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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news from around the industry.

CAT losses widen as Abbott appeals

Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT) has reported wider losses in the first quarter of the year despite a major deal with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZ) to develop drugs based on human antibodies. AZ's 19.9 per cent stake in the company cost £75m. CAT's pre-tax losses were £11.7m, compared with £9.1m last year and revenues fell 29 per cent from £3.8m last year to £2.7m, as a result of a change in the timing of royalty payments. CAT won a victory in a dispute on royalties with Abbott Laboratories and although the firm was paid $23.7m in royalty arrears last month, the figure was not reflected in its first quarter earnings, as the money could be repayable if Abbott is successful in its appeal. CAT will also not recognise any royalty payments above 2 per cent until the appeal is resolved. Shares were down 1.36 per cent at 762p.

Bush wants FDA funding boost

The Bush administration has proposed that the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Drug Safety should receive a 24 per cent rise in funding. The proposal follows charges that the office fails to adequately monitor serious side effects linked to drugs after they have won approval. In particular, the Office of Drug Safety came under scrutiny when the FDA was accused of ignoring the risks of Merck's arthritis drug, Vioxx, which was pulled from market after a study linked it to higher cardiovascular risks. Several lawmakers have voiced their support of strengthening the Office of Drug Safety and making it more independent from the FDA's reviewing and approving departments.

Phytopharm seeks bargaining funds

Phytopharm, a pharmaceutical plant-product research company, is seeking to raise £23.9m to strengthen its negotiating position with licensing partners. The company, which bases drugs on plant extracts, will raise the funds in a UK placing underwritten by Canaccord, an American private placement firm, and an open offer of some 13m shares at 180p each. The money will be used to finance trials of its Alzheimer's Disease treatment, Cogaine, and a potential drug for motor neurone disease. Shares rose 6.5p to 201.5p.

Spain leads the way in drug policy

Spain's socialist government has given the thumbs-up for a pilot programme for the most extensive trial of therapeutic cannabis ever undertaken. The year-long scheme, sponsored by regional government, will test the drug's effectiveness to treat a wide range of conditions. Some 1,500 patients in Catalunya will take part, along with 60 pharmacies and four hospitals in the area. The cannabis capsules will be prescribed to four groups; those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, side effects from chemotherapy, loss of appetite due to Aids infection, and pain which cannot be relieved by existing therapies. The world's first prescription drug made from marijuana could go on sale in Canada in the very near future, if GW Pharmaceutical's Sativex mouthspray, for treating multiple sclerosis, is approved in the next few weeks.

30th September 2008

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