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EU clears Roche blood cancer drug; WHO convenes emergency meeting on coronavirus

Top news

* Roche Holding AG said the European Commission granted conditional approval to Polivy, in combination with chemotherapy drug Treanda and MabThera, for treating adult patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. These patients are not candidates for a haematopoietic stem cell transplant, and their disease has either returned or did not respond to prior therapy.

* World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will convene an emergency committee on Jan. 22 to discuss whether the novel coronavirus that originated from Wuhan, China constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. The WHO will also seek recommendations on how to manage the outbreak, which has so far killed six people and infected nearly 300.

* China's announcement that it will set up a resolution mechanism for drug patent disputes and increase legal protection for patents could encourage overseas pharmaceutical companies to release more novel medicines in the country, experts said. The announcement came as part of what U.S. and Chinese officials said is the first phase of a broader trade pact. The changes include patent holders receiving notifications when another party seeks approval for a treatment that can potentially infringe their patents. They will also have enough time to take action against copycat products before they reach the market.

* The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence — the country's health cost watchdog — released a draft guidance on Johnson & Johnson's Stelara, or ustekinumab — noting that it was not a cost-effective treatment for moderate to severely active ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.

* Lonza Group Ltd. said its full-year 2019 core profit rose 12.8% year over year to CHF1.01 billion, or CHF13.59 per share, driven by the Swiss company's pharma-related businesses. For 2020, Lonza expects above mid-single-digit sales growth, with high single-digit sales growth for its pharma biotech and nutrition segment and low single-digit sales growth for its specialty ingredients business.

On the policy front

* During a Jan. 16 meeting with his campaign advisers, President Donald Trump became frustrated over polling results that showed Americans continue to favor Democrats over the current administration and Republicans in handling healthcare issues, including lowering drug prices, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other news outlets reported, citing unnamed sources.

The sources said Trump called Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during that meeting, putting the blame on the HHS secretary. The White House did not deny the phone call between Trump and Azar took place. A spokesman, however, told S&P Global Market Intelligence there was "no daylight" between the White House and HHS.

Drug and product pipeline

* The European Commission granted approval to Genmab A/S and Johnson & Johnson's Darzalex in combination with other medications to treat adult patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

* Johnson & Johnson filed an application with the European Medicines Agency seeking approval of a combination of its drug Imbruvica and Roche's Rituxan as a first-line treatment of previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

* Novartis AG said the European Commission approved its drug Mayzent for treating certain patients with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder.

* Dublin-based Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC said the European Commission approved Sunosi to treat excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng decreased 2.81% to 27,985.33, while the Nikkei 225 declined 0.91% to 23,864.56.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 1.00% to 7,574.58, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.03% to 1,159.19.

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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