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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Pharma: from worst to best

The global pharmaceutical industry has leap-frogged from investors' ìmost hated sectorî to ìeverybody's favouriteî in recent months as a result of its efforts to avoid slipping into the red, according to a survey of global fund managers by Merrill Lynch (ML). Many investors have shied away from the pharma sector as ìthere were litigation issuesî and ìpeople thought it was going ex-growthî, noted chief investment strategist at ML, David Bowers. ì[However], now the real catalyst is that pharmas are unique because they have very little debt,î he added. According to data from IMS Health, the top markets saw global pharmaceutical sales grow by 6 per cent in the 12 months from March '04 to '05. The largest single medicines group was cholesterol-lowering drugs, amassing some $27bn and growing by 10.9 per cent over the year.

FDA seeks pharmacovigilance improvement

US medicines regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), should do more to uncover side effects linked to drugs already on the market, rather than rely on doctors and manufacturers feeding back. This is the view taken by members of an FDA advisory committee, who recently noted their dissatisfaction with the current AERS (Adverse Event Reporting System) protocol in that only manufacturers are obliged by law to report problems to the FDA. Doctors can submit information on side effects though it is currently on a voluntary basis. Several advisers urged the FDA to move away from its ìpassiveî approach to collecting trend-identifying data on marketed drugs, and to spend money on being more active.

Roche bolsters world flu drug contingency

Developing, and lower-income, nations will be better protected from a potential outbreak of flu thanks to a strategic international effort by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to stockpile antiviral medicines, to which Swiss pharma firm Roche has already contributed 120,000 courses of its anti-flu drug, Tamiflu. The company is also in talks with the WHO over making a possible one million dose donation to the cause. The WHO believes that a human flu pandemic, which could stem from a bird flu outbreak in Asia, could kill up to seven million people worldwide and cause billions of dollars of disruption to the global economy.

GSK to stamp out AIDS drug scam

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will introduce security measures that prevent the resale back to higher price developed countries those AIDS treatments the firm has earmarked for sale at cost to developing nations. The illegal diversion of these medicines, which are intercepted and repackaged by criminal organisations and distributed back into developed nations for a profit, affected as much as 25 per cent of the allocated AIDS drugs stock in 2002, GSK estimated. By the end of the year, the firm hopes to have fully implemented an anti-fraud identification system, including bespoke packaging, labelling and a red coating (rather than the standard white pills) on the medicines destined for humanitarian aid.

Scrushy case continuesÖ

ìI thought the government's side was extremely weakî. This was former HealthSouth chief Richard Scrushy's take on the state of the ongoing trial in which the US government has brought charges of fraud against him under the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate disclosure law. This was set up to force CEOs to certify the accuracy of company accounts, in a bid to stamp out corporate fraud and to restore investor confidence in the litigious sector. Scrushy, who is the first executive in the US to be charged under Sarbane-Oxley, has appeared bullish so far, though has yet to take the stand himself. He is accused of masterminding a $2.7bn accounting fraud while head of HealthSouth.

30th September 2008


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