Five things for pharma marketers to know: Monday, August 25
Roche is no longer looking to own Japanese drugmaker Chugai in full. Bloomberg reports that the Swiss company has decided not to scoop up the 38% of shares it does not already own because Chugai's board indicated it would fight the purchase. Roche owned 62% of the company at the end of June and was reported to have offered around $10 billion for the balance. The announcement does little to dampen Roche's acquisition activity — the company announced over the weekend that it was buying InterMune, which will add a potentially significant lung drug to its drug portfolio.
Merck's experimental skin cancer drug pembrolizumab could be approved before the FDA's October deadline. Reuters reports that the OK could happen within weeks, and the approval would make the drugmaker the first pharmaceutical company to garner regulatory approval in the nascent PD-1 drug class. Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca are among the list of peers seeking to break into this very same territory, for varying indications.
The FDA has approved ViiV healthcare's HIV medication Triumeq. The single-pill treatment combines dolutegravir, abacavir and lamivudine, and is ViiV's first dolutegravir-based fixed-dosed combination. The approval was based on the single clinical trial which compared Triumeq to BMS/Gilead's single-pill Atripla (efavirenz, emtricitabine and tenofovir) and found 80% of Triumeq patients were virologically suppressed compared to 72% of Atripla patients after 96 weeks. ViiV is a GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Shionogi enterprise.
Johnson & Johnson's Janssen subsidiary Cilag GmbH International has purchased Swiss biotech Covagen AG. The new-to-JNJ company's lead product is an anti-tumor necrosis factor treatment, which could be applied to conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The potential for multiple indications would bolster the firm's current portfolio which includes Stelara (ustekinumab), an inflammatory condition therapy that currently holds two FDA-approved indications, unlike AbbVie's Humira (adalimumab), which has 10, and Amgen's Enbrel (etanercept), which has five.
A distinct strain of the deadly Ebola virus appears to have surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The BBC reports that the country's health minister has confirmed two people have tested positive for the disease and that a quarantine is now in place to help contain its spread. There are no approved treatments for the disease, which has now killed around 1,400 patients, but this does not mean marketers are not shilling unsanctioned cures: The FDA issued a consumer warning on August 14 that readers should be wary about any treatment that purports to protect against or cure the disease. The regulator has also asked consumers to report any ads for such products so they can better crack down on fraudulent medications. Two patients who received the experimental Zmapp medication have recovered from Ebola and were discharged from Emory University hospital last week, but doctors have hesitated to attribute their recoveries to the drug, because the patients also received additional medical care. (Dr. Brantly received an blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor as well as the vaccine.) Reuters reports that Japan wants to provide doses of an experimental drug developed by Fujifilm Holdings to help treat patients. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshidine Suga told Reuters countries have requested the drug, called favipiravir.