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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Guideline writers linked to industry, says survey

One third of authors who write practice guidelines in the US have ties to the pharma industry, according to a survey by the journal Nature. Analysing 215 guidelines deposited with the US National Guideline Clearinghouse in 2004, the survey found that only 90 contained details of the authors’ conflicts of interest and, of these, only 31 guidelines were free of ties to the industry. A total of 685 authors contributed to the 90 guidelines that Nature investigated and of these, 445 (65 per cent) declared no conflict of interest.

Altana sale rumours persist

Speculation is mounting that German drugs and chemicals group Altana is set to sell its pharmaceutical business, with Novartis reported to be interested. Analysts have estimated that the unit could fetch a price of around €5bn ($6.02bn). An industry source told Reuters that Goldman Sachs has been appointed to sell the unit. Altana’s top-selling drug, pantoprazole (marketed as Protonix by Wyeth in the US) faces patent expiry in 2009/10, while two of its pipeline hopes, respiratory drugs Alvesco and Daxas have faced recent setbacks. UK firm GlaxoSmithKline appears to be out of the running for Altana as it would face competition issues because of its strong respiratory franchise.

Eisai profits bolstered by Aricept

Eisai has reported a 9 per cent rise in first-half sales on the back of strong sales of its key Alzheimer’s and ulcer drugs. Net profit at Japan’s fourth largest pharma firm rose to 30.16bn yen ($261m) from 27.56bn a year earlier. Strong demand for its top-selling product Aricept (Alzheimer’s) and domestic sales of ulcer treatment Pariet (Aciphex in the US) were behind the result. "Aricept sales grew in all of our operational regions in Japan, US, Europe and Asia, propelling our earnings while Pariet and epilepsy medicine Zonegran also contributed," said Eisai president Haruo Naito. First-half R&D spending rose 19 per cent.

Lundbeck to co-promote Merck migraine pill

Danish company Lundbeck says it will exercise an option to co-promote Merck’s migraine treatment Maxalt. Under the agreement, Lundbeck will begin to recruit and train its first US salesforce, in preparation for a 2007 launch. "During the co-promotion period, Merck will consolidate revenues and will reimburse Lundbeck for a majority of the costs of Lundbeck’s salesforce," the Danish firm said. Lundbeck also said the agreement would prepare it and its salesforce for the US launch of sleep drug Gaboxadol, currently in Phase III trials.

Bayer finds US development partner for thrombosis drug

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to help Bayer in developing and marketing an experimental thrombosis treatment, BAY 59-7939, currently in phase II clinical trials. The success of the drug is seen as key to the German firm’s pharma unit, which has a relatively poor late stage pipeline. J&J’s Ortho-McNeil pharma unit will share in the global development costs as well as making an upfront payment, to the overall tune of $290m. J&J will get rights to the drug in the US while Bayer will retain rights in other markets. Analysts have estimated that the drug could reach annual sales of $1bn for its three uses, preventing stroke, treating venous thromboembolism in patients undergoing orthopaedic surgery and in venous thromboembolism in general.

30th September 2008

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