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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Prozac can be used on kids, says EMEA
The European Medicines Agency has recommended that Eli Lilly's antidepressant, Prozac (fluoxetine), can be used to treat children of 8 years of age or older, who suffer from moderate to severe depression and who do not respond to psychotherapy. The agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) said it had concluded that the benefits of the drug outweigh its potential risks. However, it asked that Lilly carry out additional studies to ensure that Prozac's safety profile remains acceptable, and confirmed that doctors and parents should carefully monitor children and adolescents for suicidal behaviour, particularly at the beginning of treatment.

Gardasil set for FDA approval
Merck & Co's vaccine for cervical cancer, Gardasil, is expected to gain US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval this week, signalling a return to form for the US firm. The drug works by preventing infection from human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus that typically causes most cervical cancers. According to Lehmann Brothers estimates, the cancer vaccine could reach $3bn in peak annual sales. However, there are concerns that Merck could encounter problems gaining the backing from US states, which have the power to make the vaccine mandatory for school admission. Supporters of abstinence programmes have lobbied several states to register their opposition to vaccinating young teenagers against a sexually transmitted disease.

Sanofi names new CEO
French company, sanofi-aventis, expects to have R&D head, Gerard Le Fur, as its new chief executive officer in January, splitting the roles of chairman and CEO currently held by Jean-Francois Dehecq. The surprise announcement at the firm's annual general meeting in Paris came as investors approved extending the age limit for chairman to 70 from 68, allowing Dehecq to stay in the role until 2010. Le Fur is widely respected for having overseen the build up of sanofi's pipeline, including the development of obesity pill, Acomplia.

GSK set to enter Pfizer OTC unit auction
Reports suggest that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is putting together a $15bn bid for Pfizer's coveted consumer health division. An acquisition would propel the UK firm into the world's biggest maker of non-prescription drugs. Bids were due to close on June 6. GSK is likely to be vying with several other candidates, including Reckitt Benckiser, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Wyeth and Bayer.

30th September 2008

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