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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Second bout of contamination

Vaccine maker Chiron has, for the second time in 12 months, announced that it expects to fall short of its original supply quotas for flu vaccine, after a German plant was found to be contaminated. The company said it will need to slash 8m doses from its early non-US supply promise for Begrivac, an influenza vaccine, and shipments of the remaining 4m doses may be delayed until October. Chiron was forced to close a UK vaccine plant in Liverpool, which makes its Fluviron influenza product, for three months last year, after contamination was discovered. The company plans to fill the Begrivac gap in markets outside the US by re-allocating doses and increasing production at another European manufacturing facility, in Siena, Italy. Chiron dose not expect to record any sales of Begrivac in the third quarter of 2005.

Trouble ahead for Mylan

Mylan Laboratories, noted for its failed attempt at a $3.8bn takeover of King Pharmaceuticals earlier this year, risks losing a major investor having come under scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the safety of a product. Financier Carl Icahn made moves towards selling his 26.3m share holding in the firm when the FDA announced that it was investigating a number of deaths that may be linked to generic pain patch, Duragesic. Overdosing is thought to be the cause of the problem and health officials have advised people to follow the instructions for use very carefully for the product, which is one of Mylan's most profitable drugs. Icahn is understood to have become disillusioned with the firm as he always believed that, rather than trying to buy King, it would have made more sense for the company to allow him to acquire it.

Pfizer denies German job cuts

Pfizer is to undertake a major restructuring of its sales team in Germany, which newspaper, Handelsblatt, speculated may involve making big chops to its 1,700-strong fieldforce. It is understood that reference pricing and German healthcare reforms have forced the company, which remains at odds with the government over an appropriate price for cholesterol-buster Lipitor, to cut costs substantially. However, a spokesperson for Pfizer said that the newspaper had exaggerated the situation and that some tens of jobs may be lost in the restructure, but only through natural attrition and not through compulsory redundancies.

Cocaine probe may hit EU parliament

Significant amounts of cocaine have reportedly been discovered in the toilets of the European Parliament building in Brussels by undercover German journalists working for television station, Sat 1. Of 46 swabs taken, nearly all of them revealed traces of cocaine with samples containing between 20 and 30 micrograms. Professor Fritz Sorgel, of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research, told the Guardian newspaper that “this proves substantial amounts of cocaine are being used in the European Parliament building”. The find has prompted calls for a full investigation. “This is not something that should be overlooked,” Professor Sorgel added. However, a spokesperson for the EU Parliament appeared unconcerned and noted that traces of cocaine could be found in most public buildings. It is understood that the Brussels-based building is open to any member of the public.

30th September 2008

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