FiercePharmaAsia—Keytruda’s China price; Takeda’s Shire asset sale; 2nd ex-GSK scientist guilty plea

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Keytruda, Takeda and a trade secret theft charge against ex-GSK scientist made our news this week. (Google)

Merck & Co. is taking a nearly 50% discount for PD-1 star Keytruda in China following a similar move by Bristol-Myers Squibb for rival Opdivo. Ahead of closing its massive Shire buyout deal, Takeda is weighing sales of two Shire drugs that could fetch $5 billion. A second former GlaxoSmithKline researcher has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to steal trade secrets for a Chinese firm.

1. Merck follows Opdivo’s suit, prices Keytruda in China at half its U.S. tag: report

Merck has priced Keytruda at about $2,600 per 100mg/4mL vial in China, Caixin reported. That is about 46% lower than the drug’s U.S. retail price of around $4,800 and followed a similar discount taken by Bristol-Myers Squibb for Opdivo in the country. The two drugs have different patient assistance programs and different approved indications for now.

2. Takeda eyes Shire product sales of up to $5B to pay down debt: Bloomberg

Takeda has yet to officially seal the massive $62 billion Shire buyout, but it’s already assessing Shire’s portfolio. Eye drug Xiidra and parathyroid drug Natpara were under consideration for a sale that could raise up to $5 billion, Bloomberg reported. Last year, Xiidra sold $259 million, while Natpara generated $147 million.

3. Second former GSK researcher admits stealing trade secrets

After Yu Xue pleaded guilty to charges of stealing trade secrets for Chinese firm Renopharma, her former colleague at GlaxoSmithKline, Tao Li, has also pleaded guilty. U.S. public prosecutors say Li and Xue conspired with their friend Yan Mei to steal GSK’s secret scientific documents.

4. Sun wins approval of glaucoma drug and its once-troubled Halol plant to produce it

Sun Pharma has won FDA approval for Xelprostm, the only BAK-free version of latanoprost, to reduce pressure in the eyes of patients with glaucoma or ocular hypertension. The drug will be made at its Halol plant, which, after years of dealing with regulatory setbacks, was just recently cleared by the FDA. 

5. AstraZeneca CEO outlines plans for medtech expansion in China: Reuters

AstraZeneca recently partnered with Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Tencent in a push to better employ artificial intelligence and digital applications in the country. “Down the line we benefit, our products benefit, because we have better relationships with doctors and hospital managers and also because we diagnose more patients and they get better treated,” CEO Pascal Soriot told Reuters.

6. Mylan, Fujifilm score EU thumbs-up for Humira biosimilar, putting more pressure on AbbVie

Mylan and Fujifilm Kyowa Kirin Biologics have nabbed EU approval for their Humira biosimilar, to be sold as Hulio. It marks the fifth copycat of the world’s top-selling drug given the go-ahead in the EU. It adds to the suspicion that worldwide sales of Humira would begin to fall in 2020, earlier than many have projected.

7. FDA finds more impurities in recalled high blood pressure drug valsartan

The FDA has found a second possible carcinogen called N-Nitrosodiethylamine in three batches of valsartan sold by India’s Torrent Pharmaceuticals. The products, which were made using Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical’s API, were already included in Torrent’s recent recall.

8. Allergan, eyeing Asia for growth, pours $14.7M into first medical aesthetics center in China

Allergan is investing $14.7 million to build and locate its first medical aesthetics center in China. The center will help train about 3,000 practitioners each year and serve as an experience center for consumers. It fits into Allergan’s plan to grow its beauty franchise in China to $1 billion by 2025.

9. Allergan, Sosei halt Alzheimer’s trials amid safety scare

Allergan and Sosei have voluntarily paused development of HTL0018318 after tests in nonhuman primates uncovered unexpected toxicology findings. A phase 1 in the U.S. and a phase 2 in Japan are put on hold as the partners investigate the preclinical results.

10. Chinese API maker Jiangsu Yew Pharma suspended for refusing Hungarian inspectors

The European Medicines Agency suspended Chinese API maker Jiangsu Yew Pharmaceutical’s marketing authorization for refusing to allow Hungarian inspectors into a manufacturing facility during a visit in late June. The agency is also calling for a recall of all ingredients produced at the plant.