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AstraZeneca therapy beats GSK's in mild asthma; J&J to pay $80M in implant case

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AstraZeneca therapy beats GSK's in mild asthma; J&J to pay $80M in implant case

Top news

* AstraZeneca PLC said real-world data from a study showed Symbicort Turbuhaler was effective in reducing mild asthma attacks in patients with the lung condition. Symbicort Turbuhaler exhibited a 51% reduction in the rate of annual asthma exacerbations, compared to albuterol — sold by GlaxoSmithKline PLC as Ventolin, according to results from the study, dubbed Novel Start.

* Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $80 million to a woman who alleged that the company's pelvic mesh implant, made by its Ethicon unit, resulted in severe injuries, Reuters reported. A jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas made the verdict — the latest in thousands of lawsuits J&J is facing for allegations that the devices caused severe pain, urinary problems and other injuries.

* A promising type of Alzheimer's disease therapy that tackles a buildup of proteins called beta-amyloid in the brain has failed over and over in the clinic, but researchers are nevertheless continuing to tinker with these drug candidates to see if they can provide any pharmaceutical benefit whatsoever — perhaps at earlier stages of the disease, S&P Global Market Intelligence has a report.

Two drugs targeting beta-amyloid, Roche Holding AG's gantenerumab and Eli Lilly and Co.'s solanezumab, have failed in the pharma giants' clinical trials, which included patients with early-stage mild Alzheimer's. Roche is still evaluating gantenerumab after taking over its development from partner MorphoSys AG. Most recently, Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. Ltd. halted their trials testing anti-amyloid antibody aducanumab.

* Giovanna Lalli, head of scientific affairs at the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London, spoke to S&P Global Market Intelligence about the Alzheimer's market. Following the failure of recent high-profile late-stage research projects — notably Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. Ltd.'s aducanumab and Roche Holding AG's crenezumab — researchers are exploring new approaches to the degenerative disease that move beyond the so-called amyloid, also known as abeta, and tau hypotheses. Understanding of the development of this disease is still in its infancy and much basic research is ongoing, according to Lalli.

On the policy front

* The House adopted legislation last week intended to increase competition for lower-cost medicines in the U.S., while also shoring up the Affordable Care Act. The ACA measures would block the Trump administration's short-term health insurance plans and would restore funds for outreach and enrollment efforts for insurance offered on the ACA marketplace.

* The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Medicaid waivers process has transparency "weaknesses," which may cause the agency to approve waivers without understanding how they impact beneficiaries and federal spending, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. A spokesperson for CMS said in a statement that the agency supports a transparent review of the waiver application process and that the process is meant to include public input.

Drug and product pipeline

* Johnson & Johnson and Ascletis Pharma Inc. are among drugmakers racing to find a cure for hepatitis B and open a new market in China, S&P Global Market Intelligence has a report. China has about 90 million chronic carriers of the infectious virus, accounting for one-third of that population worldwide, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization.

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Operational activity

* Johnson & Johnson CFO Joe Wolk said at the company's latest business review that its pharmaceutical arm is expected to rise "comfortably above" $50 billion in sales by 2023 on the back of new products and a wide range of volume-driven growth.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled a recall of surgical staplers by Johnson & Johnson's medical device subsidiary Ethicon as a class I recall, the most serious classification, as continued use of the devices could result in "serious injuries or death."

* The Australian consumer healthcare units of GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis AG admitted that they violated consumer laws by misleading customers through marketing schemes of their Voltaren Osteo Gel and Voltaren Emulgel pain relief products. The Australian Competition and Consumer found that GSK and Novartis from January 2012 to March 2017 marketed Osteo Gel as more effective than Emulgel in treating osteoarthritis-related pain and inflammation even though the products are essentially the same.

* Chinese drugmaker Kangmei Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. could be charged 600,000 Chinese yuan for allegedly falsifying documents to overstate its cash position by as much as 29.9 billion yuan, the South China Morning Post reported. Kangmei, a constituent of MSCI's global indexes, has also been involved in market manipulation through trading its own shares, according to the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 0.57% to 27,787.61. The Nikkei 225 rose 0.24% to 21,301.73.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.74% to 7,293.91, and the Euronext 100 was down 1.13% to 1,047.06.

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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