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Novartis gears up against price cut; Johnson & Johnson comes back for Actelion

* Novartis AG said it will challenge the Colombian Ministry of Health's decision to cut the price of its Glivec cancer drug by 44% to $49 per 400-milligram tablet, Reuters reported. The price reduction follows failed negotiations between the parties, which "stopped short" of overriding Novartis' drug patent.

* Johnson & Johnson re-entered acquisition negotiations with Actelion Ltd., creating competition for Sanofi, which is already in advanced talks to acquire the Swiss drugmaker. However, Johnson & Johnson said there is no guarantee the renewed talks will lead to a transaction.

* In other news, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. CEO Giovanni Caforio was appointed the company's chairman, effective May 2, 2017. Caforio will hold both positions at the company.

* A group of 18 Democratic senators urged President-elect Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to "negotiate like crazy" to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., were among those who requested that Trump lift a ban on negotiating Part D drug prices.

Drug and product pipeline

* Roche Holding Ltd.'s hemophilia A drug candidate met its primary and secondary endpoints in a phase 3 study. ACE910, or emicizumab, showed a significant reduction in the number of bleeds over time in 12-year-old patients and older when compared to no prophylactic treatment.

* Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.'s Avastin treatment was orphan-drug designated in Japan to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. There are approximately 2,000 people suffering from the refractory disease in the Asian country.

* Lexicon Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s second phase 3 trial of sotagliflozin in adults with type 1 diabetes met its primary endpoint with a statistically significant reduction in A1C levels compared to placebo. Sanofi is solely responsible for commercializing the treatment for type 1 diabetes outside the U.S.

* The European Commission approved changes to the label of Merck KGaA's metformin products. The decision confirms Metformin for treatment in type 2 diabetes patients with moderate renal impairment but adds some dose limitations.

* Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s phase 2/3 trial of eculizumab failed its primary endpoint. The drug was meant to prevent complications following a kidney transplant.

* The U.S. FDA asked Sun Pharma Advanced Research Co. Ltd. to resolve certain deficiencies at its Halol manufacturing site in India to gain final approval of its Xelpros eye-drops. Sun Pharma is owned by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

* Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. discontinued the phase 2 study of MM-302 in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. The decision follows an opinion from the Data and Safety Monitoring Board that the drug would be unlikely to show benefit over comparative treatments.

Operational activity

* India's Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. agreed to buy Novartis AG's oncology drug Odomzo for an upfront payment of $175 million plus future milestone payments. Odomzo received FDA approval in July 2015 to treat adult patients with locally advanced basal cell carcinoma that has recurred after surgery or radiation therapy.

* Meanwhile, Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co. Ltd. unit Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. gained exclusive U.S. commercialization rights to Novartis' three approved chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drugs. Sunovion plans to bring two of these drugs, Utibron Neohaler and Seebri Neohaler, to the market in 2017.

* Calithera BioSciences Inc. is partnering with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. to determine whether its CB-839 drug can be combined with Opdivo to treat kidney cancer. Bristol-Myers' Opdivo is already approved as a treatment for certain types of cancer.

* Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. secured the rights to PharmaMar SA's PM1183 cancer treatment in Japan for an upfront payment of €30 million. PharmaMar will continue clinical development of PM1183 to treat platinum-resistant ovarian cancer and small cell lung cancer in Japan.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 0.80% to 21,636.20, and the Nikkei 225 was down 0.09% to 19,427.67.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.11% to 7,033.66, and the Euronext 100 fell 0.08% to 928.63.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 6:30 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription.