Business briefs: GSK, UCB, AZ, Biogen Idec, CVS, Roche, Forest

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A confidential document from November 2011, obtained by The New York Times, alleges that GlaxoSmithKline's bribery and corruption scandal in China could expand to the British drug maker's research center in Shanghai, which develops neurology drugs. The document reportedly states that GSK was warned nearly two years ago about the way it was conducting research, based on an internal audit. One auditor claimed that researchers did not report the results of animal trials for a drug in which human trials were already underway. Another claims that employees failed to record whether trial participants had signed consent forms. Both UCB and AstraZeneca appear to have been drawn into the fray, too, reported PMLiVE. UCB confirmed that it is under investigation by authorities in China and that officials will be inspecting the company's office in Shanghai. One of AstraZeneca's sales representatives, also in China, is being questioned by authorities because of a local police matter. AZ said it believes that the investigation is unrelated to bribery allegations targeted toward GSK. UCB also said that a number of foreign and local firms have been visited by authorities in China, although it did not identify which they were.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations' opposition to drug-trial transparency has added a new protest angle: patient advocacy groups, reports the Guardian. The paper writes that many of the groups siding with the drug industry against transparency “receive some or all of their funding from drug companies.” The Guardian says a memo from EFPIA—PhRMA's EU equivalent—outlined an attack strategy that included using patient groups to “express concern about the risk to public health by non-scientific re-use of data,” or, as the Guardian explains, misunderstanding the data and triggering a health scare. The community component is new, but the EFPIA has been against the requirements for some time. Reuters reported in June that Sanofi's CEO Chris Viehbacher, who is president of the lobbying group, said that transparency requirements could force the industry to move its research and manufacturing jobs elsewhere. Viehbacher's issue at that time was that the data could reveal critical information. “If all of this stuff is laid out, then we could have competitors from any country, particularly outside of Europe, suddenly start looking at our manufacturing processes,” he said.

“Please chillax,” ISI Group analyst Marc Schoenebaum wrote in a research note regarding a report that a patient taking Biogen Idec's MS drug Tecfidera had died. Ed Silverman writes in Forbes that the report centered on a 59-year-old woman who was taking the drug for six weeks, but stopped using it after gastrointestinal problems. The patient died of pneumonia, which, Biogen Idec tells Silverman, is a critical point because the death “is not GI-related.” Silverman says the biotech managed to stem stock fluctuations that followed the report.

Retail clinics are drawing in an increasing number of parents who are choosing to visit drug store chains like CVS and Walgreens for pediatric care, rather than physicians' offices. Those were the findings of a JAMA Pediatrics study reported on by Bloomberg. The study found that 23% of the 1,484 polled parents used the walk-in clinics for ailments including sore throats, ear infections, colds and physical exams, generally between 8am and 4pm midweek and 8am and 12pm on weekends. Researchers found that less than half of these parents told their pediatricians that they used the clinics, a potential problem when it comes to keeping track of antibiotics.

Roche is having a hard time finding a new CEO. Reuters reports that two board members—the CEOs of Shell and Nestle—have told the Swiss drug maker they don't want to step in when CEO Franz Humer walks out. Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Fabian Wenner told Reuters that the company needs an executive who “will have to put a focus on the long-term perspective,” and know how to steer the company toward what will be essential businesses over the next 10-15 years. Roche's recent wins have included landing FDA priority review to extend use of its cancer drug Perjeta in a pre-op setting as well as priority review for a Phase III leukemia drug which could become a successor to blockbuster Rituxan. But the announcement that it halted development of its diabetes medication aleglitazar cut its diabetes pipeline by two potential indications.

New products helped Forest Laboratories log a 6% increase in sales for the first fiscal quarter, compared to the same period last year. The drug maker said it was helped by next-generation products, including Alzheimer's medication Namenda, which saw sales rise 7.9% over the same period last year to almost $398 million. Strong sellers included COPD drug Daliresp, with $46 million in sales, up from $37 million, and depression pill Viibryd, at $14 million, up from $9 million for the same period last year.
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