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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry.

WHO treaty to combat counterfeit drugs

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for an international treaty to prevent the distribution of counterfeit medicines spreading further. The problem is rife in the developing world and becoming common in Western countries, as a result of illegal internet sales. Some pharmaceutical companies have already taken website owners and illegal drug manufacturers to court. Lembit R‰go, the WHO's co-ordinator for quality, safety and efficacy of medicines said an international framework convention was needed to establish minimum drug standards, promote co-operation between law enforcement agencies and make counterfeiting of medicines a criminal offence. Analysts predict one in 20 pharma products on the market are fake and this increases to one in three products, in poorer countries.

Anti-drug adverts causing grave concerns

Drug warnings from lawyers seeking new clients could be dangerous to patients already taking the drug. The ads claim that products such as Eli Lilly's Zyprexa, Johnson & Johnson's Risperdal and AstraZeneca's Seroquel can cause severe side effects potentially resulting in death. Drugs treating schizophrenia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and depression can be particularly dangerous if not managed properly. The alarmist and misleading claims, which flash an 'urgent warning' behind a drug name, are a growing national problem, with doctors reporting that some patients have stopped taking a prescribed medication due to the ads.

Poor results put Schering/Novartis drug at risk

Schering and Novartis have delayed plans to file for their potential blockbuster, colorectal cancer drug, PTK787, for regulatory approval until early 2007, following disappointing data in late-stage clinical trials. The poor results showed the drug made little significance in terms of prolonging the life of patients without the disease worsening. Merrill Lynch analyst, Andreas Schmidt said the data could also put the whole programme at risk of failure. Other analysts predict that Schering will suffer more than Novartis, as it has a smaller pipeline. Shares in Schering fell more than 13 per cent and Novartis shares dipped by 2 per cent, on the news.

Meanwhile, certificates in rival Roche, which makes a similar drug approved for use in colon cancer, rose by 4.7 per cent. Shares in Genetech, Roche's biotech subsidiary which developed the cancer drug, jumped 8.5 per cent. And furthermore, ImClone Systems, which also markets a cancer drug, saw shares rise by 3 per cent.

Medicis to acquire breast implant producer

Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation, the skin products maker, has agreed to buy breast implant manufacturer Inamed Corporation, in a $2.8bn deal which will capitalise on the growing market for cosmetic treatments. Medicis, which already produces dermatological products like anti-wrinkle treatments, and Inamed, which produces surgical treatments for obesity will take a larger proportion of the fast-growing vanity market.

However, US regulators, the Food and Drug Administration, will consider a second proposal by Inamed to reverse a 12-year ban on silicone implants. If the bid is rejected, analysts predict the deal will not be so lucrative for Medicis. Thousands of women suffered a range of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus after having silicone breast implants. Medicis said the deal would reduce 2005 profit marginally, while 2006 profits should rise.

30th September 2008


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