Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Twitter!

As you might have noticed, there have not been any updates for quite a while. I've been in one of those periods where time management has caused the blog to drop in priority. I have always enjoyed sharing pharmacy news stories on this blog, and I want to continue this.

I have been posting to Canada Pharmacy News in pretty much the same format since it started way back in 2003. But times have changed. I signed up for a Twitter account a while back, but wasn't sure how to incorporate it into the blog. But I think I've finally realized that Twitter needs to be the primary source of content and the blog becomes the supplement. The process of identifying an interesting article, posting a brief preview, and then providing a link to the story has been what I've been doing all of these years. Twitter provides an fast and easy to use method to do what I've been doing all along. Also, sending a link via Twitter is much quicker and less labour intensive than my old method on the blog. So making the change should be much more efficient from a time point of view.

So here's the new format: I will be posting all links to news stories via Twitter. The Canada Pharmacy News Twitter account is CanadaPharmNews. The link for the Twitter page is http://twitter.com/CanadaPharmNews. The Twitter feed will be featured on the blog on the right side of the page, so you can still come here to get the links as well.

I may still post things on the blog from time to time. I haven't decided if it will be an occasional comment on the latest pharmacy news, or a link to a story which I deem important enough to double post. We shall see how this evolves.

New links later today on Twitter!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Canada needs tougher drug patent protection: report

From the Globe and Mail:
Canada risks losing out on the next wave of lucrative pharmaceutical investment and jobs unless it matches tougher patent protection for drug makers in the U.S. and Europe, says a new report for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Canada has fallen behind many other leading advanced countries in patent protection, impairing the country’s investment climate, concludes the report by the Canadian Intellectual Property Council, an arm of the Chamber composed of drug makers, consumer product companies, technology companies and lawyers.

The report, being released Wednesday, urges Ottawa to give patented drug makers up to five years of “restored” patent life to offset regulatory delays, exclusive use of drug trial data for an extra two years plus new legal tools to fight patent challenges launched by generic manufacturers.

“The world has continued to move on. We haven’t,” Chamber president Perrin Beatty said in an interview.

Any move to strengthen patent protection would be extremely contentious because it would mean higher prices for many new drugs, raising costs for consumers, insurers and provincial health plans. And Canada’s generic drug industry, along with several provincial governments would likely fight them vigorously. ...more

Use of antidepressant to treat hot flashes raises concern

From the Montreal Gazette:
First came the fallout from hormones. Now alarms are being raised about a new treatment for menopause: mood-altering drugs.

With enthusiasm for hormones cooling, doctors are increasingly experimenting with antidepressants for hot flashes.

In the latest study published this week, researchers report that women given escitalopram, or Cipralex, a drug used for major depressive disorders, had fewer hot flashes after eight weeks of treatment.

Overall, 55 per cent of the women in the drug group versus 36 per cent taking a placebo reported a decrease of at least 50 per cent in "hot flash frequency," according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although the drug is only approved for anxiety and major depressive disorders, women who were not "clinically anxious or depressed" responded to the drug, the researchers said. Furthermore, "response was rapid, with significantly greater improvement among women taking escitalopram than placebo after one week of treatment." ...more

Rate of statin prescriptions not backed by solid proof: Study

From the Montreal Gazette:
There's no evidence to support the widespread prescribing of cholesterol-lowering pills for people at low risk of heart attacks and stroke, a new study concludes.

Millions of Canadians take the cholesterol-reducers known as statins. An estimated 30.3 million prescriptions for the drugs were filled in Canada last year, according to IMS Brogan, a prescription-drug tracking firm.

For people with a history of cardiovascular disease, statins have been shown to save lives.

"But people are now taking statins who don't have any previous evidence of heart attack or stroke," said co-author Dr. Shah Ebrahim, a professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England. ...more

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Truro pharmacist disciplined for second time

From CBC News:
The Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists has disciplined a Truro pharmacist for professional misconduct a second time.

In July, a professional investigation committee found Michael McKeigan lied to a patient and failed to transfer prescription information to another pharmacy when requested.

McKeigan was also found to have impersonated another pharmacist on the phone and misled the professional investigation committee.

This is the second time McKeigan has faced professional discipline.

In 2008, he was censured for defrauding a Walmart pharmacy where he worked. ...more

Avoid brand-name painkiller, pharmacists told

From CBC News:
Specialists with Nova Scotia's Prescription Monitoring Program are telling pharmacists to use a generic painkiller that is more difficult to abuse than its name brand version.

Dr. Peter MacDougall, an anesthetist and pain management specialist for the Nova Scotia Prescription Monitoring Program, says Dilaudid — the brand-name form of hydromorphone — can trigger a powerful high when it's injected with a needle.

"Dilaudid is a much easier drug to make injectable," he said. "It's easier to crush and to dissolve in a liquid, usually water. The hard-core addicts can then inject that." ...more

Sale of Katz Group 'might be approaching': analyst

From the Edmonton Journal:
Amid the shakeout in drug regulation across Canada, a CIBC World Markets analyst is theorizing that Edmonton-based drugstore chain Katz Group Canada Ltd. may be for sale and that Jean Coutu Group Inc. would be a logical buyer.

"We have speculated for quite some time that Katz Group could be for sale, and would not be surprised if U.S.-based players, both wholesale and retail, are already kicking the tires," analyst Perry Caicco writes in a research note on Jean Coutu published Jan. 9.

"With reduced profitability and remaining uncertainty about drug reforms in certain provinces, most notably Alberta, the time for a Katz Group deal might be approaching."

Jean Coutu and the Katz Group declined to comment Tuesday.

Katz is one of Canada's largest privately held companies, with more than 1,800 drugstore outlets across the country under the banners Rexall, PharmaPlus, Guardian and IDA. It is controlled by Edmonton businessman Daryl Katz and his family. Katz also owns the Edmonton Oilers. ...more

Don't exceed top dose of acetaminophen when taking painkillers: Health Canada

From the Winnipeg Free Press:
As the United States announced Thursday that it would cap the amount of acetaminophen allowed in prescription painkillers, Health Canada issued a statement saying that it continues to review current and emerging safety evidence.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the limit would be 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per capsule in painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet.

The FDA cited the risk of liver injury, which mainly occurs when patients take multiple products containing acetaminophen at one time and exceed the current maximum dose of 4,000 milligrams within a 24-hour period.

"Health Canada continues to review emerging and available safety evidence, including that used by the FDA to reach its decision and will determine if any new action may be needed to protect health and safety," the agency said in its statement Thursday. ...more

Researchers warn of dangerous drug reactions

From the Vancouver Sun:
Tens of thousands of Canadians are being exposed to a potentially dangerous drug mix involving two of the most widely prescribed drugs in Canada — a drug interaction that can cause plummeting blood pressure, or shock, researchers are warning.

Combining calcium-channel blockers — drugs used to treat high blood pressure and angina — with two commonly used antibiotics can increase the risk of abnormally low blood pressure up to six fold, according to a study published Monday in Canada's top medical journal.

The antibiotics — erythromycin and clarithromycin — belong to the drug class known as macrolide antibiotics, the most widely used antibiotics on the market. An estimated 2.9 million prescriptions for erythromycin and clarithromycin were filled by Canadian retail drug stores in 2009, according prescription drug-tracking firm IMS Brogan.

Calcium-channel blockers, meanwhile, are among the top selling drugs in Canada. Nearly 16 million prescriptions for the drugs were dispensed in 2009. They are the ninth most commonly prescribed drug class in the U.S., with almost 90 million prescriptions filled in 2008. ...more

Heart drug Multaq to be monitored in Canada

From CBC News:
The heart drug Multaq continues to be approved for use in Canada, but Health Canada says reports of its connection to liver damage will be reviewed.

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration added new warnings to the label of the Sanofi-Aventis drug after several reports that patients suffered liver damage.

Multaq was approved in July 2009 to treat atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation — irregular heart rhythms that can reduce blood flow and lead to stroke.

Liver toxicity is among the most common drug-related side-effects in a number of medication classes.

Health Canada says that in Canada the drug is not to be used by patients with severe liver problems. It says that should new safety information be identified, it will take appropriate action — including keeping health-care professionals and other Canadians informed.

Up to Oct. 31, Health Canada received 40 adverse reaction reports representing 37 cases (three of the reports were duplicates) with the suspect product being Multaq. It says none of these reports were related to liver damage. ...more

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Some cancer patients trying vitamin-C treatment

From the Vancouver Sun:
When Sandra Quattrin was diagnosed with breast cancer nine months ago, she choose to treat it with vitamin-C infusions against the advice of her doctor, who prescribed chemotherapy.

The 44-year-old is one of several cancer patients receiving vitamin C intravenously at the Canadian Clinic for Integrative Medicine in Ontario, run by naturopathic doctor Denis Marier and partnered with a local hospice in Windsor.

The therapy is based on research that suggests vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, can be toxic to cancer cells when administered in high doses. First introduced about 30 years ago, the idea that vitamin C can successfully treat cancer is either dismissed outright or hotly debated among oncologists and scientists.

When Marier opened his clinic two years ago, "There was a lot of push back" from oncologists at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre, he said.

"But they're starting to come around. I'm not here to say I've got a different way and my way is better. ...more

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm a believer: drug-supply startup proves its mettle

From the Edmonton Journal:
Chalk up another one for Sine Chadi.

When I first interviewed the CEO and majority shareholder of Edmonton-based Imperial Equities in 2007, he had big dreams for a tiny drug-distribution firm his company had just acquired.

I listened politely to Chadi's upbeat talk, but in truth, I didn't take it too seriously. After all, entrepreneurs are born dreamers and most of their schemes go nowhere.

Besides, I figured, what could a smallish local real estate operator with a market cap of just $30 million and a clutch of second-tier industrial and commercial properties know about delivering drugs to pharmacies?

That's strictly a game for the big guys, I reasoned -- namely corporate giants like McKesson Corp., whose annual revenues ($100 billion-plus US) dwarf the very largest companies in Canada, let alone a minnow like Imperial.

Well, it turns out I was wrong to dismiss Chadi's effusive outpourings. When I checked in with him a year ago, his drug-delivery service had grown to nearly $13 million in annual sales, up from just $1.2 million in 2006. ...more

Pfizer, Health Canada pull Thelin from shelves

From the Globe and Mail:
Health Canada and drug giant Pfizer formally announced Monday the company is taking a drug used to treat a rare, but serious, lung disease off the market due to risks of potentially fatal liver damage.

Pfizer Canada also said the company is abandoning all clinical trials of sitaxsentan sodium, better known by the brand name Thelin, and removing the drug from every country where it is sold.

The decision is raising questions about why the drug, used to treat pulmonary hypertension, was approved in Canada in the first place.

Parent company Pfizer Inc. announced more than a week ago its intentions to pull the drug off the market in Canada, Australia and Europe, as well as halt clinical trials. The decision was prompted by the deaths of three patients involved in clinical trials of the drug.

The company was conducting the trials in a bid to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the drug in that country. ...more

Certain heart burn medications linked to increased risk of pneumonia

From the Montreal Gazette:
People on two types of widely prescribed heartburn medications may have a higher-than-average risk of developing pneumonia, a new research review finds.

The drugs in question belong to two classes frequently used to treat heartburn or stomach ulcers: proton pump inhibitors, which include drugs like Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec; and H2-receptor blockers, such as Pepcid and Zantac.

In the U.S. alone, people spent $27 billion on these medications in 2005.

Some studies have found a connection between the heartburn drugs and a heightened risk of pneumonia. One theory is that by curbing stomach acid, the medications allow ingested bacteria that would otherwise be killed to instead survive and thrive -- and potentially get into the lungs. ...more

Windsor pharmacies running out of commonly-used drugs

From the Windsor Star:

Some commonly used drugs, including antibiotics and sedatives, "can't be found anywhere" in Windsor due to a national prescription drug shortage, a local pharmacist says.

The shortage, highlighted in a national survey, is creating problems across the region, says Peter Dumo, owner of Novacare Pharmacy in Windsor.

"There are some drugs that you can't get anywhere right now," Dumo said, listing among them Triazolan, a sedative, and Cephalexin, typically used to treat skin infections.

Dumo said he's experienced drug shortages before, but "I've never seen anything like this in Ontario."...more

Monday, December 20, 2010


Updates resume Tuesday - sorry for the delay. I will end a message on Twitter when the site is updated. To sign up for our Twitter account, go to:


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Critics decry change in drug-approval process

From the Globe and Mail:
British Columbia’s widely applauded independent drug-approval process is being dramatically altered to make room for more input by pharmaceutical companies, a change decried by critics as potentially harmful to consumers, a conflict of interest and likely to increase spending on drugs.

An internal health ministry document says there will now be four separate opportunities for drug marketers to make their case while new products are being considered for coverage by B.C.’s PharmaCare plan.

At the same time, the government’s long-standing drug review body with an arms-length distance from the industry is being abolished. The Therapeutics Initiative’s cautious approach to drug approvals has been credited with saving lives and helping B.C. maintain the lowest per capita spending on prescription drugs in the country.

Michael McBane of the Canada Health Coalition said no other provincial drug plan allows as much industry involvement as B.C. is proposing. ...more

Cautionary note sounded on HIV-protection drug

From the Globe and Mail:
AIDS-prevention advocates are hailing a pill newly shown to protect against HIV as a great tool for disease prevention. But they caution that no drug alone can address social factors blamed for the persistence of the epidemic. And they say concerns remain about who will pay for the costly treatment.

A study released on Tuesday showed that daily doses of a drug called Truvada, already used to treat HIV infection, cut the risk of new infections among healthy gay men.

The overall study, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, involved about 2,500 men at high risk of HIV infection in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and the United States.

Susan Buchbinder, director of the San Francisco health department’s HIV-research section, called the findings on the drug a “tremendous step forward.” But she took pains to point out that among the several HIV-prevention studies she has overseen, this latest had especially strict requirements for making sure participants stayed on track. ..more