PARIS, 24 July (APM) - Biosimilar sales in France jumped 51% in 2019 to €800 million, but overall use in the country remains low, reported Le Figaro on Tuesday (p.26).
The rise in biosimilar sales was partly down to the release of eight new biosimilars, including three for AbbVie's Humira (adalimumab), meaning that there are now 33 on the French market.
However, despite the savings they represent for health insurance, with a biosimilar costing 15% to 50% less than its originator drug, they are prescribed in only 15.1% of cases in France. This is not only considerably below the 80% target set by previous French health minister Agnès Buzyn, but also behind the rest of Europe.
While hospitals often prescribe biosimilars, community doctors rarely do, citing a lack of incentive to do so. An incentive mechanism set to come into effect next year looks to change this by giving community doctors some of the savings generated by biosimilar prescriptions. It is estimated that the new incentive could save €42 million in 2021.
Covid-19 vaccine development continues
The development of Covid-19 vaccines continues, as numerous papers in France reported throughout the week.
Les Echos reported on Tuesday that Moderna is set to start a Phase III for its vaccine next week, while Pfizer and BioNTech are likely to follow shortly.
It also noted that AstraZeneca's share price has soared 10% after it announced positive results from its Phase I vaccine trial which saw an immune response in 95% of participants and few side effects.
Libération also covered the story in a brief on Tuesday (p.15) and Le Monde in a brief on Wednesday (p.19).
Les Echos continued the story on Thursday (p.11) noting that the U.S. has ordered 100 million vaccines doses from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for $1.95 billion, with the option of ordering another 500 million. The U.S. government has already ordered similar quantities from U.S. biotech Novavax and AstraZeneca.
The paper added that the U.K. government has also ordered vaccines from three suppliers, with both countries increasing their chances of having an effective and safe vaccine available.
However, the paper noted that it is still unlikely that a vaccine effective in 70% of cases with few side effects will be available before next winter.
Novartis reports mixed impact of Coronavirus
Coronavirus has had a mixed impact on Novartis, Le Figaro reported in a brief on Wednesday (p.23).
The pharma's net profits are up 9% compared to last year and its sales up 6% to $23.6 billion. However, it is lowering its predicted sales for this year after a fall in doctor consultations in Q2 saw drug sales fall.
Qatar Investment Authority takes stake in CureVac
The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has taken a stake in German biotech CureVac, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.17).
The QIA invested an unrevealed amount during a $126 million funding round with the biotech having raised $640 million in total across four funding rounds.
In addition to the QIA, GlaxoSmithKline has invested €142.9 million for a 10% share and Bill Gates is also an investor (APMHE 68229
At one point, U.S. president Donald Trump wanted the U.S. government to buy the company, which will develop five vaccines to Phase I.
Promising results for Synairgen's SNG001 in Covid-19
Synairgen's SNG001 reduced the risk of developing severe Covid-19 by 79% according to preliminary results published on Monday, reported Libération in a brief on Tuesday (p.15).
However, the paper pointed out that the sample of patients was small - 101 - and that they have not been peer-reviewed.
Benta Pharmaceuticals set to take over Famar factory in France
The Lebanese group Benta Pharmaceuticals is set to take over the Famar factory near Lyon in south-east France, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.20).
Benta's offer to keep 115 employees out of 240 and invest €42 million was chosen by the Paris commerce tribunal over Neovacs' offer to invest €37 million over five years.
However, Neovacs is appealing the tribunal's decision, saying that Benta changed its plan hours before the decision after buying Famar shares in murky circumstances (APMHE 68271
Benta is gaining access to the European market with this acquisition and is looking to change the factory - in receivership since June 2019 - from a simple sub-contractor to a service provider.
Le Monde (p.11) and Libération (p.18) also covered the story on Wednesday in briefs.
French drug wholesaler OCP Réparations to restructure
France's largest drugs' wholesaler OCP Réparations is putting together a restructuring, job-saving plan, symptomatic of the problems the industry is facing, reported Les Echos reported on Wednesday (p.17).
OCP's chief executive is quoted as saying that the 10% drop in drug consumption over the past decade means the industry has essentially been running at a loss since 2017.
As a result, it is closing five of its factories across France and significantly cutting staff numbers at a further five. In all, 226 jobs are set to go.
Wholesalers are facing the challenge of drug price cuts which affects their margins and the rise of generics, for which they are paid less than brand name drugs.
French biotech Inventiva raises $107 million for Phase III in NASH
French biotech Inventiva has raised $107 million with its listing on NASDAQ last week to enable it to carry out a Phase III evaluating lanifibranor in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.17).
After the Phase III failure of Genfit's NASH drug and the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations (FDA)'s refusal to accept Intercept Pharmaceuticals' Ocaliva (obeticholic acid), Inventiva is in pole position after its drug had positive results in Phase II.
Chief executive Frederic Cren is quoted in the paper as saying that discussions have started with the U.S. authorities over the design of a Phase III for lanifibranor.