Novartis heart failure medicine Entresto wins EU approval

ZURICH The European Commission has approved Novartis' Entresto drug for the treatment of adult patients with symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, the Swiss drugmaker said on Tuesday. Entresto is the first new drug in decades for helping patients whose lives are in danger because their hearts cannot pump blood efficiently. Analysts estimate it could have annual sales of some $5.4 billion by 2020. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Maria Sheahan) Read more

Roche buoyed by early data on atezolizumab in advanced melanoma

ZURICH Swiss drugmaker Roche released on Monday what it called encouraging early data on cancer drug atezolizumab in combination therapy for treating a form of advanced melanoma.A phase Ib study of atezolizumab (MPDL3280A), used in combination with the BRAF inhibitor Zelboraf for previously untreated BRAFV600 mutation-positive inoperable or metastatic melanoma, showed adverse events were "manageable and generally reversible", it said. It showed the combination resulted in an objective response rate of 76 percent of people, including three complete responders.Roche is banking on atezolizumab to bring in billions in revenue by 2020 as a centre-piece of its strategy to counter the threat of biosimilar versions of its older medicines with new drugs to fight cancer. "These early efficacy results encourage us to further evaluate combination strategies of atezolizumab and targeted therapies like Zelboraf in people living with advanced melanoma, a disease which is still associated with a poor prognosis," Roche head of global product development Sandra Horning said. Roche's immune-system boosting atezolizumab, which the company hopes will win approval for bladder and lung cancer in 2016, is one of its most anticipated prospects, along with its ocrelizumab medicine for multiple sclerosis and its ACE-910 investigational treatment for people with haemophilia.They are expected to rake in combined annual sales of $5 billion by 2020, according to Thomson Reuters Cortellis. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Potter) Read more

Chipotle E. coli outbreak reaches six states, shares tumble

LOS ANGELES More than 40 people have fallen ill with E. coli food poisoning after eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG.N) restaurants in six different states, federal health officials said on Friday, sending shares of the burrito chain to an 18-month low.The outbreak expanded with new Chipotle-linked E. coli cases reported in California, Ohio, New York and Minnesota, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.The CDC said 45 people got sick from the E. coli O26 outbreak strain, and of those, 43 reported eating at Chipotle. Sixteen people have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported. Chipotle's tagline is "Food with Integrity", and it has a reputation for serving healthy, fresh food. This outbreak, the company's third food safety lapse this year, has been a black mark for the popular chain that saw its shares tumble 12.3 percent to $536.19 on Friday. The outbreak also speaks to changing consumer tastes. U.S. diners are demanding more fresh, less processed foods. While such products are generally healthier, cooking and other types of processing can kill pathogens that make people sick.The source of the food contamination has not yet been found, but some investigators and experts suspect produce or another perishable item. High heat kills E. coli, and it is unlikely that all of the affected restaurants undercooked meat.COAST TO COAST The Chipotle outbreak was first identified in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, and the company closed all 43 of its restaurants in those markets on Oct. 31.Last week, Chipotle reopened those units after deep-cleaning the properties and replacing food. Chipotle, which also has hired food safety consultants, is testing food and changing food preparation procedures, and said it is taking similar actions at the other restaurants linked to the outbreak.The new reports of illness were tied to Chipotle restaurants in Turlock, California; Akron, Ohio; Amherst, New York; and Burnsville, Minnesota. Due to the timing of visits - in late October and on Nov. 6 - and the average time of illness onset, Chipotle does not believe it is necessary to close those restaurants, company spokesman Chris Arnold said. The number of cases could go higher as state and federal investigators check to see if other reported E. coli illnesses match the Chipotle strain.One Chicago customer, who ordered a chicken bowl with brown rice on Friday afternoon, was undeterred by the news."If it was closer to home, you might think about it more," said the customer, who declined to give his name.In a Seattle area Chipotle, Akberet Gedlu, 29, said she scanned the restaurant for signs of uncleanliness when she arrived, concerned about the expanding number of cases. But she picked up a chicken burrito with her young son. "I hesitated. I don't want to get sick. It was convenience. It's right there," she said. Analysts expect the outbreak to dent sales. Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who is representing nearly three dozen people affected by the outbreak in Oregon and Washington state, said the increase in reported cases raises the likelihood that the culprit will be identified."There has to be a common supplier with a common food item," Marler said.According to the CDC, most people infected with E. coli develop symptoms of illness about 3 to 4 days after contact with the germ.CDC currently is investigating a separate outbreak, unrelated to Chipotle, of Salmonella Poona infections linked to imported cucumbers. Four people have died as a result of that outbreak, which has made 838 people in 38 states sick. (Additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago and Eric Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler, Bernard Orr and Ken Wills) Read more

Brussels metro shut as Belgian capital put on maximum alert

BRUSSELS Belgium raised the alert status for its capital Brussels to the highest level on Saturday, shutting the metro and warning the public to avoid crowds because of a "serious and imminent" threat of an attack.A week after the Paris attacks carried out by Islamic State militants, of whom one suspect from Brussels is at large and said by authorities to be highly dangerous, the city was placed on the top level "four" in the government's threat scale after a meeting of top ministers, police and security services."The advice for the population is to avoid places where a lot of people come together like shopping centres, concerts, events or public transport stations wherever possible," a spokesman for the government's crisis centre said.He declined to say what specifically prompted the new alert.A statement on the centre's website said it had recommended closing the underground rail network until Sunday and the municipal transport authority tweeted that stations on the four main metro lines were closed "by order of the police". The crisis centre website said it was calling on local authorities to cancel large events, urge people to avoid crowds, postpone soccer matches, close the Brussels metro for the weekend and stepping up the military and police presence.Suspected militant Salah Abdeslam, 26, returned home to Brussels from Paris after the attacks, when his elder brother Brahim blew himself up at a cafe. Fears of the risk he still poses prompted the cancellation last week of an international friendly soccer match in Brussels against Spain. The crisis centre said weekend games in the top two professional divisions should now be postponed.The alert level for the whole country was raised following the Paris attacks to level three out of four, implying a "possible or probable" threat. Previously, only certain sites, such as the U.S. embassy, were at level three.Belgium, and its capital in particular, have been at the centre of investigations into the Paris attacks - which included suicide bombers targeting a France-Germany soccer match - after the links to Brussels emerged. Three people detained in Brussels are facing terrorism charges.French authorities have said the attacks were planned in Brussels by a local man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, who fought for Islamic State in Syria and was killed in the siege of an apartment in the Paris suburb of St. Denis on Wednesday. Salah Abdeslam, who was from the same neighbourhood and is said by officials to have known Abaaoud in prison, was pulled over three times by French police but not arrested as he was driven back to Brussels early last Saturday by two of the men now in custody. As well as Abdeslam's brother, a second man from Brussels, Bilal Hadfi, was also among the Paris suicide bombers.The crisis centre spokesman declined to say what had led to the status change because investigations were proceeding. "We cannot give more information... The work of federal prosecutors is still going on," he said, adding the government was assessing what extra security measures to take. Soldiers are already on guard in certain parts of Brussels, including at the institutions of the European Union headquartered in the city. Brussels is also home to the headquarters of NATO.The last time any part of the country was put on maximum alert was in May 2014 when a gunman shot dead four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. At that time, Jewish schools, synagogues and other institutions were put on level four. The capital as a whole was last at the level four for about a month at the end of 2007 and the start of 2008, when authorities intercepted a plot to free convicted Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi. Brussels' traditional New Year fireworks display was cancelled.Trabelsi was sentenced in Belgium in 2003 to 10 years for attempting to blow up a Belgian military base that houses U.S. soldiers. He was extradited to the United States in 2013.The government's four-level alert system has been in place since 2006. (Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Sandra Maler and Nick Macfie) Read more

Minneapolis NAACP chief calls for release of videos in fatal police shooting

MINNEAPOLIS The head of the Minneapolis NAACP on Thursday joined protesters in demanding that authorities release videos of an altercation earlier this week in which a police officer shot an unarmed black man to death.Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said there have been "so many false narratives spun by the Minneapolis Police Department as to what has happened.""Enough is enough," she told about 75 protesters and members of the media at a news conference outside the police precinct near where Jamar Clark, 24, was shot early Sunday.Clark is the latest in a series of unarmed black people to be killed at the hands of police in the United States in the past several years, fueling protests nationwide.Community activists have said Clark was unarmed and claim he was handcuffed when he was shot shortly during an altercation with two police officers. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety identified the officers involved but did not reveal their races. Both are on administrative leave during the investigation."We're demanding release of the tapes," Levy-Pounds said. "We're demanding reform of the police department and we are demanding justice for Jamar Clark right now."Authorities have said there was no video of the shooting from police dashboard or body cameras, but investigators are reviewing video from business and security cameras in the area. They also are checking witnesses' cell phones but said none of those videos captured the entire incident.Bob Kroll, president of the union representing Minneapolis police officers, said at a Thursday news conference that Clark had grabbed one of the officers' guns during the melee, although the weapon remained in its holster.Kroll has previously said that Clark was not handcuffed during the struggle."This event should have been a peaceful encounter. It was the actions and choices only of Mr. Clark alone that determined its outcome," he said. "The officers’ actions are going to prove to be justified." Frederic Bruno, an attorney representing one of the officers involved in the incident, said in a written statement that Clark had prior convictions for robbery and making criminal threats.PROTEST CAMP ERECTEDProtesters have set up a camp, including more than 12 tents and half a dozen campfires, in front of the police precinct building near the shooting site in north Minneapolis. A sign near the building reads "Justice4Jamar." About 200 demonstrators on Thursday were chanting, singing and holding signs near the building, while several officers, in their regular uniforms, watched from the front of the precinct. Tensions rose later in the evening, when several protesters spray painted on the side of the building and police fired rubber bullets at a small group.Drew Evans, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating Clark's death, has said Clark was unarmed and the BCA was still trying to determine whether he was handcuffed.According to the BCA, the police officers had responded to a request for assistance from paramedics who reported that someone was interfering as they tried to help an assault victim.The BCA said Clark, who died on Monday night at a hospital, was a suspect in the assault and had an altercation with the officers before one of them shot him. (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Writing by Ben Klayman and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Trott, Cynthia Osterman, Victoria Cavaliere) Read more

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