Business briefs: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Zafgen, GSK, Shire

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Australia's version of NICE, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, is assessing whether a Bristol-Myers Squibb cancer medication is worth the $430 million subsidy it approved for the next four years, reports ABCNews Australia. The regulator says it will track patients to see if the “drugs do indeed deliver the benefits claimed by pharmaceutical companies,” a first for Australia, reports ABC. Yervoy is one of three new terminal cancer drugs the regulator has approved, and cancer medications have become the fastest-growing category of approved drugs.

A sluggish prescription weight-loss category has not deterred new entrants. Among them: Zafgen, a company run by a former Novartis exec and profiled by Reuters, which has a Phase II treatment that could add a new dimension to the prescription-slimming category. The weight-loss candidate, beloranib, comes with a promise that sounds like late-night weight loss ads, in that it is reported to kick up the “rate of fat burn.” The drug also blocks an enzyme that has a role in the creation and use of fatty acids.

GlaxoSmithKline has put a Phase III Crohn's disease medication on hold. The drug maker announced Friday that its experimental treatment vercirnon failed to meet its targets among moderate-to-severe Crohn's disease patients. GSK licensed the drug from ChemoCentryx in 2010 and says there is still some data to tally before it decides its next move.

Shire and Santaris said they are extending their 2009 rare-diseases pact. According to a joint statement issued Friday, the companies' extended partnership will include an undisclosed upfront payment as well as additional compensation for milestones and a share of royalties from products that make their way to market. The deal focuses on a Locked Nucleic Acid drug platform, known as LNA, that targets mRNA and microRNA and aims to treat cardiometabolic disorders, and infectious and inflammatory diseases, among others. Privately held Santaris also has agreements with BMS, Pfizer and GSK, among others.

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