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J&J baby powder pulled by retailers; 3 cystic fibrosis drugs enter UK's NHS

Top news

* CVS Health Corp. is removing 22-ounce bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder from its shelves, expanding on a small recall the pharmaceutical giant issued a few days ago after a small batch of the product was found to contain cancer-causing asbestos. Walmart Inc. and Rite Aid Corp. also are removing the product from their shelves, CNBC reported. J&J's recall was triggered after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered low levels of asbestos in a bottle of the talc product that was purchased online.

* Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s cystic fibrosis medicines Orkambi, Symkevi and Kalydeco will be made available in England's National Health Service following an access agreement between the company and the agency. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will conduct a full appraisal of the drugs, along with the company's new triple therapy.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether stomach drug ranitidine, marketed as Zantac by Sanofi, causes carcinogens to form, Reuters reported. Companies including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG, have already issued recalls for their ranitidine medications after regulators in the U.S., EU and Canada issued warnings regarding the presence of a potentially cancer-causing impurity called N-Nitrosodimethylamine.

* Biogen Inc.'s decision to revive its Alzheimer's disease drug, aducanumab, was a product of "top secret" meetings and six months of revisiting data from failed late-stage studies, researchers told Reuters. Earlier this week, Biogen announced a reversal on aducanumab and said it will seek U.S. approval for the Alzheimer's therapy. In March, Biogen and its partner Eisai Co. Ltd. stopped two late-stage trials for aducanumab after futility analyses suggested the studies would not meet their goals.

M&A and capital markets

* Eli Lilly and Co. is buying back up to $2 billion of its outstanding debt via a cash tender offer set to expire Nov. 21 unless extended or terminated earlier.

* Irish life sciences company ICON PLC acquired Symphony Clinical Research, a Vernon Hills, Ill.-based provider of in-home and alternative-site clinical services.

* Phathom Pharmaceuticals Inc. — which is partly owned by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. and private equity firm Frazier Healthcare Partners, among others — priced its IPO of 9,563,157 common shares at $19 each, expecting to raise about $181.7 million.

Drug and product pipeline

* The European Commission approved a new dosing regimen for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s blockbuster drug Opdivo as an add-on treatment for certain patients with a type of melanoma skin cancer.

* The U.S. FDA approved the expanded use of Allergan PLC's blockbuster drug Botox to treat children with lower limb spasticity, a type of muscle disorder, but only if it is not caused by cerebral palsy. The drug is already approved to treat children with upper limb spasticity.

* Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma Inc.'s Xospata secured approval from the European Commission to treat certain patients with a type of acute myeloid leukemia blood cancer.

* Melinta Therapeutics Inc.'s antibiotic Baxdela was approved by the U.S. FDA to treat community-acquired bacterial pneumonia in adults, but the launch will be delayed as the company reviews its finances. Shares of the company fell Oct. 24 following the news.

* Aclaris Therapeutics Inc. said its common warts treatment, A-101, was more effective than placebo in a second phase 3 trial.

* Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Inc. filed an updated application with the U.S. FDA seeking approval for blood disorder drug Rolontis.

Operational activity

* AstraZeneca PLC, the U.K. drugmaker with an intensifying focus on novel cancer medicines and China, forecast that growth will more than halve in its second-largest market from the fourth quarter of the year, as the impact of China's value-based procurement begins to weigh.

* Gilead Sciences Inc. reported a loss to profits in the third quarter, but this was mainly the result of closing a $5 billion research and development deal with Galapagos NV that could open the door to more opportunities down the road, executives said during an Oct. 24 earnings call. The company’s non-GAAP net income for the quarter had decreased to $2.22 billion, or $1.75 per share, from $2.40 billion, or $1.84 per share, in the year-ago period.

* After a shaky second quarter, Illumina Inc. appeared to make a gradual recovery in its third-quarter earnings, but executive comments on its earnings call suggest that the company is banking on several population genome sequencing initiatives to drive revenue growth. The company's non-GAAP net income attributable to stockholders totaled $286 million, an increase of 26% from $227 million in the prior-year period.

* Drugmakers AbbVie Inc. and AstraZeneca PLC have settled lawsuits between them that claimed their competitor's blood cancer treatment violated their own patents. AbbVie's Imbruvica — co-developed with Johnson & Johnson — is used to treat blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia, and AstraZeneca's newer drug Calquence has been approved and is in trials for similar uses.

* S&P Global Ratings placed Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.'s ratings on CreditWatch negative following the company's proposed global settlement framework concerning the U.S. opioid litigation.

* Amgen Inc. said it will cut the list price of its cholesterol drug Repatha by 60% to about $5,850, effective Jan. 1, 2020, to make the medicine more affordable.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 0.49% to 26,667.39, and the Nikkei 225 rose 0.22% to 22,799.81.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 slipped 0.56% to 7,287.66, and the Euronext 100 down 0.45% to 1,094.03.

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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