World pharma market to increase growth

The global pharma market will grow 5-7 per cent to $880 billion (£554 billion) in 2011, according to a report. This would be an improvement on the expected 2010 growth of just 4-5 per cent. According to the report from market intelligence company IMS Health the industry will rebound from the global economic downturn, but underlying problems, such as the impact of generic competition, will hamper the recovery.

Much of the market growth will be in the newly-wealthy developing countries. For example, IMS says the market in China – already the third largest – will grow 25-27 per cent to over $50 billion. The major limiting factor will be the expiration of key drug patents. In 2011, products with sales of more than $30 billion are expected to face the prospect of generic competition in the major developed markets, according to the report. Reduced government spending on drugs is also likely to have an effect.

‘In 2011, we will see the loss of exclusivity for some iconic brands and a promising new wave of innovation,’ says IMS senior vice president Murray Aitken. ‘It also will be a critical year for gauging how healthcare reform initiatives in key markets evolve and play out amid the expected macroeconomic recovery.’

J&J play for Crucell

US healthcare company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has reached agreement with vaccine company Crucell on its €1.75-billion (£1.5-billion) offer for the company. ‘I am looking forward to Crucell becoming a J&J company,’ said Ronald Brus, chief executive at Crucell.

J&J already owns 18 per cent of the outstanding shares. It is looking to obtain the rest for €24.75 per share, which it says represents a 58 per cent premium based on the price before the two companies said in September that they were in takeover discussions. The management at Crucell says that shareholders should take up J&J on its offer once it is made.

But the move has been criticised by Dutch real estate group Van Herk, which owns a 10 per cent stake. It says that the offer is too low and has called for an extraordinary general meeting for further discussions.

J&J says it plans to keep the facilities and staff at Crucell if the deal goes through.

Novartis signs up Synthetic Genomics for vaccines

Novartis has struck a deal with Synthetic Genomics – a US company founded in 2005 by among others pioneering geneticist Craig Venter – that will see the two work together over three years on developing new flu vaccines. They will develop a catalogue of synthetic seed viruses that would be ready for vaccine production in response to seasonal or pandemic flu outbreaks. Novartis says that the technology could reduce production times by up to two months.

‘Genomes can be designed in the computer, chemically made in the laboratory and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell controlled only by the synthetic genome,’ says Synthetic Genomes. ‘Using these same synthetic genomics advances it is conceivable that more universal vaccines could be developed to target a wide range of infectious disease agents in addition to new influenza vaccines.’

Boehringer drops development of flibanserin

Boehringer Ingelheim has decided to halt development of flibanserin, a candidate for the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in women, a medical condition that effects women and is characterised by low sexual desire.

In May, things were looking promising: Phase III trial results showed that the drug significantly increased sexual desire. But in June, an advisory committee of the US Food and Drug Administration concluded, based on the available data, that the risks associated with the drug outweighed the benefits.

The company says it will re-allocate resources to other areas, such as stroke prevention, diabetes and oncology.


BASF to ‘carve-out’ styrenics business

Chemical giant BASF is shaping up to release a part of its styrenics business that generates €2.5 billion in sales and employs 1460 staff. Specifically, it has reformed its styrene monomer, polystyrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and styrene-based copolymer parts into a new entity, Styrolution, which it is looking to divest.

It is a plan that the company announced in 2007, when this part made €3 billion in sales. Back then, it said that a 2008 sale was ‘highly probable’. But the company failed to divest the unit, citing ‘the underlying macroeconomic conditions and the changes on the capital market’. By the end of 2008, it was no longer reporting the unit as a ‘disposal group’, although it did sell its polystyrene business in Brazil and a styrene monomer plant in Korea in 2009. Now, it seems, BASF has returned to the original plan. The company is planning to complete the ‘carve-out’ by the end of the year, although the spokesperson declined to comment on who if anyone it was talking to about the divestiture.

Hungary calls for help with red mud

Hungarian authorities have asked for 3-5 experts with ‘strong field experience in handling toxic sludge, decontamination and mitigation of environmental damage’, to help with the clear up of its red-mud disaster. The request has been sent to the 31 countries participating in the EU civil protection mechanism.

Kristalina Georgieva, the commissioner responsible for crisis response, said: ‘Disasters like this do not stop at national borders and a combined European response can help deliver the most effective assistance possible.’ Yesterday Hungarian authorities confirmed that the mud had reached the Danube river. The disaster is the result of a ruptured reservoir containing waste from an aluminium plant. Four people were killed and over 100 injured as 700,000m3 of highly-corrosive material flooded roads, gardens and buildings.

Andrew Turley

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