Senior Correspondent, London
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Jul 29, 2015

GlaxoSmithKline beats profit forecasts despite Advair hit, lower margins

LONDON (Reuters) – A further slide in sales of lung drug Advair and lower profit margins following a business overhaul hit GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) in the second quarter, although core earnings per share fell by a less than expected 9 percent.

The drugmaker recently sold its marketed cancer drugs to Novartis (NOVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and bought the Swiss group’s vaccines, while increasing its consumer health business through a joint venture.

Jul 27, 2015

New heart drugs come in more expensive than expected

LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) – Two of the most anticipated new
heart drugs to be launched in recent years have been priced well
above analyst expectations, fuelling the debate about whether
modern medicines cost too much.

Praluent, made by Sanofi and Regeneron
Pharmaceuticals, and Entresto from Novartis
are both treatments that represent significant advances for
millions of patients at risk of serious heart problems.

Jul 24, 2015

AstraZeneca chases biosimilar Avastin drug with Japanese group

LONDON (Reuters) – AstraZeneca is dipping its toe in the biosimilars market, as a way to make future cancer drug cocktails more affordable, by linking with a Japanese group to develop a copy of Roche’s blockbuster medicine Avastin.

Its new 50/50 joint venture with Fujifilm Kyowa Kirin Biologics (FKB) will work on a copycat version of Avastin, which is currently used in a range of solid tumors and also has potential to be given alongside new immunotherapy treatments.

Jul 24, 2015

Sanofi’s big new cholesterol drug wins European green light

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) – A new type of cholesterol drug
from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals won
a green light from European regulators on Friday, two months
behind a rival product from Amgen.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said its experts had
recommended Praluent for patients unable to control their
cholesterol despite taking optimal doses of conventional statin
pills or who cannot take statins.

Jul 24, 2015

AC Immune gets IPO ticket as Alzheimer’s drug advances

By Ben Hirschler

(Reuters) – Swiss biotech firm AC Immune is one step closer to a potential stock market listing after a decision this week by partner Roche (ROG.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) to advance its experimental Alzheimer’s drug crenezumab into pivotal clinical tests.

“It’s very significant for us,” Chief Executive Andrea Pfeifer told Reuters. “It validates our pipeline, it validates our technology and it gives us very nice push in valuation.”

Jul 23, 2015

Roche sees two-year window before copycat biotech drugs hit

By Ben Hirschler

(Reuters) – Switzerland’s Roche (ROG.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) expects no copycat competition to its biotech cancer drugs for another two years, giving it space to grow a successful portfolio of new and established medicines.

The strategy is working so far, with group sales in the first half increasing by a slightly better-than-expected 3 percent as demand for oncology drugs helped offset the strength of the Swiss franc.

Jul 22, 2015

Roche steps up work on two experimental Alzheimer’s drugs

LONDON (Reuters) – Roche is to step up its research efforts on two Alzheimer’s drugs, both of which suffered setbacks in tests last year, reflecting its belief in drugs targeting protein plaques found in brains of patients with the disease.

The move follows new evidence presented on Wednesday that rival antibody drugs from Eli Lilly and Biogen, working in a similar way, may produce improvements in people with the memory-robbing condition.

Jul 22, 2015

AstraZeneca suffers setback as drug fails in eye cancer

LONDON (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s much anticipated cancer drug pipeline suffered a modest blow on Wednesday when the experimental drug selumetinib failed to meet its goal in a late-stage trial for a rare cancer of the eye.

The drugmaker said the disappointing result in uveal melanoma would not affect other studies using the drug. Selumetinib is being investigated primarily as a treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

Jul 21, 2015

Novartis eyecare and dollar hit offset strong generics

July 21 (Reuters) – Novartis was hit by a weak
performance from eyecare division Alcon and a strong dollar in
the second-quarter, prompting the Swiss drugmaker to keep its
2015 financial outlook unchanged.

The difficulties at Alcon reflected lower sales of contact
lenses, intraocular lenses and surgical equipment, offsetting a
solid showing in pharmaceuticals and an impressive sales jump
within the Sandoz generics business.

Jul 20, 2015

The $100 million question: are we alone in the cosmos?

SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists are about to embark on the biggest search yet for alien life, sweeping the skies for signals of civilizations beyond our solar system with $100 million from a Russian billionaire and the backing of physicist Stephen Hawking.

Whether we are alone in the universe has engaged minds down the ages, and the recent discovery that there may be tens of billions of habitable planets in our galaxy alone has added urgency to finding an answer.

    • About Ben

      "Ben Hirschler is European pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and healthcare correspondent, based in London. Previously, he was in charge of British company news and before that was posted to Johannesburg, covering the economic challenges facing post-apartheid South Africa."
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