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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry.

Patent victory for SA

Sanofi-aventis (SA) celebrated winning the first of several court cases in defence of patents for its best seller, Plavix, against generic challenges. The Canadian Federal Court of Ottawa granted SAs request to block the patent challenge from Canadian generic drug maker, Apotex. Shares in SA and Bristol-Myers Squibb, which distributes Plavix in Canada and the US, both rose on the news. SA shares rose 2.4 per cent to Ä64.05, while BMS shares rose 3 per cent to $24.86.

Some analysts predicted that the Canadian court ruling indicates that the New York court might block a US patent challenge. Sales figures for Plavix in the US, account for more than half of the drugs Ä4bn. However, SA cautioned that the American patent law was very different to the Canadian.

French and Belgian merge progressing

Belgian pharmaceutical and chemicals company, Solvay, will acquire Fournier Pharma, a French drug maker, in a deal worth Ä1.3bn. The deal brings further consolidation to the French market, following the merge of France's two largest pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi and Aventis, last year.

Fournier, the fourth largest pharmaceutical firm in France, already has a distribution deal with Solvay. The companies have been in negotiations over the acquisition since late last year. Solvay is particularly interested in Fournier's cardiovascular expertise and has been looking to expand its pharmaceutical arm to increase drug sales from Ä1.7bn to Ä2.5bn. Solvay made profits of Ä541m last year. It has Ä1.4bn in cash reserves and a further Ä1.2bn in short-term credit available for acquisitions.

Global Forum to combat counterfeiting

The Second Global Forum on Pharmaceutical Anticounterfeiting heard calls for a framework convention to establish minimum standards and harmonise international regulations to facilitate the fight against the counterfeiting of medicines.

The problem is, in particular, compounded in Europe, where free trade in pharma products exists. Governments set different prices for medicines in each country, which encourages parallel imports and consequently counterfeit products can be introduced easily to the market. Jim Thomson, CEO, Centre for Mental Health in the UK, also warned that with increasing access to potentially lethal medicines at cheap prices over the internet, patients are facing a 'loaded gun'.

Swedes buy Brit's obesity drug firm

Swedish biotech firm, Biovitrum, has acquired British obesity drug developer, Cambridge Biotechnology (CBT), for an undisclosed sum. The move is one of several planned by Biovitrum to enhance its therapeutic drug pipeline and will give the company CBT's leptin agonist, an obesity drug that mimics the body's natural appetite suppressant. The drug is due to enter phase I clinical trials next year, while a CBT drug for inflammatory pain has successfully completed a phase I trial. Biovitrum, currently held privately, is likely to become more attractive to investors with its expanded pipeline.

30th September 2008

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