Business briefs: Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Merck

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It's an up and down week for Eli Lilly, which is giving Novo Nordisk some heartache, according to Bloomberg, which noted Monday after a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report said Lilly's diabetes medications posed a real threat to Novo's GLP-1 inhibitor, Victoza. Bloomberg reports that Novo's stock “fell the most among benchmark stocks in Copenhagen trading” after the BofA/ML report, which forecasted declining Victoza sales as of 2015. Lilly's downbeat news came Thursday, when the company said it was halting a trial of its experimental BACE inhibitor LY2886721, because liver abnormalities surfaced in Alzheimer's disease patients in a clinical trial. The company has said it is not abandoning the drug, but stopping this trial. ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum wrote in a Thursday email that the setback isn't a material one—the drug was forecast to earn around $100 million in 2019—but noted that it raises questions about Merck's future in Alzheimer's, since the Whitehouse Station, NJ, drug maker also has an Alzheimer's BACE inhibitor wending its way through trials. The BACE race has echoes of last summer when adverse events halted several hepatitis C drug trials throughout the industry.

Just as the US has begun to embrace wider HPV vaccination, Japan is doing the opposite. Pharmalot reports that painful side effects have prompted the country's health ministry to reverse its immunization recommendation. Pharmalot says the preventative treatment will still be available, but local health programs will idle active promotion of the vaccine until further studies are done. Merck and GlaxoSmithKline make the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix, respectively.
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