Business briefs: BMS, Sanofi, UK Sunshine

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Bristol-Myers Squibb announced that Francis Cuss will taking over as EVP and Chief Scientific Officer when Elliott Sigal retires in July. Cuss has been with BMS since 2003 and helped advance the company's Hepatitis C portfolio. He currently heads up BMS' drug discovery and clinical pharmacology. FierceBiotech notes that Sigal's pipeline successes have been particularly strong compared to those of his just-retired peers, such as Merck's Peter Kim. The Vertex agreement fills a gap of sorts in the BMS Hep C pipeline: the company abandoned an experimental treatment in August 2012 and has Daclatasvir – one of the orals being used in the Vertex collaboration -- on tap for what could be a 2015 filing or approval date. Vertex has a long history of collaboration, including the November announcement that it was pursuing parallel development agreements with Janssen and GSK. On Friday, BMS announced that it will collaborate with Vertex to create a treatment for genotype 1 Hepatitis C using two BMS orals with a Phase III Vertex polymerase inhibitor. The expansion also follows the news that BMS is shuttering Amylin's San Diego site and will relocate some, but not all of the site's 300 jobs.

Rare diseases are getting more pipeline attention, but European regulators are insisting that a niche target group does not warrant high prices, reported Bloomberg, which ran through laundry list of recent price refusals. Among those cited: The Netherlands' demand that Sanofi slash the cost of some of its enzyme replacement therapies, such as Myozyme, which Bloomberg notes costs around $900,000, and the pricing pressures on Vertex's cystic fibrosis drug, Kalydeco, in Ireland. Bloomberg said such regulator pressure is “putting the brakes on an $86 billion sector of the pharmaceutical industry.” Marcy Dunkle of the National Organization for Rare Disorders told Bloomberg to expect a hard line in the US as well. “The word ‘sustainability' is something that we hear quite a bit now,” she said.

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (think PhRMA with a plummy accent) said the industry gifted UK docs with $61 million last year, reported PM Live. The figure “covers payments relating to the sponsorship of NHS staff to attend medical education events, training and speaker fees” and is part of a transparency process akin to that in the US. PM Live notes that the figure includes a degree of guesstimating and is based on numbers published by 35 of the company's 44 largest companies. This looks pretty skimpy: Propublica's US numbers show AbbVie gave $6 million between June and December 2012, Forest $18.5 million from January to March of 2012 and UCB $7 million for all of last year.

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