PHARMACEUTICAL: Pfizer stock falls

A clinical trial assessing Pfizer’s oral drug tofacitinib as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has suffered a set-back in the form of four deaths. As a result, Pfizer shares have dropped almost four per cent.

According to Pfizer, investigators have confirmed that only one of the deaths was actually related to the drug with the patient suffering respiratory failure.

Other RA therapies on the market have also been linked to a higher risk of heart failure. So these deaths may not be a big set-back for tofacitinib, and it still may be approved for use. Indeed Pfizer is hoping that the success of tofacitinib will help overcome the loss of sales from generic competition to its top earner Lipitor.

PHARMACEUTICAL: Telaprevir approval on the horizon

Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ hepatitis C drug telaprevir has been applauded by a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff review for its impressive efficacy from data collected in Phase III trials. But the same staff review also raised concerns over the drug’s safety – particularly skin reactions and anaemia triggered in patients.

An expert FDA panel is due to review telaprevir on 28 April, and it is expected that they will be weighing up the efficacy of the drug versus rash and anaemia issues.

PHARMACEUTICAL: Halaven gets approval in Japan

International healthcare company Eisai has announced that it has received approval to market its novel anticancer drug Halaven (eribulin) in Japan for the treatment of inoperable and recurrent breast cancer.

Halaven is now approved in each of the world’s three largest pharma markets – Japan, the US and the EU.

Breast cancer remains one of the leading causes of cancer death among women. Halaven is the first single-agent chemotherapy to demonstrate a statistically significant overall survival benefit in patients with pretreated metastatic breast cancer.

PHARMACEUTICAL: SciClone buys NovaMed

US based SciClone Pharmaceuticals has acquired China based NovaMed Pharmaceuticals for $104.8 million (£63.3 million). SciClone believes the acquisition will strengthen its position in the rapidly expanding pharmaceutical industry in China.

Under the terms of the agreement, NovaMed shareholders will receive an up-front cash payment of $24.7 million and SciClone stock worth £37.1 million. The firm could also be entitled to up to an additional $43 million depending on successes for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

PHARMACEUTICAL: MSD and Sun partnership

Healthcare leader MSD and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries have entered into a strategic partnership to co-market MSD’s diabetes drug sitagliptin in India.

Sun will have the rights to market, promote and distribute MSD’s diabetes products sitagliptin and sitagliptin plus metformin, under different brand names in India.

MSD will bring the scientific excellence and market success of sitagliptin to the partnership, whilst Sun will bring its proven success and expertise in the marketing of drugs in the relevant therapeutic areas across India.

Mike Brown

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