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US health department to divert HIV funds; Roche test gets nod in breast cancer

Top news

* Just as the Trump administration was preparing to unveil its plan to end HIV/AIDS in the U.S. as part of its fiscal 2020 budget, its top health official told Congress he was shifting millions of dollars in current funds away from efforts to fight the disease.

* Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG said its Ventana assay received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to help identify triple-negative breast cancer patients eligible for treatment with Tecentriq, or atezolizumab, in combination with Celgene Corp.'s chemotherapy drug Abraxane.

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On the policy front

* Long-term care hospitals are treating fewer Medicare beneficiaries that do not meet the program's criteria for care, according to a report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which counsels Congress. While the overall number of Medicare beneficiaries being treated in long-term care hospitals decreased, a higher volume of cases is meeting the appropriate criteria for treatment.

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* The U.S. FDA sent a letter to healthcare providers warning them of safety risks associated with using surgical staplers and staples after an "increasing number of adverse events," including the continued reporting of deaths and serious injuries. According to the agency, it received more than 32,000 individual reports of device malfunction, 9,000 reports of serious injuries and 366 reports of deaths between Jan. 1, 2011, and March 31, 2018.

* As of March 7, more than 2,000 of the about 50,000 migrants in U.S. detention centers have been quarantined due to disease outbreaks, an official for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Reuters.

* Armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo attacked an Ebola treatment center in the city of Butembo amid an outbreak in the nation's eastern area, leaving health workers injured and a policeman dead, the World Health Organization said. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency will continue its work to fight the Ebola outbreak in the country.

M&A and capital markets

* Elanco Animal Health Inc. said it completed its separation from Eli Lilly and Co. and is now a fully independent company. The share exchange offer, which was initiated as part of the company's spinoff from Lilly, was 7.6x oversubscribed.

Drug and product pipeline

* Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.'s Entyvio was shown to improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis — a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract — better than AbbVie Inc.'s blockbuster drug Humira in a phase 3b head-to-head trial.

Operational activity

* Purdue Pharma L.P. lost a bid to delay a May 28 trial in which the company, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. will face charges of fueling the U.S. opioid epidemic, Reuters reported. Purdue, the maker of opioid painkiller OxyContin, said the court decision will not affect the company's consideration on whether or not to file for bankruptcy, Bloomberg News noted.

* Japanese drugmaker Shionogi & Co. Ltd. is planning to merge its U.K. operations with a Dutch unit, ahead of Britain's planned exit from the EU, insiders told the Financial Times.

* Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe Inc. will offer customers a genetic report that will assess a user's likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, one of the most common diseases in the U.S.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.97% to 28,503.30. The Nikkei 225 gained 0.47% to 21,125.09.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 gained 0.75% to 7,157.46 and the Euronext 100 was up 0.28% to 1,016.53.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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