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Jan 22, 2015

FDA panel backs Astellas drug for invasive fungal infections

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – A panel of experts on Thursday voted to recommend that U.S. health regulators approve Astellas Pharma Inc’s drug for the treatment of rare, often fatal invasive fungal infections that can target patients with blood cancers.

The Anti-Infective Drugs advisory committee panel voted 11-0 that the Japanese drugmaker had demonstrated sufficient safety and efficacy to support approval of the drug, isavuconazonium to treat invasive aspergillosis.

Jan 20, 2015

Bristol-Myers taps insider Caforio as next CEO

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co on Tuesday said Chief Operating Officer Giovanni Caforio will replace Lamberto Andreotti as chief executive on May 5, in another selection of a long-time insider to lead the company.

Caforio, 50, who has a medical background and led the company’s global oncology operations, will take over Bristol-Myers at a time when it is riding high on its new high-profile cancer drugs that help the immune system fight the disease.

Jan 16, 2015

Aetna backs Gilead’s hepatitis C treatment, gets discount

By Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Aetna Inc, the third-largest U.S. health insurer, said it negotiated a discount with Gilead Sciences Inc for its hepatitis C treatment and will offer it as the preferred choice to nearly 11 million commercial customers.

Aetna, which posted an updated coverage policy on its website on Friday, said it believes the price it received for Gilead’s Sovaldi, and a newer combination treatment called Harvoni, is “competitive with other recently announced agreements for this class of therapy.” It would not detail the size of the discount.

Jan 15, 2015

Researchers find clues on how melanoma resists effective treatments

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Researchers believe they have discovered a mechanism by which tumors eventually evade effective combination treatments for melanoma, providing clues that could lead to longer-lasting therapies for the deadliest of skin cancers.

The two-year study, led by Dr. Roger Lo of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, looked at tumor samples from 15 melanoma patients prior to therapy that combined a BRAF inhibitor with an MEK inhibitor and after they developed resistance to the drugs.

Jan 14, 2015

Stryker eyes deals, market share growth in Europe

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Orthopedic device and surgical equipment maker Stryker Corp said on Wednesday it is eyeing growth through acquisitions, and has set its sights on improving market share for its products in Europe.

Stryker Chief Executive Kevin Lobo, speaking at the JP Morgan healthcare conference in San Francisco, said the company was in a very strong cash position that would allow it to make acquisitions that are “small, medium or even large.”

Jan 13, 2015

Express Scripts sees opportunity to lower cancer treatment cost

By Susan Kelly and Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Express Scripts, the largest U.S. pharmacy benefit manager, on Tuesday said cost savings on expensive cancer treatments could be achieved if the company were involved earlier in the decision-making process.

Express Scripts, which has become more aggressive in negotiating discounts on drugs for insurance plans and employers, in December stopped covering Gilead Sciences Inc’s hepatitis C treatments after lining up a cheaper price for AbbVie’s newly-approved alternative.

Jan 12, 2015

Merck, Bristol heat up immunotherapy race in lung cancer

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck & Co broke further away from rival drugmakers in the race to treat lung cancer with a new generation of immune system therapies, adding pressure on the likes of Roche and AstraZeneca to play catch-up.

Merck said it would file an application with U.S. regulators in the middle of this year seeking expanded use of its new Keytruda treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the deadly disease.

Jan 8, 2015

Conatus says data supports moving forward with liver disease drug

Jan 8 (Reuters) – Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc said
on Thursday initial results from small early stage trials
supported continued development of its experimental drug for
patients with cirrhosis and liver impairment.

In one of the studies, the company tested its drug,
emricasan, at three doses in 21 patients with cirrhosis and
acute liver failure – the sickest patients on the liver disease
spectrum.

Jan 7, 2015

Halozyme CEO sees blockbuster potential in its cancer drug

NEW YORK, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Halozyme Therapeutics Inc
believes it has a multibillion-dollar cancer drug on
its hands.

The drug, PEGPH20, being tested against pancreatic cancer,
has the potential to help treat several other types of solid
tumor cancers, its chief executive said in an interview.

Jan 5, 2015

CVS to cover Gilead hepatitis C treatment over AbbVie regimen

Jan 5 (Reuters) – CVS Health Corp, one of the
largest U.S. managers of drug benefits, said it would give
preferred status to the hepatitis C treatments from Gilead
Sciences and cover a new competing treatment from
AbbVie Inc only as an exception.

The latest salvo in the battle to grab market share for new
all-oral treatments for the liver-destroying hepatitis C virus
follows a move last month by CVS rival Express Scripts Holding
that favored AbbVie’s regimen after negotiating a price
discount below what Gilead had been charging its commercial
customers.

    • 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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