Business briefs: Medtronic, AMA, Komen, GSK, Lilly, AZN

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Two new studies of Medtronic's Infuse spine product indicate the drug treatment is not all that special, reported the New York Times, which outlined the treatment's hot-topic past as including reports sent to the FDA in 2008 about life-threatening off-label results, as well as a 2011 report that indicated that supportive Medtronic-backed research was misleading and biased. The latest findings involve two separate research teams which found that the now 11-year-old treatment is no better than what was already at the market when it was approved in 2003, despite a report from that same year that claimed Infuse was superior.

An American Medical Association council debate over obesity could provide some insight into why the prescription drug category hasn't quite taken off: MedPage Today reports that the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health argued in a paper released at the association's annual meeting Sunday that obesity is a condition rather than a disease. The writers “panned body mass index as proxy of obesity,” MedPage said, and said that defining obesity as a disease would do little to affect treatment, and could possibly harm prevention efforts. Those backing the council's non-disease position said obesity rates have climbed along with sugar intakes and activity reductions, and said the only result would be that employers would have to provide considerations if obesity were classified as a disease. Supporters of obesity-as-disease said the condition is a multimetabolic and hormonal disease.

In addition to slashing the number of three-day walks, the Komen Foundation for the Cure has also axed CEO Nancy Brinker. NPR reports that geriatrician Judith Salerno is the organization's new CEO; she was previously an executive office at the Institutes of Medicine.

GlaxoSmithKline has offloaded thrombosis medications Arixtra and Fraxiparine to Aspen, along with a manufacturing site and employees, the company announced in a statement Tuesday, with the careful wording “majority of employees.” GSK owns 19% of Aspen, notes Bloomberg, which also reports that the drugs are “part of a portfolio of more than 50 older products that Glaxo has carved out into a separate unit,” a move it says is very much like Pfizer's internal branded and generics drugs divide.

Eli Lilly's diabetes focus now includes Transition Therapeutics' dual GLP-1 agonist. Transition announced Monday that Lilly exercised its rights to take over development and commercialization of the experimental type 2 diabetes treatment TT-401, in exchange for a $7 million milestone payment. The two companies remain tied up financially, however – Transition is still on the hook to contribute $14 million in three Phase II study installments, but has the possibility of receiving $240 million in subsequent payments, as well as a cut of future royalties. Like AstraZeneca's NGM move below, this diabetes med could have some obesity-related implications as well. The Transition move also adds a bit more context to the impending Lilly diabetes footprint – a thumbs-up Bank of America/Merrill Lynch report posited that the Indiana company's diabetes pipeline could be a real threat to Novo's Victoza. The report caused Novo's stock to drop.

A study by the UK charity Cancer Research UK shows that esphogeal cancer affects men at three times the rate of women, which amounts to almost 15 in 100,000 men, and 5 in 100,000 women, reports PMLive. The study also found that the number of male esaphogeal cancer patients rose in the country from 1,600 in 1997 to more than 3,000 three years ago. The National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute estimates that 18,000 adults will be diagnosed with esphogeal cancer in the US this year.

AstraZeneca's expansion plans are going beyond the $500 million investment in Cambridge. The company announced in March that it was breaking ground on a new campus as part of an overall move to create research hubs in the UK, US and Sweden. This new campus, FierceBiotech notes will make AZN part of a research-centric neighborhood that includes University of Cambridge School of Medicine, Addenbrook's Hospital, the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology and others. The company also just signed an agreement to fund a diabetes treatment, currently being pursued by US-based NGM Biopharmaceuticals, PharmaTimes reported Monday. NGM is currently looking into enterocendocrine cells to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. PharmaTimes couldn't get AstraZeneca to reveal the financials, but the deal is reported to include an upfront payment and royalties.

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