Company news: AstraZeneca; Sanofi; Medicus

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AstraZeneca is enlarging its anti-inflammation portfolio. The company announced a $1 million-plus licensing agreement with San Francisco-based Rigel Pharmaceuticals. The company has landed exclusive worldwide rights to the inhaled JAK-inhibitor known as R256 that it says helps asthmatics by reducing inflammation along the airway and improving lung function. “Our respiratory therapy area is starting to look a lot more robust. I think we have one of the strongest pipelines that are in the industry,” spokesman Chris Sampson told MM&M. The agreement, which includes $8.25 million in additional milestone payments and royalty payments if the drug makes it to market, builds on a relationship between the companies that was sealed with the 2010 co-development deal for the RA drug fostamatinib, which is currently in Phase III studies. AstraZeneca told MM&M it expects to file the RA drug in 2013. Wednesday's agreement adds to AZ's asthma portfolio which includes blockbuster Symbicort and complements its Ardea acquisition, which closed Tuesday. The new subsidiary adds the late-pipeline gout drug lesinurad to the AstraZeneca drug mix.

The Sanofi oncology division got a 14-1-1 no from an FDA advisory panel Wednesday for its anti-clotting drug semoluparin. The drugmaker positioned the drug as a needed remedy for venous thromboembolism among cancer patients, but the FDA panel said Sanofi SA failed to identify a patient group that would benefit from the drug, reported Reuters. The panel also questioned the drug's value, and according to Reuters, pointed out that a very small number of people in the trial experienced a clotting issue. Reuters said semoluparin was also linked to a higher bleeding risk, compared to placebo.

A survey by medical staffing group Medicus Firm shows that pay for nurse practitioners and physician assistants outpaced that of physicians in 2011. “Physicians reported the lowest year-over-year income growth we have seen in the history of our physician survey," Medicus President Jim Stone said in a statement. The survey polled over 2,500 physicians in 18 specialties and found a net decrease in compensation of 1.7% between 2010 and 2011, the second time in two years that average incomes declined. But flat or falling isn't necessarily a negative – 32% of the polled docs were “satisfied” with their take-home pay, down from 35% the year before. Some specialties, including cardiology, gastroenterology and general surgery, saw increases, but Medicus said the income growth was moderate.
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