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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry.

AZ's US operations may move abroad

AstraZeneca chief executive, Sir Tom McKillop, has warned that operations in the US might move out to China or India, if the threat of drug re-importation becomes a reality. McKillop explained that the US risked losing its pre-eminence in innovation if it continued to focus on importing cheap drugs from other countries.

In the US, more politicians are supporting the right to import pharmaceuticals from countries such as Canada where prices can be up to 80 per cent less than in America. Although drug importing for increased pricing is illegal, US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, has not taken any action. McKillop said that the US was in danger of catching the European disease and argued that Europe lost its prominent position in R&D thanks to policies that favoured parallel trade.

In Europe, parallel traders use the European legislation for free movement of goods, to buy drugs cheaply and resell in countries with higher prices.

Cialis beats Viagra in France

Lilly's anti-impotence drug, Cialis, has beaten the sales of world-renowned Viagra, in the French market. IMS Health figures showed that Cialis' share of the market was 45 per cent and 49 per cent in January and February respectively, while Viagra had a 44 per cent share in January, dropping to 40 per cent in February. Viagra sales fell 11 per cent last year to $1.68bn, as Cialis and Bayer's Levitra competed for market share. Cialis first went on sale in France in February 2003.

High sales for Roche, raise the year's outlook

Swiss drugmaker, Roche, saw strong sales of its cancer drug and flu treatments in the first quarter, allowing the group to raise its outlook for the rest of the year. A severe flu season in Japan and expert warnings of a pandemic, led to many countries stockpiling Tamiflu and Roche quadrupling sales for the drug to SFr424m. Cancer drugs also showed strong growth with colorectal cancer drug, Avastin, posting sales of SFr260m.

Sales in the pharmaceutical division grew by 22 per cent in local currency - three times faster than the global market average of 7 per cent - and predicted that for the full year, sales would grow at double-digit rate above the global market average, while the division's operating profit margin would be inline with or better than 2004. Shares rose 1.4 per cent to SFr139.2.

FDA further toughens up on labelling

The Food and Drug Administration, issued new guidelines to strengthen the warning label on atypical anti-psychotic drugs. Following the safety issues surrounding the COX-2 inhibitors, the move to strengthen anti-psychotic drug labelling is the second in under a week, reflecting an increasing climate of fear over drugs' side effects. The public health advisory has requested that boxes of drugs in this class, including AstraZeneca's (AZ) Seroquel, carry a warning of risks, and note they are not approved for elderly patients with dementia. The FDA, which has created a new board to oversee drug safety issues and improve post-marketing safety, said the death rate in these patients was 'seriously increased'. AZ shares fell 3 per cent to £21.78.

30th September 2008

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