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Merck's Keytruda bags UK nod for bladder cancer; HIV maven top pick for CDC job

Top news

* The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended Merck & Co. Inc.'s Keytruda for use within the country's Cancer Drugs Fund to treat bladder cancer patients whose disease worsened despite receiving chemotherapy.

* HIV/AIDS expert Robert Redfield, a professor in translational medicine and virology at the University of Maryland, is U.S. President Donald Trump's top choice to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to multiple news reports.

Meanwhile, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; and Bill Cassidy, R-La. unveiled two pieces of legislation aimed at banning so-called gag clauses, which prevent pharmacists from telling customers when they can pay less in out-of-pocket costs for their prescription medicines by not using their insurance plans.

* In an effort to combat the opioid crisis, the Trump administration plans to seek the death penalty for people trafficking in fentanyl and other opioids, where appropriate under current law, White House officials said. The administration also plans to up the nation's efforts on treating addiction, such as ensuring access to treatment facilities and medication-assisted therapies.

Drug and product pipeline

* Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said its treatment Eylea met the 24-week primary endpoint of an ongoing study known as Panorama, which is being conducted in patients with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a disease that affects their vision. In the trial, 58% of Eylea-treated patients had an improvement in their vision, which compares to 6% of the patients that received placebo.

* The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a U.S. price group, said three Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. drugs, Kalydeco, Orkambi and Symdeko, carry substantial benefits for cystic fibrosis patients but come with large price tags. While the institute has no jurisdiction over pricing, its assessments increasingly carry weight with drugmakers and investors.

* Denmark's Bavarian Nordic A/S entered into a collaboration with the U.S. Defense Department to develop a vaccine for equine encephalitis virus, a rare, fatal mosquito-borne illness.

Operational activity

* CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. said its full-year 2017 profit attributable to shareholders came in at HK$2.77 billion, or 45.48 Hong Kong cents per share, up 31.9% from 2016.

* The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that makers of brand-name drugs, such as Merck & Co., can be sued by consumers if the companies fail to update the warning labels on their medicine that is then used by generic-drug makers when marketing a cheaper version of the treatment, Reuters reported.

The ruling was the result of a lawsuit by a Massachusetts resident who experienced adverse effects by taking a generic version of Merck's prostate drug Proscar. U.S. law requires generic companies to use the labels of the brand-name versions of the drugs they produce.

* Five doctors from New York were charged for receiving kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics Inc. for prescribing a spray version of the company's opioid painkiller, Reuters reported.

Our features

Sanofi, Regeneron, J&J drugs featured at US cardiology meeting: Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sanofi's cholesterol-lowering drug Praluent took center stage at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Other features

* The Financial Times has a feature on the growing number of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals for Chinese generic drugs.

* The New York Times writes about new prescription treatments that can be downloaded directly to your mobile phone.

* Older adults have been using more medicines for anxiety and insomnia despite recommendations to the contrary, making them vulnerable to complications or overdoses, The New York Times writes.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.04% to 31,513.76. The Nikkei 225 slid 0.90% to 21,480.90.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 declined 1.31% to 7,070.26, and the Euronext 100 lost 0.67% to 1,022.56.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 6:30 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription.