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Roche Q3 sales rise 13% YOY; Alexion to acquire Achillion in $930M deal

Top news

* Roche Holding AG's third-quarter sales grew 13% year over year, and the company raised its outlook for the full year. The Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant reported sales of about CHF15.60 billion for the third quarter, up from CHF13.97 billion, in the year-ago period.

* Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. is acquiring rare disease therapy developer Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about $930 million, or $6.30 per share of Achillion common stock. The transaction also includes the potential for additional consideration in the form of non-tradeable contingent value rights.

* Eli Lilly and Co.'s pegilodecakin in combination with chemotherapy drug folfox did not meet the main goal of a late-stage study as the drug failed to improve overall survival in patients with a type of pancreatic cancer that has spread to other parts. The drug combination was being evaluated against the chemotherapy regimen alone in the phase 3 trial, dubbed Sequoia.

* Drug distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. are discussing a possible $18 billion settlement to resolve opioid litigation with several state and local governments, The Wall Street Journal reported. Several other drug distributors and manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., are facing lawsuits from across the country for their alleged role in fueling the U.S. opioid crisis — which kills more than 130 people every day. Johnson is offering to pay about $4 billion to resolve all claims alleging the company’s role in fueling the U.S. opioid crisis, Bloomberg News reports.

* Big Pharma's push into oncology has yielded advances in the ability to detect disease earlier, identify more genetic links and develop new ways to tackle tumors. It has also spurred a stampede into the field as cancer is set to be diagnosed in 23.6 million people a year by 2030, bringing the annual cost of care to over $1 trillion.

* In this week's edition of Of Mice Not Men — where S&P Global Market Intelligence reports on early-stage research in animals or other laboratory models — we take a look at the effect of radiation therapy and immunotherapy curing pancreatic cancer in mice, viagra helping with faster stem cell collection, and phototherapy counteracting carbon monoxide poisoning.

On the policy front

* The U.S. has a number of options for getting to universal healthcare coverage — or nearly reaching that status — but each of those plans come with trade-offs that must be considered before heading down any path to reform, analysts from the Urban Institute and The Commonwealth Fund said in a new report.

M&A and capital markets

* Backed by asset managers OrbiMed Pvt. Investments IV LP and Quaker BioVentures Fund II, L.P. biotechnology company TELA Bio Inc. is planning an IPO on Nasdaq.

* Gastrointestinal disease-focused Phathom Pharmaceuticals Inc. set the price range of its IPO between $18 and $20 per share. The company was launched by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. and private equity firm Frazier Healthcare Partners to focus on therapies for the multibillion-dollar acid-reflux market in the U.S. and Europe.

* Generex Biotechnology Corp. is merging its subsidiary NuGenerex Immuno-Oncology with a public company to complete a planned spinout. The merger is part of Generex's go-public strategy to gain value from the Ii-Key technology and AE37 immunotherapeutic vaccine program.

Drug and product pipeline

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical Co. Inc.'s Secuado, an over-the-skin patch for treating adults with schizophrenia. Secuado is a transdermal drug delivery system worn for a period of 24 hours to deliver the antipsychotic drug asenapine.

* Eisai Co. Ltd.'s epilepsy treatment Fycompa won regulatory approval in China. Fycompa is approved in more than 60 countries as an adjuvant treatment for partial-onset seizures in patients with epilepsy aged 12 and above.

* Relmada Therapeutics Inc.'s stock rose Oct. 15 after a mid-stage study showed that two doses of its depression drug REL-1017 improved symptoms in treatment-resistant patients when compared to placebo.

* France's Ipsen SA signed a licensing deal with Blueprint Medicines Corp. to develop and commercialize the latter's rare bone disease drug BLU-782. Blueprint Medicines will receive $25 million cash up front and is also eligible to receive up to $510 million in potential milestone payments, subject to conditions.

Operational activity

* Johnson & Johnson exceeded analyst expectations for its core businesses in the third quarter of 2019 — particularly for medical devices, where the company has struggled in the past — despite pressures from headline-grabbing legal risks, as well as generic and biosimilar competition. The company said in its earnings call that it had invested $12 billion in medical devices M&A since 2017.

* Gilead Sciences Inc. named Andrew Dickinson its new CFO, replacing Robin Washington, effective Nov. 1. Dickinson has been with the company since 2016 and is executive vice president, corporate development and strategy. He will continue with the role after he becomes CFO.

* Pfizer Inc. is ramping up production of chemotherapy drug vincristine to meet the medicine's shortfalls following Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' decision to discontinue production of the treatment, Fierce Pharma reported.

* Backed by funding from a Saudi foundation, the Imperial College London will set up a research center to address disease emergencies and analyze global health priorities, London's Financial Times reported.

* A Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied NantPharma LLC and its billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong's motion to stay or dismiss a fraud case filed by Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. related to the cancer drug Cynviloq. Sorrento — which sold Cynviloq to NantPharma in 2015 — claims the parties orchestrated to keep the drug off the market to preserve Soon-Shiong's personal financial interest in another competing medicine.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 0.61% to 26,664.28, and the Nikkei 225 went up 1.20% to 22,472.92.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 lost 0.12% to 7,201.94, and the Euronext 100 was essentially flat at 1,100.88.

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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