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French court rejects AstraZeneca complaint

AFP/The Local · 5 Aug 2010, 07:55

Published: 05 Aug 2010 07:55 GMT+02:00

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The pharmaceuticals giant had brought a complaint against a local arm of the CPAM state health insurance fund over comments made about AstraZeneca's star cholesterol drug Crestor in a guideline for doctors published in 2006.

The CPAM had said that a five milligram dose of Crestor "does not provide any significant added benefit" in medical results compared to other medicines and recommended that doctors only prescribe it in serious cases.

According to a ruling last month obtained by AFP this week, an appeals court dismissed the Swedish and British firm's complaint against CPAM, upholding two earlier rulings by courts in southwestern France.

"The message published by the CPAM for medical consultants contained only a prescription guideline, not a peremptory order," the court judgement read.

Laurent Jaladeau, the director of the CPAM for the southwestern Aude region

that was targeted by the complaint, said Crestor was more expensive than other

cholesterol drugs on the market.

The CPAM guidelines, which inform doctors of the costs of reimbursing certain treatments, were based on information from the French drug safety agency AFSSAPS.

Story continues below…

"What's important is that the ruling establishes that CPAM can inform doctors based on information that is scientifically founded," Jaladeau said.

AstraZeneca, one of the world's biggest drug companies, won a separate case over Crestor in June when it successfully defended its patent against US makers of generic drugs.

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the French court's ruling.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:24 August 5, 2010 by tuerd1982
too bad for them.
10:00 August 5, 2010 by PCM
Don't cry for AstraZeneca. There's still the US market, where pharmaceutical companies are free to stoke medically unwarranted demand by advertising prescription drugs directly to consumers, offer thinly veiled kickbacks to doctors for prescribing them, pay off prestigious academic fronts to lend their names to industry-written safety and efficacy studies, and use campaign contributions, astroturfing, and political advertising to kill any move toward concerted bargaining on pricing. The French Sécu may be doing its job, but the US will continue to be Big Pharma's bitch under PPACA, which brings it 32 million new insured customers and no price controls. All in all, I'd say life is still pretty sweet for AZ and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry.
12:28 August 5, 2010 by krrodman

While I have no love lost for pharmaceutical companies(I agree with most of what you say), it is much too simple and self-serving to paint them as the face of evil in the health care world. Here is a link to an article in Bloomberg. While the headline is about a new antibiotic that Glaxo is developing, the body of the article is a much more interesting read on why pharmaceutical companies are not spending their R&D money to develop new antibiotics.

21:13 August 5, 2010 by PCM

Not at all. Pharmaceutical R&D is vital, and as much of my ire is directed at fundamental flaws in US government and media as to the drug companies that take advantage of them. If the US had publicly funded election campaigns, effective conflict-of-interest laws for government officials and news organizations, and a generally more diverse, independent media, the profit-seeking behavior of private interests would be more effectively confined to an appropriate, socially beneficial sphere.

That being said, pharmaceutical companies are consistently the most profitable sector in the US, and -- in the US, according to health-care economist Uwe Reinhardt -- they spend two and half times as much on marketing and advertising as they do on research and development. Swiss pharmaceutical companies make half of their worldwide profits in the United States, which has under 5% of the world's population and under 25% of the population of more developed countries. (We don't even consume the most prescription drugs per capita; France does.) Pharma is doing very, very well in the US.

Incidentally, since you mentioned the financial challenge of developing new antibiotics, Norway now has a fraction of the incidence of MRSA found in other developed countries (like the UK). That's in part because, 25 years ago, they decided to tightly limit the use of antibiotics to cases where they are actually effective -- no placebo, prophylactic, or make-weight prescriptions for generic coughs and colds, for example -- so that drug-resistant bugs like MRSA wouldn't have nearly as much opportunity to develop. It's not a total alternative to new development, but it's worked very well at minimal cost.

At any rate, Big Pharma -- its MBAs, lobbyists, and lawyers, not its scientists -- is only one of several villains in the US health care system. Together with for-profit insurance, investor-owned hospitals and nursing homes, medical device manufacturers, and a host of less prominent "stakeholders," they effectively bought key members of Congress and masterfully shaped news coverage during the 2009/2010 push for health care reform. As a result, instead of giving us genuine reform (as achieved in Canada, Taiwan, and even Switzerland), Congress tweaked, institutionalized, and made mandatory the current system, guaranteeing continued superprofits to the big players and leaving citizens victim to what is by far the most expensive, most wasteful, most unfair, and (by most measures) worst-performing health-care system in the developed world. I hope you'll understand if I have a chip on my shoulder and am not inclined to feel too sorry for AZ over a legitimate cost-control recommendation in France...

In sum, while Big Pharma may not be the face of evil in the health-care world at large, in the US they're definitely not one of the good guys -- and the *US* shares responsibility for letting them behave that way.
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