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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

BI adds warning to HIV drug
Boehringer Ingelheim has added a warning on a black box label for its HIV drug, Aptivus, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said 13 patients taking the drug had bleeding in the brain, with eight of them dying.

There were 14 events of bleeding in 13 patients among 6,840 HIV-infected people taking part in clinical trials of the drug, which was granted conditional approval last year to treat HIV in combination with Abbott Laboratories' Norvir.

The FDA and Boehringer said that further investigation is ongoing but that many patients who experienced an intracranial haemorrhage had other medical conditions including head trauma and recent neurosurgery.

Lilly makes cuts
Eli Lilly & Co has announced 550 job cuts in the UK, under a Europe-wide cost-cutting drive prompted by what the company has dubbed an ìincreasingly challenging global pharmaceutical environmentî.

The US firm will close its factory in Basingstoke, affecting 445 workers and 111 contractors. The move, which is subject to a 90-day consultation process with employees, is part of wider cost-cutting measures that will signal the closure of the company's R&D facilities in Hamburg, Germany and Mont-Saint-Guilbert, Belgium.

Total jobs losses are estimated at 900. Lilly's headquarters in the UK, an R&D facility in Surrey and a biotechnology unit on Merseyside will be unaffected.

Barr still confident
US generics firm, Barr Pharmaceuticals, is confident its revised $2.3bn takeover of Croatian rival, Pliva, will succeed, after Icelandic firm, Actavis lodged an improved $2.3bn counterbid.

Actavis said last week it had 20.4 per cent of Pliva, after buying stock and call options in the market.

Barr CEO Bruce Downey said: ìThe only condition to our tender will be acceptances that result in Barr holding more than 50 per cent of Pliva's shares irrespective of who the minority shareholders are.î

Pfizer to make generic Zoloft
Pfizer has disclosed plans to launch a cheaper generic version of its antidepressant, Zoloft, which has just lost patent protection in the US market.

Pfizer manufactures and markets so-called `authorised' generic versions of its leading drugs through its own unit, Greenstone.

Merrill Lynch analyst, Gregg Gilbert, said that a single generic is typically priced 35-40 per cent less than the branded version during the six-month exclusive period, and can even capture 90 per cent of the market if it is left alone.

Zoloft was Pfizer's third biggest-selling product last year, with US annual sales of $2.57bn.

European Tysabri launch
Elan's controversial multiple sclerosis drug, Tysabri, is to be launched in Germany and Ireland following clearance by European regulatory authorities.

The Irish firm, and its US marketing partner, Biogen Idec, are set to ask for a higher level of pricing than originally planned, in line with US increases to $28,000 (?15,500) per patient a year.

Tysabri was withdrawn from the market at the beginning of 2005, after two patients taking it in combination with another Biogen MS drug, Avonex, developed a rare and often fatal brain infection known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

30th September 2008

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