Business briefs: Layoffs at Roche and Merck, plus pipeline news

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Both Roche Diagnostics and Merck are downsizing their manufacturing operations. The Indianapolis Star reported that Roche Diagnostics will cut an unspecified number of jobs at two central Indiana locations in response to “rapidly evolving” change in the US diabetes care market. Retuers reported in May that Roche Holding AG was considering a sale of its blood glucose meter business, which reportedly has a strong presence at the Indiana plants. Meanwhile, a Merck spokesperson confirmed that it's laying off 100 people at its Kenilworth, NJ, plant as it moves manufacturing operations to Tennessee. It's part of a plan, announced earlier this year, to consolidate manufacturing worldwide. The Kenilworth facility "will remain part of Merck and will evolve and grow into an important research facility for us," the spokesperson told MM&M.

Novartis said today that its Phase III study of Afinitor for locally advanced or metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma—the most common form of liver cancer—failed to meet is primary endpoint of overall survival. Subsequently, the drug maker will not pursue regulatory filings for this indication.

An FDA advisory committee gave Bayer's experimental lung drug Riociguat a thumbs-up this past Tuesday to treat two types of pulmonary hypertension. The voting was unanimous at 11-0. If approved, the drug would be dubbed Adempas. An estimate of six analysts polled by Thompson Reuters has the drug forecast to generate sales of $610 million.

New Vivus CEO Tony Zook confirmed in the company's 2Q earnings call that the company now has no plans for launching a DTC campaign for Qsymia. Zook said during the call: “Where we stand today with retail channel and our commercial access, I just don't think [a DTC campaign] would be a good use of our overall spend.” Qsymia is currently being sold at 10,000 certified retail pharmacies, said Vivus commercial head Michael Miller.

Isis Pharmaceuticals nixed development of ISIS-CRPX for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) after a mid-stage trial failed to show significant improvements of disease symptoms. The drug maker said subjects showed some improvements in RA symptoms but none that were statistically significant.

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