Press review

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Servier lawyers call for 'impartiality' as trial over Mediator scandal concludes

PARIS, 10 July (APM) - Servier's lawyers called for ''impartiality'' as the trial on the scandal surrounding its drug Mediator (benfluorex) concluded this week, reported Les Echos on Tuesday (p.17).
The company's lawyers told victims that they had been heard and understood but said that the trial was not a case of ''the goodies'' versus ''the baddies''. Lawyer for Servier's former number two, Jean-Philippe Seta, noted that contesting the responsibility of those at the trial would not diminish victims' suffering and that ''it is time to say what the law can allow and what it forbids''.
Meanwhile, Hervé Temime said that neither Servier nor its founder, Jacques Servier - who died in 2014 - had acted fraudulently by covering up information showing Mediator had severe cardiovascular adverse events. He added that the company had 5% of its total sales in France, manufactured all its drugs in the country and that its involvement in France was crucial.
Head of the court examining the case said that numerous legal questions had to be answered before the cases of the 6,793 victims were looked at. The court will deliver its verdict on 19 March 2021.
Liberation (p.14) also reported on the story on Monday and Le Monde (p.15) on Wednesday.

Pharma companies unite to research antibiotics

Some 23 pharma giants have united to create a $1 billion research fund for new antibiotics, reported Le Figaro on Thursday (p.24).
The aim of the fund - supported by companies including Pfizer, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline - is to develop two to four new antibodies over the next decade (APMHE 68110).
The need for new antibiotics is growing given 700,000 people worldwide - 33,000 in the U.S. alone - die each year due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), yet only two new drug classes have been developed in the past 10 years.
Part of the issue is cost-effectiveness. Antibiotics have low prices and limited sales which does not encourage pharma to invest in them.
A suggestion from the global pharma trade body IFPMA is to increase antibiotic profitability by lengthening patent duration and paying bonuses to companies that launch a drug which covers a previously identified medical need.
Les Echos also reports on the story in a brief on Friday (p.20).

Gilead's remdesivir approved in Europe as Veklury

Gilead's remdesivir has been approved in Europe under the name Veklury, reported Les Echos on Monday (p.21).
It is the first drug conditionally approved to treat patients over the age of 12 with Covid-19 requiring oxygen. It took less than a month for the drug to be approved after the CHMP technical committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended its approval, compared to the usual 67 days (APMHE 68030).
Despite Gilead announcing that the drug will be priced in all developed countries at $2,340 or €2,081, France's healthcare products pricing committee (CEPS) will try to negotiate a lower price with the company, added the newspaper.
The negotiations CEPS has with companies increase the length of time it takes a drug to get to the market in France, however, it is hoped that the procedure will be accelerated give the need and lack of alternative for remdesivir.
Meanwhile, Gilead is looking to test an inhaled version of the drug and evaluate its effectiveness in other diseases such as the Kawasaki like disease in children.

Sanofi announces 1,700 job cuts despite record profits

Sanofi has announced 1,700 job cuts despite record profits, reported L'Humanité on Wednesday (pp. 2-4) in a wider article on job cuts in France (APMHE 67988).
The paper noted that Sanofi's sales increased 7% in the first quarter, half of which was due to coronavirus, while sales of its consumer healthcare sector rose 4% to €1.3 billion.
The company insists that the announced job cuts are part of a wider strategy which will become clear over the next few months and years, while economist Nathalie Coutinet quoted in the newspaper says that the strategy is clear - develop drugs in the most profitable sectors while cutting costs where it can.
The left-leaning daily noted that the group paid out nearly €4 billion in dividends in 2019 and could pay out even more this year.
On Thursday, Le Figaro reported (p.19) that Sanofi employees protested against these proposed job cuts on Wednesday in Paris.

Gilead presents promising drug for drug-resistant HIV

Gilead has announced in the UK review Nature that it has created a new drug GS-6207, which looks promising in the treatment of multi drug-resistant HIV, reported Libération on Tuesday (p.9).
In the tests, the drug cut the viral load of patients resistant to several antiretrovirals 22-fold to 168-fold depending on the individual.
The drug remains in the system for six months, which could result in a long-term treatment.
The paper noted that this drug could respond to a significant public health issue, as HIV mutates regularly, meaning it becomes resistant to previous drugs used to treat it.

WHO drops two drug combinations in Covid trial

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on 4 July that it was no longer including Covid-19 patients treated with AbbVie's Kaletra (lopinavir-ritonavir) and those treated with Kaletra and interferon beta in its SOLIDARITY clinical trial, reported Le Monde on Tuesday (p.7).
This decision follows the recommendations announced by a committee of independent experts (the data safety monitoring board DSMB) which regularly examines the results of the SOLIDARITY trial and the DISCOVERY trial ongoing in France.
It is also in line with the results from the British RECOVERY trial, which reported a lack of results from Kaletra on Covid-19.
However, there are still 2,427 trials ongoing worldwide evaluating various drugs in Covid-19.

France lacking patients for Covid trials

France is "Europe's champion" in the number of clinical trials it has evaluating treatments for Covid-19, but due to a shortage of patients, the majority have been stopped or paused, reports La Croix (p.7) on Friday.
France is technically third worldwide with 407 trials on Covid-19, behind the U.S. (499) and China (737).
However, the majority have been paused or stopped due to the fall in patients. Epidemiologist Denis Cornet is quoted in the paper as saying that as there are fewer hospitalised patients it is harder to recruit patients for new trials.
However, Cornet also notes that it is far better to have fewer quality trials which can properly concentrate on patients' health and respect methodology. He also notes that research takes a long time, with it taking several years to find the correct way to treat AIDS.
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