Press review

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Italian study shows Roche's RoActemra reduces death rate by 75% in severe Covid-19 pneumonia cases

FLORENCE, 17 July (APM) - An Italian study has shown that Roche's RoActemra (tocilizumab ) reduced the mortality rate of Covid-19 patients with severe pneumonia by 75%, according to Tuesday's Il Sole 24 Ore.
The paper noted that the positive data comes "a few days after the news that tocilizumab did not show efficacy in the treatment of less severe forms of Covid-19".
The study was conducted in Emilia Romagna and involved 544 severe pneumonia patients for whom the mortality rate was reduced by 75%, taking it from 20% to 7%, the paper said.
The research, coordinated by Cristina Mussini, director of infectious diseases of Modena University Hospital, was published in The Lancet Rheumatology. "If these results are confirmed by more extensive randomised studies which are already underway, we will have an important weapon in the fight against one of the most serious complications of Covid-19," she said.
Randomised trials are currently underway on a higher number of patients with severe pneumonia, which include a control arm. Mussini, who is on the scientific committee of one of these, stressed that these should give a definitive answer on the efficacy of tocilizumab as a therapy for severe pneumonia in Covid-19.
Two experts, Carlo Salvarani and Marco Massari, noted that the results from the Italian study seem to contradict ones in a randomised trial which showed no difference in efficacy between those patients treated with tocilizumab and those not.
However, in the randomised trial, patients were given the drug at an early stage to evaluate its role in preventing the development of severe pneumonia. The two studies enrolled different groups of patients with different disease severity. This difference could explain the different results, the experts suggested.

Police arrest 44 in probe into €20 million false drug prescriptions scam

Police have arrested 44 people as part of an investigation into a suspected €20 million scam involving false drug prescriptions, La Repubblica reported on Thursday.
Owners of pharmaceutical companies, medical representatives, GPs and pharmacists, are among those who have been taken into custody, the paper said. Some 17 drug companies have been ordered to provide documentation about their businesses.
The investigation 'Shameless' was started after the discovery of false drug prescriptions in a doctors surgery. It is believed the owners of pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists and "compliant" doctors created a fraudulent system whereby drugs were prescribed to unsuspecting patients who were never given the medicines.
The prescriptions were sent to pharmacies involved in the scheme and some of the drugs were then resold to foreign citizens. Thousand of medicines are also said to have been thrown into rubbish tips or burnt in the open country.
According to investigators, the total value of the turnover of the scams is around €20 million, while the financial damage to the national health service is still being quantified, the paper said.

Italian biotech association drafts proposals for reforms to boost growth

Italian biotech association Assobiotec Federchimica is in the process of drafting proposals to boost growth in the industry through a series of workshops and discussions, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Thursday.
The working group which has been set up for the purpose held a meeting this week to look specifically at the life sciences sector, the paper said.
It made a number of proposals, including streamlining bureaucratic processes, uniformity of rules between different countries, a better environment for science to be linked with finance, creation of a virtuous circle to increase investment in R&D and public-private partnerships to bring the excellence of national public research to the patient.
'Biotech, the better future' is the title of the Assobiotec project which foresees 4 different workshops, including the one focussed on life sciences, between June and October.
Among those taking part in the meeting this week was Luigi Boano, general manager of Novartis Oncology Italy. He suggested that Italy, as Europe's largest drugs producing country, needs to invest in plants and production lines for innovative drugs and biotech drugs so that it can increase its importance and influence.

11% of Covid-19 deaths were not caused by virus

At least 11% of deaths of Covid-19 patients were not caused by the virus, according to Thursday's Il Sole 24 Ore.
It cited a report by national statistics office Istat and the national health institute ISS as showing that 4.6% of patients died from cardiovascular diseases and 2.4% from cancer. Other causes included respiratory diseases, diabetes and dementia.
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