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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

J&J wraps up Guidant deal

Johnson & Johnson's protracted merger with Guidant looks to be heading for a successful conclusion after the medical device maker agreed to cut its price by 17 per cent. The two companies announced a revised cash-and-stock merger deal valued at $21.5bn, from the initial $25.4bn agreed last December. J&J will pay $63.08 per Guidant share under the new terms, down from the $76 per share price announced eleven months ago. The deal comes just a week after Guidant threatened to sue J&J after it threatened to pull out of the merger, citing Guidant's recent problems such as defibrillator recalls and lower earnings.

Roche talks to WHO over Asian antiviral stockpile

Roche has held preliminary discussions with the World Health Organisation about creating a stockpile of antiviral drugs to provide treatment and protection against pandemic flu in Asia. The plans revolve around forming a pool of donations from richer countries, representing 5 per cent of their own stockpiles or purchases made with an equivalent financial contribution. Concern is growing that nearly all of the 50 countries that have place orders for Roche's antiviral Tamiflu, are in the developed world, leaving developing nations exposed. Experts believe a pandemic is most likely to begin in south-east Asia.

Teva and Pfizer unit to launch generic

Israeli firm Teva has announced it is launching a generic version of Pfizer's antibiotic blockbuster Zithromax - but it will have to compete with another version made by Pfizer's Greenstone unit. The branded product reached peak annual sales of $2.1bn, which have now slipped to about $1.6bn. ìThis is consistent with our strategy to participate in the generic market for Pfizer products which become subject to generic competition,î Pfizer spokesman Paul Fitzhenry told Reuters. The basic patent for Zithromax expired on November 1.

Acambis vaccine enters Phase III trials

UK vaccine maker Acambis is embarking on pivotal final stage clinical trials of its vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, ChimeriVax-JE. The multi-centre trials are taking place in Australia under a Clinical Trial Exemption licence issued by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration and in the US under a Food and Drug Administration Investigational New Drug application. The firm said it also expected to start, within 18 months, a Phase I clinical trial of a pandemic influenza vaccine, which it is hoped could protect against bird flu. Acambis posted a loss before tax for the three months to September 30 of £10.2m ($17.8m), up from a loss of £4.3m last year.

sanofi unit signs vaccine deal with French government

sanofi-aventis' vaccine unit, sanofi pasteur, has signed an agreement with the French health ministry to produce a pre-pandemic vaccine against the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. According to the terms of the contract sanofi pasteur is to supply the vaccine in bulk concentrate form from its production facility in Val de Reuil. Trials with the H5N1 vaccine have been launched at three sites in France, with the aim of evaluating its safety and immunogenecity and determining its optimal formulation. Results should be known by the end of the year.

30th September 2008

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