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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Astellas profits up
Japan's third largest pharma firm, Astellas, saw recurring profits rise 4.3 per cent to 202.59bn yen ($1.85bn) for the year ended March 31. Strong sales of hypertension treatment, Micardis, and incontinence drug, Vesicare, offset higher spending on R&D, including fees to acquire rights to experimental drug candidates from other firms. Astellas forecast a decline in recurring profits for the current business year, with an estimate of 184bn yen ($1.66bn). The firm has struck a string of licensing deals in recent months, in its bid to expand its overseas presence. In April, the Tokyo-based firm agreed to pay $765m to license experimental anaemia treatments from US firm, FibroGen.

Lipitor more cost-effective than Zocor, says Pfizer
A Pfizer economic analysis says the firm's cholesterol-lowering blockbuster, Lipitor, is still cost-effective when compared to the generic version of Merck & Co's Zocor, simvastatin, because it is more effective at preventing long-term hospitalisations and surgical costs. The study found that patients who received 80mg of Lipitor achieved ìgreater reductions in heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular procedures compared to those taking a standard dose of Zocor (20-40mg). ìEven if the current US price of Zocor were reduced by 75 per cent, Lipitor patients could still achieve better cardiovascular outcomes at an increase to payors of less than one dollar a day,î said Dr Gregg Larson, vice president cardiovascular medical at Pfizer.

Stand up to animal rights intimidation - ABPI
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has backed Prime Minister Tony Blair's call for people to sign a petition supporting animal research when it is necessary. In a Sunday Telegraph article, Blair pledged to sign the People's Petition, which defends the need to conduct animal research, and encouraged others to do so. City investment houses have also expressed their determination to stand by shareholders threatened by animal rights activists. ìBoth these moves represent a further determination by Britain's leaders - both in and beyond the medical research community - to stand up against the extremists who threaten, harass and intimidate,î said ABPI director general, Richard Barker.

Merck boosts biotech options
Merck & Co has bulked up its biotechnology capability by buying two privately held firms for a combined $480m in cash. The US firm said it had agreed to pay $400m for GlycoFi, a company providing technology to help engineer the reproduction of human proteins for use as treatments. It also agreed to pay $80m to acquire Abmaxis, a developer of monoclonal antibody products. Under the terms of both agreements, the biotech firms will become wholly-owned subsidiaries of Merck. Both deals are expected to close by the end of June.

HBA mentoring event
The Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) is launching a new mentoring programme in the UK on May 18 to help women in the sector make the most of their opportunities. Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand, will give a presentation on personal branding, while the event as a whole will offer information and tools needed to help European women develop their personal brand. The event runs from 11am to 6pm at the London Marriott, Maida Vale. Details are on www.hbaorg.net.

30th September 2008

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