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Apr 22, 2014

Valeant, Ackman offer to buy Botox maker Allergan for $47 billion

By Rod Nickel and Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Canada’s Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc said on Tuesday it and activist investor Bill Ackman made an unsolicited $47 billion bid to buy Botox maker Allergan Inc as it seeks to become one of the world’s five biggest drug companies.

The offer, if successful, would bring together two mid-sized pharmaceutical companies with expertise in skin care and eye care products, and is highly unusual as activist investors typically buy stakes and then agitate for strategic change.

Apr 18, 2014

Exclusive: Biogen prices hemophilia drug on par with older therapies

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Biogen Idec Inc is pricing its newly-approved long-acting hemophilia drug to cost U.S. patients, and insurers, about the same per year as older, less convenient therapies whose price can reach about $300,000 annually.

The move could pressure rivals such as Pfizer Inc to lower prices for existing hemophilia treatments, which provide patients with life-saving infusions of a blood clotting agent, according to doctors and industry analysts.

Apr 15, 2014

U.S. healthcare usage and spending resumes rise in 2013: report

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Americans used more health services and spent more on prescription drugs in 2013, reversing a recent trend, though greater use of cheaper generic drugs helped control spending, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a leading healthcare information company.

Spending on medicines rose 3.2 percent in the United States last year to $329.2 billion. While that was far less than the double-digit increases seen in previous decades, it was a rebound from a 1 percent decline in 2012, the report by IMS Health Holdings Inc. found.

Apr 12, 2014

Intercept’s liver disease drug proves highly effective in study

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – A drug being developed by Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc led to significant improvement in signs of a rare liver disease that primarily affects middle-aged women, likely reducing the risk of need for liver transplant and of death, according to results of a late-stage clinical trial presented on Saturday.

Nearly half the patients suffering from primary biliary cirrhosis who received the drug, obeticholic acid, achieved the primary goals of the study, compared with 10 percent for those who received a placebo, researchers said.

Apr 10, 2014

Bristol-Myers hepatitis C treatment cures up to 90 percent: study

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – A combination of two anti-viral drugs developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co cured 90 percent of previously untreated hepatitis C patients and 82 percent of those who failed to respond to prior therapy, according to results from a late stage study presented on Thursday.

The Phase III trial of more than 700 patients called Hallmark-Dual tested a combination of Bristol’s daclatasvir and asunaprevir over 24 weeks of therapy in patients with genotype 1b of the virus that causes progressive liver disease.

Apr 10, 2014

Merck hepatitis C drugs shine in easier to treat patients -study

April 10 (Reuters) – A two-drug combination being tested by
Merck & Co to treat hepatitis C cured 98 percent of
previously untreated patients without cirrhosis in a midstage
clinical trial, providing the latest evidence that the U.S.
drugmaker will be highly competitive in the fast evolving field.

Results of the study called C-Worthy were presented on
Thursday at the annual meeting of the European Association for
the Study of the Liver (EASL) in London. Researchers are due on
Friday to present results of how the Merck pills fared in more
difficult to treat patients, such has those who failed to be
helped by prior treatments and those with more advanced liver
disease.

Apr 9, 2014

Exclusive: Heart docs seek curbs on kidney-zapping hypertension devices

By Ransdell Pierson and Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Several leading U.S. and European heart doctors are calling for curbs, or even a moratorium, on using devices meant to lower blood pressure by zapping kidney arteries, following a surprising failure of the technology in a clinical trial.

The views highlight a significant new hurdle to wider approval and acceptance of the therapy, known as renal denervation, which had raised hopes in the medical community as a way to treat stubbornly high blood pressure for patients who don’t gain enough benefit from drugs.

Apr 6, 2014

Agios leukemia drug shows promise in tiny, early study

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – An experimental drug being developed by Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc showed promising anti-cancer activity in a tiny Phase I study of patients with relapsed acute myeloid leukemia (AML), according to data presented on Sunday.

Of seven patients available to be evaluated following a 28-day cycle of treatment with the drug, AG-221, six had what researchers deemed objective responses to the medicine.

Mar 31, 2014

Weight loss surgery helps many reverse type 2 diabetes – study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bariatric weight loss surgery on obese patients with type 2 diabetes helped many get their blood sugar to healthy levels and to no longer require any diabetes medicines, including insulin, three years after the procedure, according to data presented at a major medical meeting on Monday.

The surgery also helped patients reduce the need for high blood pressure and cholesterol medicines and led to quality of life improvements compared with those who received medical weight-loss therapy, researchers found.

Mar 31, 2014

Steroids shown to hurt, not help, patients in bypass surgery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A longstanding practice of giving steroids to patients during cardiopulmonary bypass surgery to reduce inflammation failed to help patients and actually increased the risk of heart attacks, according to results of a large clinical trial.

“This study shows that administering steroids during cardiac surgery requiring bypass can cause harm,” said Dr. Richard Whitlock, a cardiologist with McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who led the international trial. “Based on these results, we suggest that steroids should not be used prophylactically during cardiac surgeries that require the use of cardiopulmonary bypass.”

    • About Bill

      "Based in New York, I primarily cover the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors as well as other publicly traded companies involved in health care. Previously covered a wide range of sports for Reuters."
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