French court rejects AstraZeneca complaint

A French court has dismissed a writ from Anglo-Swedish drugs firm AstraZeneca brought against an insurance firm which advised doctors to be restrictive in prescribing one of its products.

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.

“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.

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Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.