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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news in brief

UCB inks Schwarz takeover deal
UCB Pharma has agreed a Ä4.4bn takeover of Germany's Schwarz Pharma. As part of the deal, UCB will pay Ä50 a share in cash and 0.8735 of a new UCB share for each Schwarz share, valuing each at Ä91.1. The offer amounts to an approximate 20-per cent premium on Schwarz's closing share price on September 22. The merged company, which will focus on neurology, inflammation and oncology, will keep the UCB name, will have combined revenues of Ä3.3bn and an R&D spend of Ä770m. UCB chief executive, Roch Doliveux, said the transaction would bring in attractive late-stage products to UCB's targeted disease areas and a strengthening of the business in the US and Europe. The new company will be based in Brussels and Schwarz chief executive, Patrick Schwarz-Schuette, will join the board.

Genentech adds brain warning to Avastin label
Genentech has added warnings about a rare neurological disorder called reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome (RPLS) in patients using its cancer drug, Avastin (bevacizumab). In a letter sent to doctors, Genentech said it had received reports of confirmed and possible RPLS in Avastin patients participating in clinical studies with an incidence of less than 0.1 per cent. In addition, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the drug's label now includes information about seven reports of patients who developed holes inside the nose called septum perforations. Genentech is currently studying use of Avastin for 25 different types of tumours in 130 clinical trials.

GSK earmarks Cervarix production sites
GlaxoSmithKline has chosen sites in Belgium and France for production of its vaccine against cervical cancer, Cervarix. The UK firm will invest Ä350m-Ä400m in producing the drug at Saint-Armand-les-Eaux in northern France and will also set up a second production line at Wavre in Belgium. Cervarix, a promising vaccine against human papillomavirus that causes the majority of cervical cancers, is expected to become a blockbuster with estimated annual sales of more than $1.3bn (Ä1bn), according to investment bank, Lehman Brothers.

FDA safety system slated
An independent federal report has criticised the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a 'lack of clear regulatory authority, chronic underfunding, organisational problems, and a scarcity of post-approval data about drugs' risks and benefits'. The report by the Institute of Medicine said these problems were hampering the agency's ability to evaluate and address the safety of prescription drugs post-launch. ìWe found an imbalance in the regulatory attention and resources available before and after approval,î said Sheila Burke, chair of the committee that wrote the report, The Future of Drug Safety: Promoting and Protecting the Health of the Public.

Pfizer aims for biotech top spot
Pfizer is aiming to become the number one biotechnology company, according to new chief executive, Jeffrey Kindler. After delivering a keynote address at a Bank of America investment conference, he told journalists that Pfizer is already the No. 8 biotech firm in the world, with products like kidney cancer drug, Sutent, and ìaspires to become No.1 in the not too distant futureî.

30th September 2008


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