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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

R&D fails to pay off

Making significant investments in research and development in the pursuit of new blockbuster drugs is ìfailing to deliverî strong enough products to support the growth of major international pharmaceutical companies, according to a new report from strategic research firm Wood Mackenzie. Only two of the top 10 global companies, sanofi-aventis and Hoffmann-La Roche, are forecast by Wood Mackenzie in the 18th edition of The Executive's Guide to the World's Leading Pharmaceutical Companies 2005, to have a compound annual growth rate in sales that is superior to that of the global industry. ìIn seven out of the current top 10 pharmaceutical companies, less than 10 per cent of our forecast total ethical drug revenues in 2009 will be attributable to investment in new products between 2005 and 2009,î said Dr Keith Redpath, head of WM's Life Sciences Research. ìThis cannot be regarded as a good return on investment in R&D.î

Scrushy may face civil case

Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy may have been found not guilty by a federal jury of orchestrating a $2.7bn accounting fraud, yet the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has requested from a federal judge that its civil case against Scrushy be allowed to proceed. The SEC says that the `not guilty' ruling in the criminal case should not automatically knock out any other types of court case. Indeed, the standard of proof must be higher in a criminal case than in a civil case, the SEC pointed out, noting that it could focus simply on proving that Scrushy had ìdeparted so far from the ordinary standard of careî expected of a company CEO, that he was guilty (in a civil case) of fraud. Scrushy has a limited time period to respond to the SEC's civil filing.

AZ buys into new cholesterol treatment

AstraZeneca has agreed to pay US biotech firm Avanir Pharmaceuticals up to £195m in cash and conditional milestones in a licensing deal for cardiovascular products, including Avanir's reverse cholesterol transport enhancing compounds (RCT). This mechanism works to boost the flow of lipid out of tissues and, some have speculated, could form the basis for a new generation of cholesterol-busters. AZ will pay $10m up front while the remaining payments will take the form of milestones and stepped royalties that the firm said may reach as high as double digits as a percentage of sales.

FDA seeks new director

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking a new director of drug safety to head the Office of Drug Safety, the division responsible for dealing with critical safety issues relating to marketed drugs, such as the Vioxx case. ìThe person selected for this job will be in the centre of critical issues on the safe and appropriate use of medications,î said Dr Paul Seligman, director of the Office of Pharmacoepidemiology and Statistical Science. ì[They] will have a profound impact on the future of both public health and the regulatory environment in assessing and managing the risks of marketed drug products.î The position would suit a qualified medical doctor who can handle the pressure of a high profile position, and who has advanced knowledge of risk management, the FDA stipulated. The role is based in Rockville, Maryland.

30th September 2008

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