Business briefs: Xeljanz, Merck, Pfizer

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Five more countries have approved Pfizer's RA pill Xeljanz.  Russia, Argentina, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland will all allow the twice-a-day pill for patients who are not responding to already available treatments. Xeljanz is about to be launched in Japan, and was launched in the U.S. this past November.

Merck presented positive data on its investigational BACE Inhibitor MK-8931 for Alzheimer's disease at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Boston this week. MK-8931 demonstrated reduced levels of cerebrospinal fluid in patients during their Phase I trial.  BACE Inhibitor therapies have become increasingly popular in Alzheimer's as amyloid-targeting therapies from Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have all failed to show efficacy in clinical trials. The AAIC runs until July 18.

NICE said no thanks to Pfizer's bone cancer drug Bosulif today, citing a lofty price tag.  NICE, Britain's state health service and the country's cost agency said in new preliminary draft guidance that the cancer therapy didn't offer enough value for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) compared to other therapies. NICE's chief executive, Sir Andrew Dillon, said in a statement: “CML is a chronic condition, meaning the drugs will be used for a long period of time and even with the proposed patient access scheme, which reduces the overall cost of treatment, bosutinib doesn't offer enough benefit to justify its price…limitations in the evidence provided by the manufacturer meant that the actual benefit compared to other treatment in terms of the estimated effect on overall survival was unclear.” NICE has currently approved both Gleevec and Tasigna for CML.

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