Sanofi sales hit by generics

Sanofi-Aventis’s fourth quarter profits have dropped by 64 per cent since last year to €437 million (£370 million). It is thought that restructuring costs of €880 million and the lack of a flu pandemic that affected vaccine sales, are partly to blame.

However, pharma sales have also taken a hit. On the face of it sales went up from €6.26 billion to €6.51 billion, but after currency adjustments, it represents a drop in drug revenues of 2.7 per cent. This has been linked to an increase in generics competition.

In particular new generic competition for blood thinner Lovenox (enoxaparin), cancer drug Taxotere (docetaxel) and blood clot buster Plavix (clopidogrel) have seen sales fall. ‘Sanofi chief executive Chris Viehbacher noted that 2010 ‘was the first year in which the patent cliff really became visible with generic competition for several of our products’.

Afinitor against pancreatic cancer

Phase III trials of Novartis drug Afinitor (everolimus) have shown that it extends progression-free survival in patients with advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NET).

The drug targets a protein that acts as a regulator of tumour cell division, blood vessel growth and cell metabolism. The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has granted everolimus priority review designation for the application of advanced NET of gastrointestinal, lung or pancreactic cancer based on the findings of the Phase III trials.

The trial showed that in 34 per cent of patients treated with everolimus, there was no tumour growth after 18 months, compared with 9 per cent of patients that received a placebo. The results suggest that everolimus more than doubled time without tumour growth, versus placebo and best supportive care in patients.

Avastin for treating ovarian cancer

Roche has announced that an Avastin (bevacizumab) based drug regime could allow patients suffering from recurrent platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer to live longer without the disease worsening, compared to patients who receive chemotherapy alone.

The phase III trial involves treating patients with Avastin (bevacizumab) in combination with chemotherapy (carboplatin and gemcitabine) followed by continuous use of Avastin alone.

The results from the trial build on two previous phase III trials in women with newly diagnosed ovarian cancer. Roche has submitted a European Union (EU) marketing authorisation application for the use of Avastin in the front-line setting, and expects a decision from the committee for medicinal products for human use (CHMP) later this year.

EPA removes confidentiality claims on chemicals

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has told five companies that the identities of 14 chemicals associated with a number of health and safety studies submitted under the toxic substances control act (TSCA) and claimed as confidential, are no longer eligible for confidential treatment.

The move is designed to continue efforts to increase public access to chemical information in the US. The EPA is moving to declassify many chemical identities so they are no longer secret and more chemical names connected with health and safety studies will be released in the future.

The agency plans to deny confidentiality claims for chemical identity unless the chemical identity contains process or mixture information that is protected by law.

Access to biomaterials

According to the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), chemical firms continue to have limited access to renewable feedstocks such as bioethanol and animal fats, due to European Union (EU) agricultural policy.

In order to make the chemical industry more sustainable and competitive, it is thought access to renewable feedstocks should be made easier. According to CEFIC, EU agricultural policy is perceived by industry as a barrier to greater renewable feedstock access. But since a recommendation two years ago to increase use of biomaterials to make chemicals, little progress has been made.

Chemicals from syngas

Waste Management Inc., the leading provider of comprehensive waste management in North America has agreed to research and advance technology and manufacturing processes from Genomatica, a sustainable chemicals leader. The agreement should enable the production of intermediate and basic chemicals from syngas made from municipal solid waste.

Syngas, produced from natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons, and through the gasification of coal, biomass and waste materials is often used to generate electricity and can also be converted into liquid fuels.

Mike Brown

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