Business briefs: Angelina Jolie, adherence, Sanofi, Teva, AbbVie

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Angelina Jolie took on a new patient advocacy role Tuesday, revealing in an NYT op-ed piece that she had a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. The actor/UN ambassador's mother died of breast cancer at the age of 57. Jolie carries the genetic marker for the disease, putting her chances of having breast cancer at 87% and ovarian cancer at 50%. After surgery, she said the risk is less than 5%. She also notes that the average breast cancer risk for women with the BRCA1 marker is generally around 65% and varies with each woman. The breast removal and reconstruction surgeries took three months. In addition to saying “For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices,” that this is not necessarily possible, since testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 is runs more than $3,000 in the US, “an obstacle for many women.” These two genes are thought to suppress tumors. Mutated ones do not.

More news on adherence: a study by CVS and Brigham and Women's Hospital found that non-white patients are 50% more likely not to stick with a medication regimen and that when it comes to taking statins, women are less likely to take cholesterol-lowering medications than men. The findings were based on a literature survey that assessed information from 50 publications. Like other recent studies, this one suggested you can't blame adherence on pricing -- the CVS/Brigham researchers found that the patterns held true “even in those studies that adjusted for income, insurance status and co-payment amounts.” Researchers think part of what's happening here is that women usually double as unofficial caregivers, and caregivers generally have low adherence rates. They also said that non-white patients “are less likely to have a consistent relationship with a primary care provider . . . which can impact chronic care and adherence.”

France's Competition Authority slammed Sanofi with a $52.8 million fine for trying to scare doctors away from generic Plavix, and for urging pharmacists to swap in Sanofi's generic Plavix over competitor's versions when generics were going to be used, reported Bloomberg. The government agency said Sanofi's reps told healthcare providers that generics weren't as effective, and that HCPs could be liable if patients ran into any problems. The company told Bloomberg it is looking into an appeal.

South Africa's largest pharmaceutical company, Adcock Ingram, is stirring up international M&A attention – the Globes reported Tuesday that Teva may be interested in swallowing the company, and that followed a Monday report that Sanofi was checking out the company.

AbbVie's honeymoon is over. The company's Chief Scientific Officer, John Leonard, who kicked off his Abbott career in 1992 and shimmied over to the spin-off at its 2013 launch, is leaving. Reuters reported the departure on Friday, when the company announced the news in an SEC filing that also discussed the incentive stock program shareholders voted for May 6. Pharmalot noted Tuesday that CEO Richard Gonzalez “has been preaching culture change inside the drug maker,” and Leonard's departure could be a way to spice up a pipeline that has had some setbacks, including the experimental kidney cancer drug Bardoloxone, which fell by the wayside last year. This is not the first R&D shakeup of late – as noted by FierceBiotech, Elliot Sigal recently cut ties with Bristol Myers Squibb, and Merck recently on-boarded Roger Perlmutter and booted Peter Kim.

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