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Novartis sells consumer stake to GSK for $13B; WHO faces challenge on hepatitis

Top news

* Days after dropping its bid to acquire Pfizer Inc.'s $20 billion consumer healthcare unit, GlaxoSmithKline PLC agreed to buy Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG's stake in the consumer health joint venture between the two drugmakers. GSK will acquire Novartis' 36.5% stake in the JV for $13 billion in cash.

* Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said sales in China could more than double over the next five years, following the country's overhaul of its drug approval policies in 2017, Bloomberg News reported.

* The World Health Organization's targets for getting rid of the hepatitis B virus are unlikely to be achieved by 2030 unless screening and treatment are made more accessible, according to a report published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

On the policy front

* Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., wants to help U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb fulfill his pledge to reduce Americans' exposure to opioids by requiring makers of certain products to package their pills in limited quantities.

* Alexander also unveiled a second bill aimed at ensuring the FDA can spend the $94 million from the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending legislation, signed March 23, to upgrade the agency's detection technology, laboratory capacity and import facilities to better identify illegal drugs, including synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, at the border.

Drug and product pipeline

* The Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk A/S said it received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to update the prescription label of its diabetes medicine Tresiba.

* Ghent, Belgium-based Ablynx NV said its drug vobarilizumab failed to meet the main goal in a phase 2 study for treating lupus, a disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.

* Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its affiliate Akcea Therapeutics Inc. said inotersen delivered better outcomes than placebo in a phase 3 genetic disease study. The study involved patients with polyneuropathy due to hereditary transthyretin-related amyloidosis, a disease characterized by abnormal protein deposits that commonly form in the heart and nervous system.

Operational activity

* Lake Forest, Ill.-based Akorn Inc.; its former CFO Timothy Dick; and former controller David Hebeda agreed to settle a civil-action lawsuit filed by the SEC in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

* AbbVie Inc. was ordered to pay more than $3 million to Jesse Mitchell, who claimed to have suffered a heart attack because the company misrepresented the risks of AndroGel, Reuters reported.

* ASLAN Pharmaceuticals Ltd plans to offer its American depositary shares representing ordinary shares of about $86.3 million in an IPO on the Nasdaq Global Market.

* ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd.'s public accounting firm continues to have "substantial doubt" over the Los Angeles-based biotechnology company's ability to continue business.

* Hayward, Calif.-based Impax Laboratories Inc. reached a mid-trial settlement with certain retailers in an antitrust lawsuit related to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.'s acne medication Solodyn, Reuters reported.

Our features

* EpimAb COO discusses novel antibodies to treat cancer in China: Stephan Lensky spoke to S&P Global Market Intelligence about developing novel cancer therapies based on bispecific monoclonal antibodies — Y-shaped protein molecules that can bind to two different targets at the same time.

Other features

* Texas has become a big market for apps like NURX, which allows women who live in "contraception deserts" to order prescription birth control pills online without visiting a doctor, National Public Radio reported.

* Chinese biopharmaceutical companies such as Innovent Biologics Inc., Shanghai Junshi Biosciences Co.,Ltd., BeiGene, Ltd. and Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine Co. Ltd. will increase the competition in PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors as they ready their drugs for a market launch in the first half of 2019, Endpoints News wrote, citing a report by data analytics firm PharmCube.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.79% to 30,790.83, while the Nikkei 225 climbed 2.65% to 21,317.32.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 gained 1.93% to 7,021.46 and the Euronext 100 rose 1.33% to 1,004.44.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 6:30 a.m. ET.

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