New medicines

on the market

ZURICH – Roche said strong sales of new medicines like cancer immunotherapy drug Tecentriq would help to sustain the company’s growth as patents on older drugs start to expire.

Chief executive Severin Schwan is betting he can stay ahead of the sales erosion with new medicines that include five launched in 2016 alone.

“That is an unprecedented number of launches of new medicines in a short period of time,” Mr Schwan said on a conference call after Roche reported third-quarter sales figures.

“Our product pipeline is developing very well.”

The Swiss drugmaker’s three established cancer blockbusters Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin, which account for annual sales of nearly 20 billion Swiss francs ($F41b), all face biosimilar competition by the end of the decade.

But so far this year, Tecentriq has won approval for bladder and lung cancer, Alecensa for lung cancer, Cotellic for skin cancer and Venclaxta for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Roche’s multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus is slated for US approval before the year is over.

Subsidy boost

for women

Health – Women on Medicare who get subsidies to help defray the cost of drugs may be less likely to stop taking hormone therapy for breast cancer than those who don’t get financial assistance, a US study suggests.

Researchers analysed data on about 25,000 women who had breast cancer surgery and at least one prescription for pills to curb production of the hormone estrogen — which can fuel tumor growth — or pills to stop estrogen from attaching to cancer cells.

Overall, 27 per cent of these women received subsidies through a Medicare program for low-income patients that eliminates or substantially reduces out-of-pocket costs for premiums, co-payments, deductibles and medications.

“We found that women with the subsidy (which also means they have fewer financial resources) are more likely to take their medications and continue treatment,” said lead study author Dr Alana Biggers of the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Medicine.

“Women who prematurely stop these therapies are at a higher risk for the recurrence of breast cancer,” Dr Biggers added by email.

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