FiercePharmaAsia—Lilly China asset sale; Daiichi's bispecific I-O deal; Torrent 1M-bottle sartan recall

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Eli Lilly, Daiichi Sankyo and Torrent Pharma made our news this week. (Google)

Joining its Big Pharma peers in selling legacy brands in China to focus on newer, innovative therapies, Eli Lilly decided to cast off two decades-old antibiotic brands in the country. With a renewed focus on oncology, Daiichi Sankyo picked its first bispecific antibody candidate developed under a deal with Zymeworks. Torrent Pharma recalled more than 1 million bottles of losartan-based drugs because of a possible cancer-causing impurity. And more.  

1. Lilly to focus on new drugs in China, unload antibiotics brands and manufacturing facility for $375M

Amid a national crackdown on antibiotic overuse, Lilly is selling Chinese rights to decades-old antibiotic brands Ceclor and Vancocin, along with a Ceclor manufacturing facility, to local firm Eddingpharm for $375 million. The deal will enable Lilly “to better focus our resources on the exciting new therapies that we are launching in our core therapeutic areas,” Lilly's China head said.

2. Daiichi picks immuno-oncology bispecific, triggering payout to Zymeworks 

A lot of interest is pouring into bispecific antibodies, and now Daiichi Sankyo has picked its own. Under a deal originally signed in 2016 and expanded last year, Daiichi selected the first immuno-oncology candidate developed from Zymeworks’ Azymetric platform. The Japanese pharma still has options to two other bispecific agents under the pact.

3. Torrent recalls more than 1M bottles of tainted blood pressure meds

India’s Torrent Pharmaceuticals recalled 104 lots of losartan-based drugs over the weekend because they contained the NMBA impurity suspected of causing cancer. All told, more than 1.07 million bottles will be taken down. Previously, the FDA said agency scientists believe temporarily using the drugs with low levels of suspected carcinogens wouldn’t raise cancer risks much.

4. Valsartan mess to spawn the latest surge of drug injury lawsuits: Bloomberg

As the massive recall of “sartan” blood pressure drugs continues, one attorney, Daniel Nigh, told judges he expects lawsuits claiming injuries from the drugs will rise to 2,000 within the next two years, Bloomberg reports. So far, plaintiffs have sued 40 companies, including API producer Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical and several Indian generics makers.

5. Feds say Astellas, Amgen will fork over $125M to settle charity kickback probes

Japan-based Astellas will pay $100 million to resolve allegations that it used charity contributions to help Medicare patients cover the copays for its own medicines, the Justice Department said. Linking donations to specific drugs is illegal under U.S. law, and several companies are under investigation for allegations that they did just that.

6. China's vaccine crackdown continues with larger proposed penalties for rogue companies

A second draft of Chinese legislation designed specifically to crack down on vaccine malpractices includes fines of 15 to 30 times the value of products involved if drugmakers are found guilty of making or selling counterfeit vaccines. The legislation also would set up a compensation system for those who suffer side effects from immunizations.

7. Salix grabs ex-Asia rights to Mitsubishi Tanabe autoimmune drug

Mitusbishi Tanabe granted Bausch Health ex-Asia rights to its late-phase autoimmune drug amiselimod. Biogen once licensed the drug in 2015 only to discontinue development and return the drug a year later. Bausch plans to test the S1P receptor antagonist in ulcerative colitis.