In this week’s business round up, we cover the latest US drug sales data, more idling from the chemical industry, and algae in Italy.

PHARMACEUTICALS

US pharma sales

Pharma industry analysts IMS have released their latest report on US prescription drug sales. The 2008 figures reveal that Pfizer was still the biggest player in this field – but no longer by very much:

top-5-pharma

The data also show that while Pfizer’s blockbuster statin Lipitor still earns more than any other drug in the US, its sales fell from $8.1 billion (£5.7 billion) in 2007 to $7.8 billion in 2008, as the number of prescriptions for drug fell from 65.1 million to 57.9 million. Over the same period, prescriptions for generic competitor simvastatin rose from 47.7 million to 66.7 million.

The second biggest earner was Nexium, AstraZeneca’s heartburn drug, which made $5.9 billion in the US, followed by Bristol-Myers Squibb’s blood thinner Plavix, which made $4.9 billion.

Plavix fines

Bristol-Myers Squibb have agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle an enquiry by the US Federal Trade Commision about claims the company made to the FTC over its deal with Canadian generics manufacturer Apotex to delay the introduction of a generic competitor to its blockbuster blood-thinning drug Plavix. BMS had already settled with the New York attorney general’s office over the same matter in December, at a cost of $1.1 million. The federal settlement brings to an end a series of state and federal investigations into the company’s negotiations with Apotex, and spokeswoman Laura Hortas said that ‘the company is glad to put the matter behind it’.

Roche secures Genentech shares
Swiss pharma giant Roche has officially completed its $46.8 billion buy-out of Genentech. Roche has secured 96 per cent of the US biotech company’s shares, and aims to make Genentech a wholly-owned subsidiary once it has acquired the remaining 4% of shares at the agreed price of $95 per share.

Ranbaxy approval

Indian firm Ranbaxy Laboratories has received Good Manufacturing Practice certificates from the UK and Australian regulatory authorities for its factory at Paonta Sahib – the same facility being investigated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over claims that research results in several drug applications from the plant had been falsified. The FDA are continuing to investigate the falsifications, but says it has no evidence that drugs manufactured at Ranbaxy’s plants fail to meet quality standards.

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY

Evonik to cut costs as sales expected to fall

German chemical company Evonik is introducing a €500 million (£464 million) a year cost-cutting programme to ‘weatherproof’ the group from the economic downturn. While the firm saw sales rise 10 per cent to €15.8 billion in 2008, pre-tax profits fell 57 per cent to €502 million. While the firm is anticipating that ’2009 will bring considerably lower sales’ and that it ‘does not expect the economy to pick up rapidly’, Dr Klaus Engel, Evonik’s chairman, insists that the firm is ‘well-positioned to master this unprecedented recession’.

The cuts are aimed at optimising the company’s infrastructure and the firm has not announced any job cuts, preferring instead to ask 3000 workers to work short weeks to avoid the need for redundancies. Additionally, the firm has said it will not cut its research and development plans, with Engel insisting that ‘research and development are important drivers of profitable future growth’.

Bayer boosts cash reserves

Bayer has increased its cash reserves and restructured its debts after raising €1.3 billion by issuing corporate bonds. The German firm says the bonds were over-subscribed by more than five times, suggesting the firm could have raised far more.

Meanwhile, Bayer is continuing to expand its operations in India by building a €20 million polyurethane raw materials manufacturing facility in Ankleshwar. The new polyisocyanate plant will start operations in 2011.

BASF cuts output further

BASF has announced it will idle for three months one of its two Ludwigshafen steam crackers, due to continued lack of demand.

However, the German firm has opened a new vehicle emissions catalyst centre in Krasnogorsk near Moscow, Russia. The centre has been opened following Russia’s decision to adopt EU emissions standards, which will be gradually phased in.

Rhodia restructure

French speciality chemicals company Rhodia has announced it will restructure its operations in France, cutting 132 current positions while creating 41 new ones. The restructure forms part of Rhodia’s existing company-wide plans to cut its costs by €150 million by 2011.

ENERGY

Venice looks to a greener future

Venice’s seaports are going green and building Italy’s first algal power plant in an effort to become self-sufficient for its energy needs. The plant, only the third of its kind planned in Europe, will be built in collaboration with Enalg and should be ready to produce 40 megawatts of electricity within two years.

While some may balk at the €200 million price tag, the plant will produce no emissions as all carbon dioxide produced by the plant will be fed into the bioreactors in which the algal fuel is grown.

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