Leader of the pack

by diana 1. February 2011 15:48

By Di Spencer, Pf Web Editor

Early last year, respondents to our survey voted Boehringer Ingelheim as the most desirable company to work for in the UK for the third year running. This was no mean feat and our hats go off to them! (See here for the full 2009/2010 ranking).

But who will you be voting for this year? Can Boehringer go beyond their hat-trick or will someone else steal their crown?

Looking back over 2010, it’s hard to predict who might be the winner, as it seems every company has had their fair share of bad press, product recalls, jobs cuts and industrial action.

Job losses were announced by Bayer, BMS, Lundbeck, Abbott, Roche and Pfizer, to name just a few, while sanofi-aventis and AZ faced strikes over possible redundancies and pension freezes respectively.

It’s been a turbulent year for most companies, but who’s been getting their employee satisfaction levels right? Have your say in this year’s Pf Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey. The Survey also allows you to share your views about your current employer and the industry in general, while being completely anonymous (more information here).

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Contact the author: diana.spencer@healthpublishing.co.uk

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Pfizer to close UK R&D facility

by diana 1. February 2011 14:34

Pfizer Sandiwch facility  Pfizer is to close its R&D site in Sandwich, Kent, with potential job losses of 2400, the company revealed today.

The company is also to stop development of allergy and respiratory drugs in the planned restructuring of its research activities.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has commented that the move is “extremely disappointing”, but that the decision was not based on a judgment of the UK as a location for research.

The strategy has put up to 2400 jobs at risk, although Pfizer has said it hopes to transfer many workers to other sites or subsidiaries of the company.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for BIS, said: “I am establishing a local taskforce under the leadership of Kent County Council to work with Pfizer and the new Local Enterprise Partnership. David Willetts, Andrew Lansley and I will work closely with the Taskforce in the coming months to ensure every possible effort is made to mitigate the impact of Pfizer’s decision on local jobs and the local communities.

“We will also be meeting with Pfizer, other key companies and local representatives as a matter of urgency to discuss innovative ideas for continuing R&D activities in this very well equipped facility.

“This country is an attractive location for the life sciences industry and with R&D tax credits and our plans to introduce a Patent Box, the Government is committed to ensuring the UK is the destination of choice for investment, research and growth.”

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BIA in NZ alliance

by diana 31. January 2011 16:59

The BioIndustry Association has signed a memorandum of understanding with the NZBIO, the trade association representing bioscience companies in New Zealand.

The agreement establishes a working alliance between the two and will provide a united voice for the two nations and assist members to build international ties.

Bronwyn Dilley, Chief Executive, NZBIO, says the partnership will “help ‘unlock’ the potential of both regions”.

The organisations have similar goals and are dedicated to growing successful companies in both regions.

“We believe the partnership between the BIA and NZBIO will form the foundations of a community between our members, as well as offering the possibility of joint events to highlight opportunities for international collaboration,” said Nigel Gaymond, BIA Chief Executive.

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NICE calls for autism improvements

by diana 31. January 2011 16:56

The NHS needs to improve how it diagnoses autism in youngsters if it is to cope with the increasing demand on services, says new draft guidance from NICE.

The Institute has called for healthcare professionals in the NHS to work closer together and with other key services to ensure patients receive the care and services they need.

Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE said an early and correct diagnosis “can bring a profound sense of relief to some children and young people”.

NICE hopes to publish its final guideline in September once the consultation period has ended.

The draft clinical guideline includes:

  • A local strategy group established, with representation from child health and mental health services, education, social care, the voluntary sector and parents or carers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • A multi-professional team should lead the referral and diagnosis of individuals with possible ASD; including a paediatrician, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a speech and language therapist, a clinical or educational psychologist, and an occupational therapist. The team should undertake the diagnostic assessments where appropriate and advise healthcare professionals about referrals.
  • Every child or young person who is to undergo an assessment should have an appointed case coordinator from the ASD Team, who will be their single point of contact and signpost them, and their parents/carers, to appropriate services and support.
  • Healthcare professionals should always consider the possibility that the child/young person may have another condition with similar features to ASD. If an alternative diagnosis is suspected, they should undertake the appropriate assessments and referrals.
  • Following diagnosis, the ASD Team should create a profile of the child or young person, detailing their strengths, skills, impairments and needs. This will support their education, communication, behavioural, emotional and family needs. With consent from the parent or carer, the profile should also be shared directly with relevant services.

At least 1 in 100 children under the age of three has a form of ASD with 70% of individuals meeting the diagnostic criteria for at least one other psychiatric disorder.

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Report highlights regional variation

by diana 31. January 2011 16:46

Patient access to NICE approved drugs varies across the Primary Care Trust (PCT) level, a new report shows.

The Use of NICE-appraised medicines in the NHS in England - 2009, Experimental statistics highlights stark regional variations on the uptake of approved diabetes and osteoporosis drugs.

Dr Richard Barker, Director General, ABPI, says that, although the report is still in progress, it “raises some serious questions for healthcare providers”.

The data, published by the NHS Information Centre, is the work of the Metrics Working Group and compares predicted and observed use of 47 NICE-approved medicines in the NHS across England.

The report focused on new medicines in 18 groups, relating to 29 technology appraisals.

Data showed how usage of insulins to treat diabetes varies from 65% less than predicted by NICE to 95% higher than expected in different regions. The variation is even greater when comparing six osteoporosis treatments recommended by NICE, with the lowest usage being 79% below expectation levels and the highest 632% higher than expected.

“What is clear from this data is that you need to look at a local level to see what medicines patients are really getting access to,” said Dr Barker. “With some of the medicines at national or SHA level usage data looks fine but the picture looks quite different at the PCT level.”

“Recent reports repeatedly show the UK continues to lag behind other western European countries in the uptake of most innovative medicines despite having among the lowest prices. So price is obviously not the only factor in patient uptake: we need to understand the other factors that influence what patients receive.”

The report, the second from the Group, is still experimental but shows progress has been made in highlighting regional access to recommended medicines since the first report last year. The data collection was agreed as part of the 2009 Pharmaceutical Pricing Regulation Scheme and provides an insight into what is happening so that healthcare providers, industry, patient groups and the Government can look more closely at why and where variation is happening and work together to develop solutions.

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Rapiscan gets first EU marketing authorisation

by diana 31. January 2011 12:26

The first selective coronary vasodilator used as a pharmacological stress agent in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD) has received a marketing authorisation in Europe.

Rapiscan (regadenoson) is a convenient bolus injection which stimulates the effects of exercise by temporarily increasing blood flow through the arteries of the heart.

Dr Brent Blackburn, Founder, President and CEO of Rapidscan Pharma Solutions, says he is “extremely excited to bring Rapiscan to Europe”.

Every year more than four million Europeans die from heart disease which accounts for almost half of the deaths in Europe. Accurate diagnosis is vital in identifying patients who need intensive medical intervention.

Diagnosis of CAD uses Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (MPI) to identify areas of poor blood flow, with more than 1.5 million Europeans undergoing tests each year. Patients are usually asked to exercise on a treadmill or bicycle, however nearly half are unable to exercise adequately.

Unlike older agents, Rapiscan requires no dose adjustment for varying body weight and its bolus dosing method takes just ten seconds, cutting out the need for an infusion pump and its set-up before the test.

“Rapiscan was designed to specifically address the needs of patients and healthcare professionals who conduct MPI tests,” said Dr Blackburn. “It’s easier to use and better tolerated than the older agents.”

Regadenoson is the most popular pharmacological stress agent in the US and has been used by more than 3 million patients since its launch in 2008.

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No change for Protelos after court ruling

by diana 31. January 2011 11:07

protelos NICE has again recommended the use of Protelos (strontium ranelate) in preventing osteoporotic fractures following a court ruling.

Manufacturer Servier challenged NICE’s analysis of Protelos and its guidance on other drugs used to prevent osteoporotic fractures at the Court of Appeal.

The Court found that whilst NICE had not made the wrong decision, it should have done more to explain its decision on a specific analysis of hip fractures from research carried out by Servier.

Dr Carole Longson, Director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, says the Institute is pleased the appraisals have now been completed and that “clarity” has now been provided.

The original guidance was published in October 2008, with an update in January 2010, for both primary and secondary prevention and recommends Protelos in circumstances where patients are unable to tolerate oral bisphosphonates, and are at a high risk of fractures.

Protelos was already recommended in this guidance as a treatment option for postmenopausal women who cannot take the recommended first-line treatment alendronate, and who have specified risk factors.

But after a Court of Appeal hearing applied for by Servier, NICE was asked to reconsider the guidance on the use of Protelos. The ruling did not find that NICE had made the wrong decision, but it found that it should have done more to explain its decision on a specific analysis of hip fractures from the research study. The Court required that NICE should reassess the analysis relating to Protelos and produce an updated recommendation on its use.

NICE says it has “complied fully” with the Court’s judgement and asked its independent Appraisal Committed to assess the specific analysis relating to the effect of Protelos on hip fracture.

“Having examined the evidence on strontium ranelate again very carefully, the new independent committee reached the same conclusions as the original committee, and so the recommendations on strontium ranelate remain unchanged from those published originally,” said Dr Longson.

“Along with the separate guidance published in October 2010 recommending the use of Prolia (denosumab), today’s final guidance completes a suite of options for preventing osteoporotic fracture in post-menopausal women.”

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Abilify recommended for teenagers

by diana 28. January 2011 15:44

NICE has recommended Abilify (aripiprazole) as a treatment option for schizophrenia in people aged 15 to 17 years in final guidance.

Aripiprazole has demonstrated both short term and long term efficacy in adolescents.

Dr Carole Longson, says the recommendation will give patients “greater control over their condition” if they are unable to take risperidone, the most widely used first-line antipsychotic treatment.

Young people with schizophrenia are usually treated with atypical antipsychotics at a low dose.

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EMA publishes Road Map

by diana 28. January 2011 15:05

The EMA has outlined its plans for the next five years.

The Road map to 2015 sets out how the Agency plans to further develop its role as a public health agency for medicine.

It intends to prioritise addressing public-health needs, facilitating access to medicines and optimising the safe and rational use of medicines in further developing its role as the European public-health agency for medicine.

The road map coincides with the 16th anniversary of the EMA’s inauguration on 26th January.

As part of the plans, the EMA aims to stimulate development in areas of unmet medical needs, address the high attrition rate during the medicines-development process; reinforce the benefit/risk-balance assessment model; and continue to improve the quality and the regulatory and scientific consistency of the outcome of the scientific review.

In optimising the safe and rational use of medicines it intends to strengthen the evidence base in the post-authorisation phase to enable better regulatory decision-making; enhance patient safety by avoiding unnecessary as a result of the use of medicines; and also improve the decision-making process by taking due account of patient experience, thus contributing to the rational use of medicines.

European partners, stakeholders, the pharmaceutical industry and the public were all consulted during the draft stages of the plans to ensure a broad consensus.

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Axorid gets license extension

by diana 28. January 2011 15:02

An all-in-one pill that could prevent hundreds of deaths each year from gastric bleeding has had its license extended.

Axorid combines a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory treatment (NSAID) with a proton pump inhibitor to protect the stomach from ulcers and bleeding.

Lynn Love, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, says the pill will end confusion in arthritis sufferers when taking multiple treatments.

The pill is now available to anyone for the symptomatic treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis or Ankylosing spondylitis.

Approximately 4,000 people develop stomach ulcers every year which results in 700 deaths. The pill, a 46p daily capsule, provides pain relief and protection to the stomach through a painkiller and a protective omeprazole, which reduces levels of stomach acid.

A spokesperson for Axorid’s manufacturer, Meda Pharmaceuticals UK, says the company “is pleased that the drug’s licence has been extended” and that more patients will now benefit from the treatment.


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