Chairman of Veolia unit in China apologizes after water pollution

The logo of French utility group Veolia is pictured during the company's 2011 annual results in ParisThe chairman of the Chinese unit of French utility Veolia Environment has apologized to the public after a cancer-inducing chemical was found in tap water supplied by the company, the Xinhua news agency said. Benzene was found in tap water supplied by the Lanzhou Veolia Water Company in the northwestern city of Lanzhou on April 10, forcing the city of 3.6 million people to turn off supplies in one district. Last week, China blamed Veolia for failing to maintain water quality. Veolia said it was not responsible for polluting the tap water with benzene.

Calls for Roche to cut price of breast cancer drugs

Pharmaceutical giant Roche was on Wednesday urged to cut the cost of a groundbreaking breast cancer drug that the NHS is set to phase out in 2016Pharmaceutical giant Roche was on Wednesday urged to cut the cost of a groundbreaking breast cancer drug that the NHS is set to phase out in 2016. NHS watchdog NICE recommended that the use of trastuzumab emtansine be stopped due to its £90,000 cost, even though it can add months of life to women dying of breast cancer. It is currently available in England under the Cancer Drugs Fund, but this will end in 2016. The drug, which attacks cancerous cells from within thus avoiding many of the side effects of chemotherapy, could potentially help a fifth of breast cancer sufferers.

Novartis and GSK trade assets as pharma industry reshapes

Logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis is seen at its headquarters in BaselBy Caroline Copley and Paul Sandle ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline agreed to trade more than $20 billion worth of assets on Tuesday to bolster their best businesses and exit weaker ones as the drug industry contends with healthcare spending cuts and generic competition. The deals, which include Novartis' purchase of GSK's cancer drugs and GSK's acquisition of Novartis' vaccines business, came just after a newspaper report that AstraZeneca Plc had turned down a $101 billion bid approach from Pfizer Inc, a story that sent shares up across the sector. In addition, Novartis is selling its animal health arm to Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly for about $5.4 billion in cash. That would make Lilly's Elanco unit the world's second-largest animal health business when that deal closes early next year.

High-fat diets linked to some types of breast cancer
By Genevra Pittman NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who eat a lot of fat, particularly saturated fat, may be at higher risk of certain types of breast cancer, new research suggests. Past studies have come to differing conclusions on a possible association between dietary fat and breast cancer. Still, it cannot prove that a high-fat diet is the reason any of the women got cancer. "In our study we confirm that saturated fat intake was positively associated with breast cancer risk," lead author Sabina Sieri, from the Fondazione IRCCS National Cancer Institute in Milan, Italy, told Reuters Health in an email.

FDA proposes program to speed approval of medical devices
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday proposed speeding up medical device approvals for patients who have no other treatment options through a new program focused on earlier and more frequent interactions between companies and FDA staff. The Expedited Access Premarket Approval Application program is a response to criticisms by policymakers, patient groups and industry that the FDA process for approving medical devices is inefficient and slow, delaying patients' access to new, helpful products. It is similar to a new FDA program intended to expedite development of certain cancer drugs in the clinical trial stage, Morningstar analyst Debbie Wang said. "This is yet another aspect of how FDA is trying to work in a more coordinated fashion so they can reduce the number of false starts and situations of reinventing the wheel, and to help put some priority on which therapies are going to affect the most patients with the greatest need," Wang said.

Shake-up in pharma world as Novartis, GSK announce mega-deals

The Novartis headquarters headquarters in Basel, pictured on January 28, 2009Drugmakers Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline announced an extreme makeover Tuesday, unveiling multi-billion-dollar deals also involving US group Eli Lilly in a major shakeup of the pharmaceutical sector. The string of takeovers and ventures by the three giant healthcare groups will see Novartis sharpen its focus on the high-grossing cancer sector, GSK boost its share in vaccines and Eli Lilly strengthen its animal health unit. In the biggest of the deals announced Thursday, Novartis said it plans to buy GSK's oncology (cancer treatment) business for $16 billion (11.5 billion euros) in cash, including $1.5 billion that would depend on future performance. The two groups further announced a joint venture to create "a world-leading consumer healthcare business," focused on wellness, oral health, nutrition and skin health and expected to book around $10 billion in annual sales.

Eye-Opener: Naps Linked with Higher Risk of Death
Middle-age and older adults who take daytime naps may be at increased risk of dying, a new study from England suggests. Longer naps were linked with a higher risk: people whose daily naps lasted an hour or more were 32 percent more likely to die over the study period. The findings held even after the researchers took into account many factors that could affect people's risk of death, such as their age, gender, body mass index (BMI), whether they smoked, how much they exercised, and whether they had certain pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes, cancer or asthma). In particular, naps were linked with an increased risk of dying from respiratory diseases.

Biden Promises Ukraine $50 Million to Fight Corruption

Biden Promises Ukraine $50 Million to Fight CorruptionVice President Joe Biden went to Kiev this week to offer a message of support ... and money. In his speech, Biden focused on Ukraine's internal politics. Conceding that "you face very daunting problems, and some might say, humiliating threats,” he added that "the opportunity to generate a united Ukraine, getting it right, is within your grasp." According to Biden, Ukraine must work to exorcise “the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now.”  Biden's speech comes ahead of Ukraine's approaching May 25 elections, which he said "may be the most important election in Ukrainian history." With this in mind, $11.4 million of the additional $50 million the U.S. is offering to Ukraine to promote political and economic stability in the country, will be set aside specifically for voter education and oversight and administration of the election itself.

U.S. backs Ukraine, warns Russia with Biden visit

U.S. Vice President Biden shakes hands with Ukraine's PM Yatseniuk during a meeting in KievBy Jeff Mason and Pavel Polityuk KIEV (Reuters) - In a show of U.S. support for Ukraine's embattled government, Vice President Joe Biden delivered an aid package on Tuesday and demanded Russia back off but also warned Kiev it must tackle the "cancer of corruption". Demanding Moscow "stop talking and start acting" to disarm pro-Russian separatists who Ukraine says aim to undermine the May 25 election, Biden told presidential candidates it may be "the most important election in Ukrainian history". Part of the $50-million aid package was earmarked to support the "integrity" of the vote. But after 23 years of post-Soviet independence from Moscow that have seen endemic graft sap the economy and public faith in the state, Biden told lawmakers: "To be very blunt ... you have to fight the cancer of corruption." Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who took office after the overthrow of Ukraine's Kremlin-backed president two months ago, told him that this would be a priority of the new administration.

Novartis sees GSK's cancer drugs as potential blockbusters
Novartis believes GlaxoSmithKline's cancer drugs Votrient, Tafinlar and Mekinist could have more than $1 billion in sales each, the head of the Swiss company's pharmaceutical unit said on Tuesday. "We believe Votrient, Tafinlar, Mekinist - assuming the (combination) trial is positive for overall survival - all three of these products could become blockbusters in our hands," David Epstein told an investor call. Novartis said on Tuesday it had agreed to buy GSK's cancer drugs for $14.5 billion plus another $1.5 billion that depends on the results of a trial in melanoma. GSK has won priority review from U.S. regulators for the dual use of Tafinlar, also known as dabrafenib, and Mekinist, or trametinib, as a treatment for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Biden offers Kiev U.S. help, condemns corruption

U.S. Vice President Biden shakes hands with Ukraine's PM Yatseniuk during a meeting in KievU.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Ukrainian presidential candidates and members of parliament on Tuesday that Washington was ready to help Ukraine's economy but warned them they must fight the "cancer" of endemic corruption. In Kiev to offer a symbolic show of U.S. support, Biden said the presidential election on May 25 would be an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a more unified and prosperous country. Biden's visit to Ukraine follows the signing in Geneva last Thursday of a four-way peace deal to de-escalate tension in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have seized towns and key facilities. The Kiev leadership says the rebellions in the east are inspired and directed by Russia, one of the signatories of the Geneva accord, which annexed Crimea in March.

Ahead of the Bell: Shares of drugmaker Lilly slip
Eli Lilly and Co. received a key regulatory approval for a new cancer treatment Monday evening, but the drugmaker's shares slipped in premarket trading Tuesday after Lilly also announced a $5.4 billion ...

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