14 February 2020


  • AstraZeneca profits slump in final quarter as firm warns of coronavirus hit – City A.M.
  • Drugmaker Eisai to withdraw weight loss drug belviq after trials find cancer link –CNN
  • White House says other countries don’t pay enough for drugs – Bloomberg
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb finds FDA receptive to speedy review of key cell therapy –BioPharmaDive
  • Verona Pharma announces publication of key phase 2b COPD data in Respiratory Research
  • Indian generic drugmakers may see supply shortages from China if coronavirus drags on – Reuters
  • LabCorp begins work on developing coronavirus test – Reuters
  • Gilead drug prevents type of coronavirus in monkeys; raises hope for China trials – Reuters
  • Baxter says some results should no longer be relied upon – Bloomberg
Edward Thicknesse at City A.M writes that AstraZeneca saw profit nearly halve in the fourth quarter as the firm hit a bump in its road to recovery. The FTSE blue chip warned that its 2020 growth would take a hit due to the expected knock-on effect of the coronavirus in China, its second biggest market. Profit for the final quarter was $577m, 46% down on the same period year-on-year. Full year profit also slipped 14%, coming in at $2.9bn. Earnings per share dropped 71% in the final quarter to 24 cents, with the whole year price also declining 40% $1.03. City A.M.

Shelby Lin Erdman and Theresa Waldrop at CNN write that Eisai will withdraw its weight loss drug belviq after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said clinical trials showed an increased incidence of cancer among users. The FDA had asked Eisai to take belviq and belviq XR off the market. The FDA announced last month it was reviewing trial results on the prescription drug, also known as lorcaserin, an oral medication for obese adults, because of potential cancer risks. The agency asked people to stop taking the drug. CNN

Josh Wingrove at Bloomberg writes that the Trump administration criticised foreign governments’ efforts to reduce drug prices in a new report. The report published by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) argues that coordinated drug-purchasing efforts in other countries, often by government-run programs, result in lower drug costs compared to the US. The CEA claims that lower drug spending globally erodes the resources available for researchers to develop new drugs. Bloomberg

Ned Pagliarulo at BioPharmaDive writes that Bristol-Myers Squibb announced the US Food and Drug Administration granted the CAR-T treatment, called liso-cel, priority review, setting up a decision by 17 August 2020. An on-time approval, if secured, would be well ahead of the year-end deadline set out by Bristol-Myers in an agreement to pay $9 more per Celgene share as part of its takeover offer. An approval would make it the third CAR-T treatment to reach market after Gilead‘s yescarta and Novartis‘ kymriah. BioPharmaDive 

Verona Pharma announced the publication of Phase 2b clinical trial results for ensifentrine as a maintenance treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the leading peer reviewed journal, Respiratory Research. The study met its primary endpoint demonstrating that ensifentrine produced clinically and statistically significant improvements in lung function at all doses. Verona Pharma

Ankur Banerjee at Reuters writes that shortages and potential price increases of generic drugs from India loom if the coronavirus outbreak disrupts suppliers of pharmaceutical ingredients in China. An important supplier of generic drugs to the world, Indian companies procure almost 70% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for their medicines from China. India’s generic drugmakers say they currently have enough API supplies from China to cover their operations for up to about three months. Reuters 

Saumya Sibi Jospeh at Reuters writes that LabCorp announced it began working on developing its own test for the coronavirus. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has rushed to distribute the agency’s testing kits to allow states to do their own. LabCorp said it had immediately engaged with the CDC on its test being available to commercial labs and is preparing to support the global response. The company also said it had seen minimal impact to its business due to the outbreak. Reuters 

Julie Steenhuysen at Reuters writes that experimental Gilead Sciences antiviral drug prevented disease and reduced the severity of symptoms in monkeys infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, an infection closely related to the fast-spreading coronavirus that originated in China. The results, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, raise hope that the drug, remdesivir, currently in clinical trials in China, might be effective against the new virus. Reuters 

Hari Govind at Bloomberg writes that Baxter said its financial statements for years ended 31 December 2018, 2017 and 2016 should no longer be relied upon because of misstatements to the company’s previously reported foreign exchange gains and losses. Bloomberg

Upcoming events

  • 15th Annual Biomarkers Congress, Manchester (18-20 February)
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  • Cowen & Co Annual Healthcare Conference, Boston (2-4 March)
  • Credit Suisse Global Healthcare Conference, London (3-4 March)
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