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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Pfizer shares up on Lipitor victory

Pfizer shares jumped nearly 8 per cent on Monday after the world's largest drug firm won a critical US patent ruling for its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor against Indian generic drugmaker Ranbaxy Laboratories. The ruling on Friday upholds Pfizer's two main US patents for Lipitor until 2011, defeating Ranbaxy's attempt to launch a cheaper generic version in the next few years. Analysts said the share price hike showed just how much investors were concerned by patent challenges to its biggest selling drug.

Merck expands on restructure

Merck has outlined another $1bn of cost cutting, expanding on the restructuring plan it announced earlier this month. The company said it plans to change the way it markets drugs in an effort to save money on marketing and administration and achieve a savings target of $5bn by 2010. Chief executive Richard Clark also pledged to narrow the firm's research priorities to nine therapeutic areas - Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular, diabetes, vaccines, obesity, cancer, pain and sleep disorders. ìWe understand that to regain our leadership position we have to change,î he said. ìNot change at the margins but major, far-reaching change.î

Novartis gives up on cholesterol drug

Novartis said it plans to take a charge of Ä266m against fourth-quarter earnings after cancelling the development of an experimental cholesterol-lowering drug. The Swiss firm said it decided to stop the development of NKS104 (pitavastatin), a lipid lowering statin, as ìdata from recent investigational trials showed the compound was no longer competitive enoughî. Bob Pooler, analyst at private bank Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch, said the discontinuation had been widely anticipated due to the emergence of liver enzyme elevations and the lack of a major clinical differentiation over AstraZeneca's superstatin Crestor. The news comes soon after Novartis failed to get European Union approval for its irritable bowel syndrome drug Zelnorm.

Japanese price cut threatens SMEs

A planned 6.7 per cent price cut for prescription drugs sold in Japan is threatening smaller firms which depend on domestic sales. The reduction, sought by the Japanese health ministry as part of its 2005/06 budget, is bigger than the previous cuts of 4.2 per cent in 2004 and 6.3 per cent in 2002 and is due to take effect on April 1. ìThe price cuts will heavily hit earnings of small- to mid-sized drug makers, which have high domestic weighting in sales and hold many patent-expired products,î analyst Kumi Miyauchi at Daiwa Institute of Research told Reuters.

30th September 2008


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