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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry
Schering turns down Merck offer
Von Eschenbach in running for permanent FDA job
NHS trusts to face tougher ratings tests
NHS news in brief
R&D news in brief
US government stalls on Acambis vaccine contract
Shares in Acambis fell after the US government said it had put back a decision on a contract that would see the biotech firm supply up to 20 million doses of a weak version of a smallpox vaccine for vulnerable people. Acambis is competing with Bavarian Nordic for the $1bn (£576m) contract; analysts believe the most likely outcome is that the two firms will split it. However Bavarian Nordic has launched a lawsuit against Acambis, claiming that the vaccine breaks trade secrets and infringes its patents. A US decision to extend Acambis's contract for smallpox vaccine stockpiles, which is worth up to £30m a year for five years, is expected in September.

Tauzin denies allegations
Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has denied Democrat allegations that he began negotiations with the US pharmaceutical industry association at the same time he, as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, helped pass the 2003 Medicare law. In a letter to Congress, former Republican congressman Tauzin wrote that he has ìendured repeated injury to [his] name and reputation as a result of the repetition of these false claims of improprietyî. President George Bush signed the Medicare law on December 8, 2003, while Tauzin claims his first contact with PhRMA occurred after January 15, 2004.

Many doctors still unaware of CoP
Nearly 50 per cent of doctors are unaware of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice, which governs relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and its healthcare partners, according to a survey by the industry association. While 65 per cent of GPs were aware of the CoP, only 40 per cent of hospital doctors knew of it. ìWhile it is good that nearly two-thirds of GPs are aware of our code, these figures confirm that more needs to be done to spread the word about the code and the robust provisions covering ethical relationships between the industry and its stakeholders that are at its core,î said ABPI president, Vincent Lawton. The survey, held in January this year, was conducted among some 400 doctors.

SkyePharma defeats rebel shareholders
The board of SkyePharma has narrowly defeated a group of rebel investors seeking a change of management at the drug delivery company's extraordinary general meeting. The rebel group, led by North Atlantic Value, had put forward a resolution to oust newly-elected non-executive chairman Jerry Karabelas and install Robert Thian, head of biosciences group, Whatman, as head of SkyePharma. However in a vote, 53 per cent, representing 2984 shareholders, decided against the resolution. 47 per cent, representing 880 shareholders, voted with the dissident group. ìThe EGM is now behind us,î said Karabelas. ìWe can now get on with running the business for the benefit of all shareholders.î SkyePharma will be hoping that the vote will bring to a close a turbulent period in its history. In the run up to the EGM, the discontented shareholders wrote to the Financial Services Authority alleging that SkyePharma was guilty of market abuse as it had informed them in a private meeting that the firm faced a potential cash crisis this summer without releasing such sensitive information to the market.

BMS to shift pharma-healthcare distribution
Bristol-Myers Squibb chief executive Peter Dolan has signalled that he would like to see the company reduce its dependence on prescription drugs and enhance its broader healthcare portfolio. ìWe're 70-30 in terms of profitability coming from pharma and from healthcare,î he told the Financial Times. ìIf we could make that shift higher on the healthcare businesses I think that might be a good thing for us to do. You don't face exclusivity losses and major changes to your portfolio.î BMS' healthcare division includes wound care, nutritional formulas and products for children and adults, and injectable compounds such as Cardiolite that allow medical imagers to detail the body.

30th September 2008


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