Cynicism Winning Debate Over Sanofi's Lantus and Cancer

Last Updated Jul 7, 2009 10:41 AM EDT

In the flap over whether Sanofi-Aventis' Lantus diabetes drug has an association with cancer, cynicism seems to be winning. Sanofi's stock (see graph) seems not to have recovered from reports that Lantus was linked to cancer, even though Sanofi obtained an approval for a new heart drug, Multaq. Meanwhile, Sanofi's rivals are happily spraying the fire with extra gasoline. The cancer link is, thus far, a weak one. Reuters:
The largest German study found a difference of roughly one extra cancer diagnosed for every 100 people taking Lantus compared with those on human insulin.
But, just like the stock, new prescriptions are down:
... total U.S. prescription volume for Lantus, Sanofi-Aventis SA's (SNY) diabetes drug, inched up 2% last week versus the week before, but new prescriptions were down 3.8%, according to a drug-data provider.
Despite the fact that the studies on Lantus and cancer are confusing at best, Novo Nordisk rushed out a press release with the word "cancer" in the first sentence. It added:
To avoid unnecessary speculation about whether Novo Nordisk insulin analogues may be associated with an increased risk of cancer, the company wishes to highlight the following ...
Yes, Novo, thank you for avoiding unnecessary speculation about Lantus and cancer with your press release highlighting the unneccessary speculation over Lantus and cancer.

That pile-on came as Amylin and Eli Lilly alerted the media that there was nothing improper about a doc on their payroll hyping the study on a conference call.

Over on CafePharma, reps from Sanofi and Novo are in a heated war with each other. The Novo folk seem happy that the news cycle has given them a break; while the Sanofites are grateful that the headlines were eclipsed by Michael Jackson's death:
I have been calling on about 15 providers/day getting this information out and not one of them is concerned. PS. People who have a high school education will not be reading the wall street journal tomorrow. They will be tuning in to Michael Jacksons funeral. We have NOTHING to worry about!
  • See BNET's previous coverage of Sanofi:
  • Source: Sanofi to Ax 60 Jobs at Great Valley, Pa., Site
  • UPDATED: Sanofi's Lantus Cancer Scare Triggered by Doc Backed by Amylin and Lilly
  • Sanofi: 1,300 Jobs Lost; U.S. Staff Largely Unscathed
  • Sanofi's Lantus Cancer Scare Shows How Enormous Power Lies With Few Experts
  • Sanofi Eats Merck's Vaccine Business for Lunch; Hopes Pinned on "Gardasil for Boys"
  • Sanofi "Restructuring" Looks Increasingly Like Layoffs
  • Sanofi "Restructuring" Scheduled; Multaq Launch Not; Staff Worry About Layoffs
  • Sanofi Q4: No Nasty Surprises, But Viehbacher Is Focused on Sales Productivity Ratios
  • Sanofi CEO Viehbacher Wants More Cuts; Drug Reps' Necks on the Block
  • The Sanofi-Bristol-Myers Squibb Worst-Case Scenario
  • Should Sanofi-Aventis Buy Bristol Myers-Squibb?
  • Several Hundred Sanofi Reps Get the Ax

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