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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

FDA head to give up cancer duties

New Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acting commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach is to give up his daily duties as National Cancer Institute (NCI) director after critics said he could not perform both jobs well. ìI am now devoting my energies to the work of the FDA in protecting and advancing the health of the American people,î he said in an email to staff. Dr von Eschenbach has also promised not to participate in FDA reviews of drugs researched at the NCI or ìother matters involving NCI as a party in which FDA is exercising its regulatory authorityî.

Investors query over Boots-Alliance UniChem tie-up

Investors have begun to question the logic of the £7bn merger of pharmacy and retail chain Boots and drug distributor Alliance UniChem to form a pan-European powerhouse. Shares in Alliance UniChem barely rose after the announcement while a 4 per cent rise in Boots shares was attributed as much to potential private equity bid interest as to the deal. Citigroup analysts wrote: ìWe fear this deal has serious executional, managerial and possibly even regulatory risks. It is not the combination of two highly successful, high-return entities.î

FDA to access drug data

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to access health insurers' prescription drug data to try to spot potential side effects from marketed drugs sooner. The agency has signed contracts with UnitedHealth Group's unit Ingenix, the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute, Vanderbilt University and privately held Harvard Pilgrim Health Care to provide the data. Under the agreements, worth about $1.35m each, FDA scientists will be able to search each organisation's database for medical claims and prescription drug use information for patient enrolled in both private insurance plans and state Medicaid programmes.

PT report points the finger at Big Pharma

A report launched by parallel trade body, the European Association of Euro-Pharmaceutical Companies (EAEPC) says that pharma manufacturers should be subject to EU rules on abuse of a dominant position if they try to prevent parallel distribution. Understanding Competition in the Distribution of Pharmaceutical Products in Europe suggests that one product can treated as one market. ìAny market definition needs to reflect the fact that refusal to supply a wholesaler with a product will leave the wholesaler with no possibility to sell an alternative product,î said the report. The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA) said it needed to study the report before responding.

Momenta criticised over select analysts

US biotech company Momenta is asking select Wall St analysts to enter into confidentiality agreements not to divulge the information it gives them to investors, according to the Wall Street Journal. The practice has drawn criticism from disgruntled investors who say it is unfair. In a statement, Momenta said its actions were legal and were done to protect ìcompetitively sensitive trade secretsÖnot with the purpose of disclosing material, non-public informationî. Momenta is currently working on a generic version of sanofi-aventis' blockbuster blood thinner Lovenox.

30th September 2008

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