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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Herceptin gains European approval
Sales of Herceptin could soar after Roche and Genentech's breast cancer drug won European approval to treat patients in the early stages of the disease. The drug was first approved in Europe in 2000 for use in patients with metastatic breast cancer whose tumours over-express the HER2 protein, constituting about a quarter of all breast cancers. A study published last year showed that following surgery and standard chemotherapy, the drug reduced the risk of the cancer returning by 46 per cent compared with chemotherapy alone. Some UK patients have since demanded that their local primary care trust (PCT) fund the expensive treatment even though it was not yet licensed for use in early stage breast cancer. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is expected to issue Herceptin guidance in July.

Bayer amends Schering offer
Bayer has extended its takeover offer for rival German firm Schering by two weeks, waiving a clause that makes the offer conditional on not being blocked. Bayer said that the offer has now been automatically extended until June 14. ìThe extension of the acceptance period enables all Schering stockholders to accept our attractive offer within the next two weeks,î said Bayer chairman, Werner Wenning. The minimum acceptance threshold of 75 per cent and the offer price of Ä86 in cash per Schering share remain unchanged.

Barr interest in Pliva
US generics firm Barr is understood to have tabled a $2.1bn (Ä1.6bn) offer for Croatian rival, Pliva, according to the Financial Times. However, rival firm Actavis of Iceland has not ruled out making a counter-bid. Earlier this year, Actavis put in an improved bid of $1.85bn after Pliva turned down its initial offer of $1.6bn. ìOur offer is not binding and we could look into the possibility of making changes to the offer,î said Actavis communications director, Halldor Kristmannsson. He said the firm's increased offer now valued Pliva in the region of $2bn due to currency movements.

J&J set to announce Natrecor safety study
Johnson & Johnson has come in for criticism after failing to start a safety study for its controversial heart-failure drug Natrecor. A year ago, the US firm asked a panel of cardiologists for advice following the publication of analyses in two medical journals that raised safety questions about the drug. The panel urged J&J to proceed with a follow-up study. J&J said it would soon unveil a plan for the safety study. ìThere are just a couple of details that we're putting the finishing touches on,î said Roger Mills, vice president of medical affairs at Scios, the J&J unit that makes Natrecor, told the Wall Street Journal.

30th September 2008

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