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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news from around the industry.

Fat cat pay cheques unexplained

High pay rises and bonuses given to senior executives are not explained to shareholders, according to a recent survey. Senior executives regularly receive pay greater than inflation while chief executives' salaries have increased by 41 per cent over the last four years. The survey by Halliwell Consulting, an executive remuneration advisory firm, revealed that shareholders are concerned that targets set for bonus-related pay are sometimes lower than the company's forecasts to the City. Almost 20 per cent of companies said they had no performance conditions for share option plans, while 25 per cent did not disclose their criteria. Critics suggest payments are made on the merit of an individual within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, rather than their ability to produce good results for the company.

Abbott's new blockbuster will not raise profits

Abbott Laboratories said sales of its Mobic arthritis drug would hit $1bn in 2005, but profit share would decrease following a change in the terms of the marketing agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim in April. Sales nearly tripled in the fourth quarter to $258m, boosting Abbott's quarterly profits by 8 per cent. The company has predicted the overall profit margin will shrink by 1.5 per cent; however, it expects 'double digit' percentage increase in prescription drug sales. The sudden increase in the popularity of Mobic has been related to the loss of confidence in COX-2 inhibitors following withdrawal of and subsequent controversy surrounding Vioxx.

Return of Shire founder

Harry Stratford, the successful entreprenur who co-founded Shire Pharmaceuticals, is planning a comeback to the public market. His new venture, ProStraken, a speciality pharma firm which formed last year after the merge between Strakan, (founded by Stratford) and Proskelia, (a privately owned French company) could float on the London market later this year. Although Strakan is loss-making, analysts predict it could make a profit by 2007. ProStraken could float for as much as £200m.

French regulator says AZ unlikely to get approval

AstraZeneca's (AZ) application to sell Exanta, a blood-thinning drug for the long-term prevention of blood clots, in Europe is likely to be refused, according to the French drugs regulator. Acting as a reference Member State for the European Union, the French authority has asked AZ for more information on the safety and efficacy of the drug for use in stroke patients with irregular heartbeats. Although the drug was given European approval for short-term use, the French regulator said it did not think the data presented so far could warrant long-term use. The news follows an earlier refusal by the Food and Drug Administration, to market Exanta in the US.

WHO finds compromise on patents

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has agreed a compromise resolution that would allow countries to override patents should a flu pandemic arise in the future while also limiting the risk to intellectual property rights. The news has come as a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine has highlighted a probable case in Thailand of human-to-human transmission of the avian influenza A virus (bird flu). Thailand has expressed concerns over not being able to provide treatment should the infection spread. However, the US and France are against a change in patent rules that would permit compulsory licensing.

SA faces another Plavix patent challenge

Sanofi-aventis (SA) faces a challenge on its European patent for Plavix, its top-selling antiplatlet drug from Scottish rival, Aircoat. The case will be heard in a Scottish court. SA believes Aircoat's arguments to be ìwithout merit and will vigorously defend its patentî. The French company already faces a lawsuit in New York to appeal against challenges to Plavix's US patents from Canada's Apotex and Dr Reddy's in India. The generic drugmakers argue that the patent, due to expire in 2011, adds nothing new to the original patent that expired in 2003. Analysts have suggested doubts over SA's defence of its Plavix patents is one of the biggest risks weighing on the share price of the new group.

30th September 2008

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