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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

MHRA foils counterfeit operation
Investigations by the UK drugs regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), have led to the seizure of what are believed to be counterfeit and illegal drugs worth several hundred thousand pounds and the arrests of five people. The bogus products, which included lifestyle drugs and steroids, were discovered when residential and commercial addresses were visited as part of a major collaboration between the MHRA, other law enforcement agencies as well as members of the pharmaceutical industry. The searches were carried out in North London, West Yorkshire and Manchester. Mick Deats, the MHRA's head of enforcement and intelligence, warned counterfeiters and related suppliers that the MHRA has the power to prosecute offenders, which could lead to 10-year imprisonment sentences and substantial fines.

Cannabis-based-drug maker updates on progress
GW Pharmaceuticals, which is developing compounds based on cannabis for treating multiple sclerosis (MS) and pain, has announced that while it made a net loss of £6.2m for the six months to March 31, this was in line with expectations and it remains positive about launching and marketing Sativex in Europe and the US. The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for Sativex to enter directly into US phase III trials in cancer pain, which are planned to commence by the end of 2006. GW is also considering the possibility of seeking marketing approval in Europe for MS spasticity. Results of a third phase III trial for this indication showed ìsignificant positive resultsî, according to the company. Spanish pharma firm, Almirall, is currently under agreement to market Sativex in Europe - excluding the UK, where Bayer HealthCare holds exclusive marketing rights. The product is currently available in the UK on a named-patient basis only.

Serono reproached
Global biotechnology company, Serono, has been reproached for reportedly attempting to coerce British doctors into prescribing Rebif, its product for treating multiple sclerosis (MS) by making offers of what were deemed to be `innappropriate' payments. The public reprimand came about after the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's Code of Practice Authority received complaints from Serono rival, Schering, which claimed that UK doctors were being offered up to £1,400 in return for their participation in a Serono-sponsored MS project. The industry body found the situation to be ìunacceptableî as the project was seen essentially as ìdisguised promotionî. Serono said that such incidences were isolated in nature and plans to review and refresh it standard operating procedures. Senior managers will have greater responsibility to ensure their compliance, and that of their staff, with the Code of Practice.

AZ fights its own corner
AstraZeneca saw its shares leap by 74p this week on speculation of a takeover by either rival GlaxoSmithKline or Novartis. The company has remained adamant that its future lies in the direction of independence, drawing attention to newly released research that shows its statin, Crestor, to be the most effective LDL-cholesterol-reducing product in the £11bn marketplace when combined with Zetia, made by Schering-Plough (SP). AZ's share price lifted on the findings, which were presented at the International Symposium on Atherosclerosis, in Italy. SP already sells a Zetia-Zocor (Pfizer) combination, made by Merck.

30th September 2008


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