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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of the news in brief
Herceptin gets combination go ahead
Following priority review, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an expanded indication for Roche's anti-cancer drug, Herceptin, to be used in combination with other products for treating HER2 positive breast cancer after surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy). It means that Herceptin will be made available for women diagnosed with HER2 positive cancer only in the breast or lymph nodes which have been removed with surgery. The decision to expand approval in this way was based on the outcomes of two studies, which were stopped early by the National Cancer Institute as they were clearly yielding positive results for Herceptin in combination.

Single flu drug may be insufficient
The UK should not rely on just one antiviral drug, Roche's Tamiflu, to protect its citizens in the case of a flu outbreak as resistance may hamper control and containment of a pandemic, according to scientists at the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, whose report, co-authored by industry personnel, criticised poor clarity in the government's decision to stockpile Tamiflu alone. The document, which was compiled over eight months, advises the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to bring in more external scientific expertise, by way of forming a vaccination committee that included independent specialists. Separately, Roche has agreed to amend the patient leaflet for Tamiflu on the back of concern over possible psychiatric events in children taking the drug. Regulators have not yet formally identified any causal link.

Actelion buys CoTherix
Actelion has agreed to buy biopharmaceutical firm CoTherix for $420m, strengthening its position in the pulmonary hypertension market. The move sent Actelion shares soaring, as investors pushed shares up 6.4 per cent. The Swiss biotech firms expects sales of Ventavis, a pulmonary arterial hypertension drug marketed by CoTherix, to add over $100m to its product revenues. While analysts are broadly positive about the move, others have warned that Actelion could become too reliant on the pulmonary hypertension market.

30th September 2008

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