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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry.

No change to Ibuprofen use

There is no reason to change the ways in which patients and prescribers use older painkillers, such as ibuprofen, at the current time, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) which has just concluded a preliminary review. The agency confirmed that that no amendment to the advice given out was needed after an assessment of the heart attack and stroke risk. In June, the EMEA was asked by the European Commission to look at the safety of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) following the withdrawal of Merck's painkiller, Vioxx.

Altana raises hopes

Sales at Altana Pharma are up 9 per cent to Ä1.1bn for the first half of the year boosted by sales in its therapeutic division, which went up 9 per cent to Ä981m. The company also enjoyed a 8 per cent increase to Ä655m in its own sales of gastrointestinal treatment, Pantoprazole. Earnings before tax at the unit increased 19 per cent to Ä312m during the first half of the year. Buoyed by current figures, Altana Pharma has forecast an 8-10 per cent rise in sales for the rest of the year and a 8-10 per cent in global sales of Pantrozole.

As a group, Altana raised its pre-tax profit forecast for the year by 6-8 per cent following a 12 per cent rise in earnings to Ä352m and a 5 per cent increase in sales to Ä1.5bn for the first half of the year. Of the total sales, around Ä1.3bn (82 per cent) were generated outside Germany. However, sales in Germany grew 18 per cent to Ä277m. Across the rest of Europe and Asia, sales increased by 7 per cent.

EMEA recruits new board members

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has recruited the first patient, medical and veterinary representatives to its management board, marking an end to concerns that its decisions might not be legal - as it was not constituted by the book. The new members have been appointed in an attempt to vocalise the opinions of patients and health professionals. Patient representatives include Mary Baker, president of the European Federation of Neurological Associations and Jean Georges from Alzheimer Europe, a non-profit organisation. The medical representatives comprise Lisette Tiddens-Engwirda, secretary-general of the CommitÈ Permanent des MÈdicins EuropÈens and the veterinarians' representative is Fritz Ungemach, of the University of Leipzig.

Generics on the up

The emergence of generics as a bespoke commercial opportunity is gaining pace, with several companies showing interest in the sector. German drugs group, Merck, has announced plans to create a generics company in the US, called Genpharm LP. Separately, China may be gearing up to become a supplier of generics drugs to the US such that it may compete with significant existing suppliers, including Indian firm Ranbaxy which has around 50 products awaiting marketing approval. Though a Chinese company is yet to file a marketing application with the FDA, this could happen as soon as next year, paving the way for more to follow in coming years. The world's generics market has seen two notable deals in recent weeks when Novartis bought Hexel and Eon Labs, and Teva bought Ivax, to become the sector's number one company.

30th September 2008

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