid-19.
The Telegraph quoted the chief executive Pascal Soriot, who said that the treatment being developed is a combination of two antibodies in one injection "because by having both you reduce the chance of resistance developing to one antibody".
Researchers are up to "full speed" on testing, said the paper, adding that with executives are hopeful an effective treatment can go into production next year.
The treatment would likely be prioritised for elderly and vulnerable patients due to its expense.
Lilly's Covid-19 antibody could be ready by September
The Daily Mail on Thursday reported that Eli Lilly's antibody therapy could be available as soon as September if clinical trials go well.
The paper covered comments made by chief scientific officer Daniel Skovronsky in a Reuters interview.
"For the treatment indication, particularly, this could go pretty fast," he told Reuters, said the Mail.
"If in August or September we're seeing the people who got treated are not progressing to hospitalisation, that would be powerful data and could lead to emergency use authorisation."
Trial shows hydroxychloroquine not effective in treating Covid-19
Several newspapers at the weekend reported on research led by Oxford University that suggests malaria drug hydroxychloroquine does not treat Covid-19 despite being touted by U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as senior doctors in France.
A quarter of National Health Service (NHS) patients in the UK who were given hydroxychloroquine died from Covid-19, compared to 23.5% who were not prescribed the drug.
The drug has now been removed from the RECOVERY trial, which is also testing other treatments for Covid-19 in the UK.
The Guardian quoted Martin Landray, deputy chief investigator of the Recovery trial and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University: “If you are admitted to hospital, don’t take hydroxychloroquine. It doesn't work."
The story was also picked up by the Daily Mail and the Financial Times.
Scottish government denies Surgisphere data claims
The FT at the weekend said the Scottish government has denied claims it had supplied data on Covid-19 patients to Surgisphere, the company at the heart of a controversial study on hydroxychloroquine.
Analytics firm Surgisphere had claimed to work with NHS Scotland on a study published in The Lancet that found hydroxychloroquine had not positive benefits on patients. However, the study was retracted by three of its four authors.
A Scottish government spokesperson told the FT that there was "no current or past contractual arrangement" between Surgisphere and NHS Scotland. They added: "At no point have Surgisphere had any access to NHS Scotland data."
Covid-19 has long way to go - Fauci
The FT on Wednesday covered comments by Anthony Fauci, one of the leading doctors in the U.S. coordinating the government's response to Covid-19.
The paper said he warned that the outbreak is far from over but that there will be "more than one winner in the vaccine field".
Fauci's comments, which were made during an interview session at the BIO Digital conference, come despite U.S. President Donlad Trump's efforts to reopen the U.S. economy by easing lockdown measures, said the FT.
Merck & Co CEO comments on George Floyd killing
The FT at the weekend reported on comments made during a TV interview by Merck & Co's chief executive Kenneth Frazier regarding the killing of black U.S. citizen George Floyd by a white police officer.
The paper quoted Frazier, who is also black: "This African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, was being treated as less than human."
The FT said it was a "remarkable intervention" from the CEO, noting that he usually avoids publicity.
Frazier has made previous political decisions, however. In 2017 he quit President Trump's American Manufacturing Council after the president's response to white nationalist violence in Virginia, said the FT.
Psychedlic drugs to treat depression
The Guardian on Monday carried a piece from Robin Carhart-Harris, who heads the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College, London.
Demand for key antidepressants is threatening to exceed supply in the UK - where prescriptions have already more than doubled over the last decade, he wrote in the paper.
"At Imperial College we've been comparing psilocybin to conventional antidepressants - and the results are likely to be game-changing," he added.
He said he and his team have spearheaded work showing how psilocybin ( or 'magic mushrooms') can be used to assist psychotherapy for difficult-to-treat depression, "making a significant difference when conventional antidepressants and talking therapy have not".
He said they are "crunching data" from a much larger depression trial that compares psilocybin-assisted therapy with a six-week course of a conventional antidepressant drug, a 'Prozac-like' selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). "Preliminary analyses indicate game-changing results."