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Bristol-Myers, Celgene deal under lens; High prices push hospital drug spending

Top news

* Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s $74 billion takeover of Celgene Corp. has drawn scrutiny from two members of Congress who are urging increased regulatory oversight into the deal's possible market impacts.

* Hospital drug spending has increased by nearly 20% between fiscal years 2015 and 2017, driven primarily by increasing drug prices and drug shortages for some of the most basic drugs, according to a new report from the American Hospital Association.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects product approvals for cell and gene therapies to grow in the coming years owing to a large increase in investigational new drug applications. The agency broke a number of records in 2018, most notably, shattering its all-time high in approving first-of-their-kind therapies — clearing 59 last year.

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On the policy front

* U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said some parties were using "the excuse" of the ongoing partial government shutdown — now into its fourth week and the longest in U.S. history — to "advance misleading narratives." Gottlieb also disclosed on Twitter that he was bringing back about 400 of the more than 7,000 employees who had been furloughed.

* Senate Democrats are using a resolution to defend the Affordable Care Act to put their Republican colleagues on the record about where they stand in ensuring that protections remain in place for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.

* Following the U.K. Parliament's rejection of the Brexit deal, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, a trade association representing European drugmakers, urged negotiators to take steps to prevent a shortage of medicines in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario.

Operational activity

* German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer AG will close an administrative site in Robinson, Pa., impacting 569 jobs and 96 contractors amid broader restructuring efforts. Meanwhile, a French court banned Bayer AG unit Monsanto Co.'s weedkiller Roundup Pro 360, ruling that the approval granted by the country's environmental agency did not take into account the product's potential health risks.

* Massachusetts' attorney general Maura Healey amended the complaint against Purdue Pharma LP, alleging that members of the controlling Sackler family were actively involved in the privately held opioid maker's deceptive marketing practices that fueled the U.S. opioid crises and has been a subject of multiple lawsuits.

* Five Prime Therapeutics Inc. said it was reducing its headcount by 20% to save some $10 million in costs throughout 2019. The South San Francisco, Calif.-based developer of medicines said the decision would help focus its resources on five cancer programs. The company employs 216 people, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, and 41 of these jobs will be let go.

Other features

* United Neuroscience Inc., a Dublin-based startup, is planning to advance the development of a vaccine for Alzheimer's disease after the drug showed an immune response in a phase 2 study involving 42 patients with mild cognitive impairment, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.27% to 26,902.10, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 0.55% to 20,442.75.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 decreased 0.51% to 6,859.68, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.03% to 934.88.

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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