Do France and Germany really want to build world-class companies? Last week Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder swore they did, pledging to team up to develop "the industrial champions that Europe needs," in the words of the French President. A top-level delegation of French ministers will head to Berlin in late May to trade ideas with their German counterparts. But watch what they do, not what they say: officials on both sides say the move is largely an attempt to patch up bad feelings in Germany over recent French market interventions.
Berlin was openly critical of France 's active support for Sanofi-Synthélabo's takeover of Franco-German drug firm Aventis. And as it seeks to bail out ailing engineering company Alstom , France so far is blocking Germany 's Siemens from acquiring divisions
U.K. Becomes A Statin Island
I n the fight against heart disease, drugmakers last week hailed a British government decision to green-light over-the-counter-sales of the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, the first such approval in the world. Starting in July, Zocor made by U.S. pharmaceutical firm Merck, but marketed in Britain by Johnson & Johnson will be available without prescription. A health boon? Perhaps, but with statins the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.K. draining $1.2 billion from the National Health Service each year the measure appears "motivated more by cost than clinical reasons," says Daniel Reynolds, spokesman at the King's Fund, a British health foundation. Still, for companies in the $26 billion global statin market, there's no looking back. By year's end, Johnson & Johnson and Merck say, they'll appeal to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow over-the-counter statins in the U.S. Can the Continent be far behind?
U.S. biotech firm Monsanto shelved plans to introduce the world's first genetically modified wheat, after U.S. farmers claimed there was no market for the crop abroad. Meanwhile, the E.U. said it would approve the sale of GM corn in the region this week.
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