Chinese pharmaceutical firm launches traditional medicine in Kenya

NAIROBI, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) — A Chinese pharmaceutical company on Tuesday launched traditional medicine that is to be used to boost immunity, treat and manage viral pneumonia.

Jiangyin Tianjiang Pharmaceutical Company, which will be operating under a local agent, XRP Medical Kenya Limited, introduced Healthouself Formula 3 and Healthouself Formula 5 combinations of herbal medicines in the country.

“The medicine will be used to prevent and strengthen immunity and treatment for types of severe acute respiratory infections,” Edgar Ngugi, general manager, XRP Medical Kenya said during the launch in Nairobi.

Ngugi said that the combinations will be used to prevent and strengthen immunity and treatment for severe acute respiratory infections.

He said that Kenya’s drug regulatory authority, Pharmacy and Poison Board (PPB) has approved and certified the two herbal products for sale in the country.

“The ingredients found in the two herbal medicines have been tried and tested in China as a complementary prevention alongside other treatment options to manage respiratory diseases,” said Ngugi.

He said the products were used alongside other conventional medicine during the peak of COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan to treat acute respiratory infections by boosting patient’s immunity.

“The products have undergone rigorous scrutiny exercise by relevant government bodies and the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved for human consumption,” said Ngugi.

He clarified that the herbal products should not be prescribed for children under three years and pregnant women adding that their dosage is being worked on and will be available soon in the market.

“As an institution, we believe prevention is better than cure and so we aspire to introduce more and more products to awaken the giants within us. Our bodies are naturally wired to fight some of these ailments if we take necessary action and boost our immunity accordingly,” said Ngugi.

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Russian Firm Seeks to Produce COVID-19 Drug Remdesivir Without Patent | Top News

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian drugmaker Pharmasyntez has asked the Kremlin to allow it to produce a generic version of U.S. COVID-19 drug remdesivir, used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump, despite lacking a patent to do so, the firm’s director said on Monday.

Remdesivir is not available in Russia, Pharmasyntez’s director Vikram Punia said, but a generic version cannot be produced and distributed without the consent of the patent-holder, U.S. firm Gilead Sciences

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Pharmasyntez wrote to the U.S. firm in July requesting its consent in the form of a voluntary licence, but did not hear back, Punia said.

The Siberian-based drugmaker is now asking the Kremlin to activate a compulsory licensing process on the basis of national security, granting it the right to produce the generic – labelled Remdeform – without Gilead’s consent.

“Many people’s lives could be saved using this drug. The longer this drug is inaccessible, the more people we will lose,” Punia said.

The law has not been used on behalf of a pharmaceutical product in Russia before, Punia said after the Vedomosti newspaper reported on his company’s letter to the Kremlin earlier on Monday.

Gilead could not immediately be reached for comment outside normal business hours on Monday. It has already granted voluntary licences to producers in 127 countries, predominantly low-income countries or those with other significant obstacles to healthcare access.

Russia registered a record high daily tally of 18,665 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 1,655,038.

Remdesivir was granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May after it was shown to shorten hospital stays for COVID-19 patients in a government-run clinical trial. It was one of the treatments given to Trump during his recent bout of the disease.

The FDA formally approved the drug this month, despite recent results from a World Health Organization-sponsored trial showing remdesivir did not improve patient outcomes.

Pharmasyntez has completed a clinical trial of the generic drug on 300 COVID-19 patients across 23 Russian hospitals, according to a register entry.

Punia said the company could market its drug at a significantly lower cost of around $540 for a 6-vial course. A five-day course of Gilead’s remdesivir, marketed under the brand name Veklury, has been pricaed at $3,120.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Edmund Blair, Kirsten Donovan)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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UK govt stands firm on local measures despite virus surge

The British government on Thursday vowed to persist with localised coronavirus restrictions, despite fresh data showing surging numbers of cases and deaths across the country, and new national lockdowns in its European neighbours.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick conceded statistics showed Britain was in a “bad place”, with nearly 25,000 new cases registered on Wednesday.

But he indicated that ministers were still opposed to another nationwide lockdown and said targeted action was “the best way forward” given varying rates of infection.

“We will continue with our localised but proportionate approach on taking action where the virus is strongest,” he told Sky News television.

“Despite the fact the virus is rising across the country it is very concentrated in some places nonetheless.”

France announced Wednesday it will begin a new month-long national lockdown while Germany — with lower case rates than Britain — will also roll out drastic new curbs.

The Republic of Ireland shut down again last week, as did Wales, following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland which went into a four-week partial lockdown earlier this month.  

In contrast in England, where health policy is set by the UK government, three tiers of restrictions remain in place depending on local infection rates.

But even the highest “tier three” falls short of ordering people to stay at home.

Figures released on Thursday estimate that about 100,000 people are catching the coronavirus every day.

Cases are doubling every nine days and rising in all age groups and regions, according to the ongoing study by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI.

The R rate — which indicates the number of people one person with the virus is likely to infect — has risen to 1.6, it said.

Britain is also seeing a sharp increase in virus mortality rates.

Another 310 deaths of people who had tested positive in the prior 28 days were reported Wednesday — the second consecutive day of more than 300 fatalities.

– ‘Nationwide repositioning’ –

Britain is already the hardest hit country in Europe, with more than 45,000 fatalities among those testing positive.

But excess deaths registered during the pandemic suggest the toll could be nearly double that.

The worsening situation is now presenting a serious challenge to Prime Minister Boris Johnson “whack-a-mole” strategy of targeted local action in virus hotspots.

Earlier this year, Johnson was criticised for a slow response to the outbreak, delaying locking down Britain even as the number of positive cases and deaths spiralled across Europe.

He eventually imposed a national lockdown in late March, shutting all non-essential shops and schools, and forcing millions to work from home to cut transmission rates.

The stay-at-home measures were lifted in June as cases dwindled but numbers began to climb again from September.

That month, the government’s top scientific advisers recommended a national “circuit-breaker” lockdown over schools’ half term holidays this week.

But Johnson has so far resisted.

World Health Organisation (WHO) special envoy David Nabarro said Johnson’s localised efforts had been “very effective” at slowing

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Bayer to Buy Gene-Therapy Firm AskBio for Up to $4 Billion

BERLIN—

Bayer AG


BAYRY 0.16%

said Monday it would pay as much as $4 billion for U.S. biotech firm Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. to strengthen the German company’s drugmaking arm, as Bayer continues to reel from its acquisition of crops giant Monsanto.

The latest deal—for which Bayer will pay $2 billion now and as much as a further $2 billion based on future success milestones—is a bet on cutting-edge gene therapy, in which a functional gene is inserted to counter the effects of a disease caused by a missing or faulty gene.

The German company’s biggest pharmaceutical acquisition since its purchase of domestic rival Schering AG in 2006 is also an attempt to tackle one of a series of challenges that has been plaguing the inventor of aspirin, especially since its 2018 acquisition of U.S.-based Monsanto.

The $63 billion Monsanto deal was meant to give the company another big, fast-growing revenue stream besides pharmaceuticals. Instead, it has saddled Bayer with a protracted legal battle over whether Monsanto’s Roundup weedkillers cause cancer—a dispute that has pummeled Bayer’s share price. Bayer says Roundup is safe.

Then, last month, Bayer shocked investors with a warning that the coronavirus pandemic would hit its agriculture business harder than expected. Bayer has also faced setbacks in settling the Roundup lawsuits for $10.9 billion.

The profit warning cast more doubt on the rationale for the Monsanto deal and its ability to boost Bayer’s profit.

At the same time, Bayer’s drug pipeline has been worrying investors. Two of the company’s bestselling drugs—blood thinner Xarelto and eye treatment Eylea—will start to lose patent protection from around 2024.

Analysts have been concerned that Bayer doesn’t have enough promising new products in its research-and-development pipeline to make up for the expected drop in sales from the blockbusters’ patent losses.

To boost its pipeline, Bayer has been looking for drug-development partnerships or deals to license drugs that are in promising stages of clinical development.

Stefan Oelrich, chief executive of Bayer’s pharmaceutical branch, said the purchase of AskBio was slightly larger than the acquisitions Bayer had been seeking in the pharmaceutical space, but added that he was convinced after the first phone call with the U.S. company’s co-founders that it would be the “perfect fit.”

“What we now have is a comprehensive pipeline,” Mr. Oelrich said in an interview. “I feel like things are really coming together on the pharma side.”

Mr. Oelrich said it was too early to predict how much in sales the AskBio treatments are likely to generate, but added that he expects the deal to help Bayer build a leading position in gene therapy. That treatment area has been gaining momentum after setbacks occurred during the first testing in humans in the 1990s, when several patients died.

Dozens of gene therapies are now undergoing clinical trials and big drug companies have been acquiring gene-therapy firms, betting on the success of those treatments in the future.

AskBio was co-founded by Richard Jude Samulski, who pioneered the use of what are known

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Britain partners with Oxford firm to assess coronavirus vaccine T cell responses

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Thursday said it would partner with an Oxford-based firm to provide testing for the T cell response of coronavirus vaccine candidates to try to assess their immune responses.

T cell immunity is thought to be essential to protection against infection from the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus, and could provide longer term immunity than antibodies.

The UK Vaccine Taskforce has chosen Oxford Immunotec to supply T cell testing for its assessment of different vaccine candidates.

“It is important to be able to assess the different vaccines head-to-head and the T cell response is part of our portfolio of accredited assays that we are employing for cross comparisons,” Kate Bingham, chair of the UK Vaccines Taskforce, said in a statement.

Britain has signed supply deals for six different coronavirus vaccine candidates, including those being made by AstraZeneca <AZN.L> and Pfizer <PFE.N> and BioNTech <22UAy.F>, seen as among the frontrunners in the race for a vaccine.

Oxford Immunotec said its techonology platform enabled the centralisation of fresh blood samples from different locations to measure the T cell response in a standardised way.

It said the platform, known as T-SPOT, was being used to identify the T cells made in response to the pathogen that causes tuberculosis.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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