PHARMACEUTICAL: France and Germany pull Actos

Everyone is reporting that French and German authorities have decided to pull diabetes drug pioglitazone from their markets over concerns of a link with bladder cancer.

This is a blow for Japanese drug maker Takeda, which markets the drug as Actos in the US, the UK and Germany and as Glustin in the rest of Europe. Pioglitazone is a central pillar of Takeda’s sales, generating ¥385 billion (£2.9 billion) in 2009. 

It’s also a further blow for the class of compounds pioglitazone belongs to, thiazolidinediones. In May, the US decided to pull from the market (rosiglitazone), marketed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as Avandia, over cardiovascular risks.

The European Medicines Agency launched a review of pioglitazone in March, and is scheduled to discuss the issue again on 20-23 June. The drug is also under review in the US.

CHEMICAL: BASF sells UK Cognis activity

US company GEO Specialty Chemicals has agreed to buy some BASF business units that BASF acquired when it bought Cognis.

What’s it getting? The ‘Bisomer’ monomer business, which relates to ‘hydroxy methacrylates, multifunctional methacrylates and speciality adducts’, plus some activity relating to contact lenses. The deal includes a manufacturing site in Hythe, UK, and 140 employees are expected to transfer to GEO. The companies have agreed not to disclose financial terms.

BASF completed its €3.1 billion (£2.8 billion) acquisition of German speciality chemicals company Cognis in December 2010. 

PHARMACEUTICAL: UK wrangling over prescribing of unlicensed drugs

The UK pharma industry is concerned about how and when doctors might prescribe unlicensed drugs under new guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC), which registers and regulates doctors in the UK.

The GMC has produced a draft for consultation. And the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has published a response, in which it says ‘a significant departure from previous guidance’ in the area of unlicensed drugs will lead to ‘a reduced level of protection’ for the public.

Under the proposed guidance, doctors can prescribe unlicensed drugs when they are satisfied that they are ‘as safe and effective as an appropriately licensed alternative’.

This would seem to be a slight departure from the current guidance, under which doctors ‘must be satisfied that an alternative, licensed medicine would not meet the patient’s needs’.

The new guidance seems quite timely in light of the ongoing debate over the use of two drugs that eye doctors say are equally effective for the treatment of age related macular degeneration (AMD). Lucentis is licensed but expensive, whereas Avastin is unlicensed for AMD but cheap, making it attractive to healthcare providers.

CHEMICAL: AkzoNobel boss to retire in 2012

AkzoNobel cheif executive Hans Wijers has decided to step down after the 2012 company annual general meeting. He will be succeeded by Ton Büchner, currently chief executive at Swiss engineering firm Sulzer, which makes most of its sales from industrial pumps.

Andrew Turley

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