Business briefs: Sanofi, Alzheimer's, and healthcare reform news

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The European Commission may have cleared Sanofi's MS drug Aubagio, but the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence wants more data before it decides whether to grant the drug formulary space. The organization is asking the drug maker to provide cost-effectiveness data when compared to drugs like Novartis's Gilenya or Rebif-44, among others. Sanofi has offered the drug at a discount, but NICE did not disclose the amount in its announcement.

The fight against healthcare reform continues, but two New York Times pieces show how the law is affecting individuals. The paper noted that patients still do not know which prescriptions will be covered, nor how much patients will need to pay even if their medications are on state exchange formularies. Among the medications name-checked: Biogen Idec's MS drug Tecfidera, which one North Carolina patient notes cost more than $4,000 a month, and Celgene's cancer drug Revilmid, which costs an Oregon resident more than $8,000 a month. Meanwhile, civil servants who helped craft the legislation are making the expected migration to the private sector – NYT reports that Dora Hughes, former counselor to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, joined a law firm that represents insurers and the pharmaceutical industry last year as a “strategic advisor,” while former WellPoint exec Liz Fowler who helped draft the legislation now runs J&J's global health policy. The director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University James Thurber tells the Times that jumping from the public sector to private interest is “a natural phenomenon.”

The National Institutes of Health is doling out around $45 million for Alzheimer's disease research. The agency said Wednesday that the money is being funneled to six projects—a seventh is being finalized. The NIH's announcement noted that the outlay is for studies that are “among the first to be developed with direction from the 2012 NIH Alzheimer's Disease Research Summit.” The NIH director's office is providing $40 million of the funding, and the National Institute on Aging is providing the rest. Three of the projects include clinical trials, and three are explorations for novel therapies. One of the anti-amyloid trials is a four-year study that is testing three early-onset interventions, including Eli Lilly's solanezumab and Roche's gantenerumab.

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