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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Teva gets go-ahead for generic Pravachol
After months of legal dispute, Teva's generic version of the popular cholesterol drug, Pravachol, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Canadian rival Apotex had challenged Teva's right to 180 days of marketing exclusivity, usually given to the first generic company to apply to sell a drug coming off patent. Teva filed suit last year to overturn an FDA decision that would have allowed other generics firms to sell versions of Pravachol immediately after the patent expired. In March, an appeals court ordered the FDA to review the case and on April 11 the agency granted the 180 days of exclusivity to Teva. Pravachol, sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb, came off patent earlier this month. Sales of the drug have fallen in recent months due to competition from Pfizer's Lipitor as well as less potent but cheaper rivals.

Serono has $10bn war chest
Serono says it has up to $10bn in place to embark on acquisitions to fuel the growth necessary to fill gaps in its drug pipeline. At the end of March, the Swiss firm announced that it was abandoning its search for a buyer and was instead embarking of a programme of expansion. Serono chief executive, Ernesto Bertarelli, said the company would concentrate on oncology and central nervous system drugs, where Serono already has a presence or potential. He added that the firm had ìreceived a lot of offers from bankers to consider a number of companiesî and saw ìa lot of opportunitiesî.

Actavis pushes takeover bid for Pliva
Icelandic generics firm, Actavis, has tabled an increased takeover bid of $1.85bn for Croatian rival, Pliva. A merger would place Actavis as the third leading generics maker in the world, in terms of sales. However, Pliva, which has already resisted previous bids, said it was considering the latest offer. The Icelandic firm has exerted pressure on Pliva by warning that the offer will expire shortly if no response is made. A surge of consolidation in the generics sector has come as a result of the growing pressure to cut drug costs as well as several major drugs coming off patent, amplifying the requirement for improved scale economies.

Vytorin and Zetia sales boost Schering-Plough and Merck profits
First-quarter profits at Schering-Plough (S-P) and Merck have risen on the back of increased sales of two drugs sold in a joint venture between the two US firms. Combined sales of cholesterol-lowering drugs, Vytorin and Zetia rose 54 per cent to $778m in the first quarter. S-P's first quarter net profit climbed to $305m, with sales up 12 per cent to $2.9bn. Merck saw first quarter profits rise 11 per cent to $1.52bn, with sales up just 1 per cent to $5.4bn. Respiratory drug, Singulair, was the only one of its blockbuster products to post sales growth in the first quarter, up 9 per cent.

Roche has 'rapid response' WHO Tamiflu stockpile in place
Swiss firm Roche said it has a `rapid response' stockpile of its antiviral, Tamiflu, ready to be distributed to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Many scientists see the drug as the first line of defence against any possible mutation of the potentially lethal H5N1 bird flu virus into a form that is transmissible in humans, believing Tamiflu can contain any outbreak, and prevent or slow its spread. Roche said 3 million treatment courses of the drug are ready to be sent to any international airport, while 2 million treatments are ready for use in developing countries. The firm added that it would be in a position to produce another 400 million courses of Tamiflu annually, by the end of the year.

30th September 2008

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