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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

US approval for AZ asthma drug
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved AstraZeneca's (AZ) inhaled asthma drug, Symbicort, for the long-term treatment of patients aged 12 or over - a year earlier than many analysts had expected. The twice-daily therapy, currently approved in 90 countries, including EU nations, combines budesonide, which provides an anti-inflammatory effect, with formoterol, a long-lasting bronchodilator. The announcement is good news for the Anglo-Swedish company, which is keen to boost revenues from existing products as it waits for its pipeline to mature. AZ plans to market Symbicort in the US in mid-2007. Shares in AZ reached a four-year high on the news.

NICE backs psoriasis drugs
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has backed the use of Wyeth's Enbrel (etanercept) and Serono's Raptiva (efalizumab) for the treatment of severe psoriasis. However, experts have expressed concerns that many patients across Europe could still be denied treatment due to funding issues. Enbrel was recently named Brand of the Year by MedAdNews for achieving the strongest sales in 2005 reaching Ä2.9bn, an increase of 42 per cent over 2004. It is one of only five biotechnology products with sales outside the US of more than $1bn.

Novartis to build US flu vaccine plant
Novartis says it plans to build a $600m flu vaccine plant in the US that will use new technology designed to avoid contamination glitches that can result in flu-shot shortages. When finished, the factory will be capable of producing 50 million shots of seasonal flu vaccine a year, said the Swiss company. Construction of the plant in Holly Springs, North Carolina is expected to begin in 2007. Novartis, which bought US vaccine maker Chiron earlier this year, has already built a cell-culture flu-shot plant in Maribor, Germany, and carried out clinical trials of new shots in Europe.

30th September 2008


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