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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry.

Boots OTC sale on for Q1 `06

Healthcare and beauty product company, Boots, has received several approaches from healthcare companies that are interested in buying its over-the-counter business, Boots Healthcare International, which has been valued at up to £1.25bn. Among the reported admirers are GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Procter & Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser, all of which are understood to have sought to obtain the information memorandum (IM) on the OTC unit. Boots put the division up for sale in order to concentrate on its UK health and beauty business; Goldman Sachs, which is overseeing the sale, expects to send out IMs in mid-July, with a view to reaching an agreement by early next year.

Ibuprofen risk qualified

Following a plethora of hard-hitting headlines in the media this week over the reported potential cardiovascular dangers of taking common ibuprofen, such as the Guardian's `Safe' drug link to heart attacks', experts have spoken out to qualify the risks to takers. A four-year study of 9,218 patients, published in the British Medical Journal, suggested that taking ibuprofen increased the odds of having a first heart attack by almost a quarter (24 per cent). However, in an editorial in the BMJ, Swiss scientists from the University of Berne said the results should be interpreted with caution, as the data on cardiovascular risk factors was of `poor quality'. The study authors conceded that it was possible that other factors might have skewed the results, though there was ìenough concernî to warrant further studies. A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research Campaign said that ìit's very important that people don't panicî. The MHRA has advised patients to take the lowest dose for the shortest possible period of time.

Bayer hungry for M&A

German pharma and chemicals group, Bayer, is looking to expand its healthcare division and may make one or more sizeable acquisitions to strengthen its position in the market, according to CEO Werner Wenning. The company's future will depend on both organic growth and external purchases, Wenning told the Financial Times, pointing to the over-the-counter sector as a likely source of expansion. The firm is already listed in the world's top three OTC drugs firms, following its Ä2.38bn purchase of Roche's OTC business in 2004. ìWe have various options for financing any large transactionsÖ capital marketÖ a short-term increase in debtÖ [or] our portfolio [which] could include further disposals.î

MHRA under fire over Zocor support

An ìadministrative errorî resulted in the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) coming under fire for `misleading the public' over the support of switching cholesterol-buster, Zocor (simvastatin), from prescription only to over-the-counter status. The MHRA announced on its website that two-thirds of around 100 organisations and individuals surveyed were in favour of Zocor, a statin, being sold in pharmacies OTC. However, it emerged afterwards that the figures were wrong and in fact only one-third of respondents had supported the switch, while one-third did not support it, and the final group while not directly opposed, raised concerns. ìThere must be concerns that it [the MHRA] dressed up the consultation responses to support its own decision to make simvastatin available over the counter,î said Dr Iheanacho, editor of consumer publication, Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. The MHRA stated: ìWe apologise for any confusion caused by this error. We in no way intended to misrepresent the results.î

30th September 2008

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