Thursday, December 28, 2006

Druggist motivated by greed: Crown

Final statements were made by the lawyers in the Norvascgate trial today. The trial is slated to continue on January 22. I suspect we are getting close to a verdict.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
The Crown says a Hamilton pharmacist was driven by pure greed when he sold bogus heart medication to unsuspecting patients suffering from serious medical conditions.

In her closing submission, assistant Crown attorney Cheryl Gzik also suggested Abadir Nasr, 29, was willing to jeopardize the welfare of clients for the sake of money. ...more

Popular heartburn drugs linked to hip fractures in people over 50

From the Canadian Press:
Taking such popular heartburn drugs as Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec for a year or more can raise the risk of a broken hip markedly in people over 50, a large study in Britain found.

The study raises questions about the safety of some of the most widely used and heavily promoted prescription drugs on the market, taken by millions of people.

The researchers speculated that when the drugs reduce acid in the stomach, they also make it more difficult for the body to absorb bone-building calcium. That can lead to weaker bones and fractures. ...more

Friday, December 22, 2006

Pharmacist fights back, thieves flee

This pharmacist was willing to put his life on the line when he fought off some robbers. I'm not sure what was in the safe, but it seems like a risky move to challenge a couple of armed bandits.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
Two drug hunting robbers fled a Mountain drugstore empty-handed after a feisty pharmacist fought back.

Police said the men entered Henderson Pharmacy on Concession Street around 5:10 p.m. Wednesday wearing disguises and demanded the pharmacist open the safe. ...more

Health Canada Endorsed Important Safety Information on Xigris [drotrecogin alfa (activated)]

From Health Canada:
Association of increased mortality and risk of serious adverse events when prophylactic low-dose heparin is abruptly discontinued in patients to be started on Xigris® [drotrecogin alfa (activated)] therapy for severe sepsis. ...more

Powerful U.S. Democrat puts drug imports at top of January's agenda

Could Canadian internet pharmacy make a comeback with changes to American laws? I suppose it's possible, but I still don't think we'll see a revival of the heyday for the online drug firms. However, the issue will be alive in the American political system in 2007.

From 680 News Toronto:
A top U.S. Democrat says his first order of business in January will be a new push to legalize prescription drug imports from Canada.

Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the House Democratic caucus chairman and a key architect of the party's election sweep of Congress, said this week his top priority is introducing another bill allowing Americans to buy cheaper Canadian medicines. ...more

Monday, December 18, 2006

Common chemo regimen inferior, Canadian-led study suggests

From CBC News:
Many Canadian women with breast cancer are already getting the best chemotherapy treatment available, according to an international study that compared three different drug combinations.

AC/T, a chemotherapy regimen commonly used in breast cancer patients, is significantly less successful at preventing cancer from recurring than another Canadian-developed combination, the study suggests. ...more

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Drugstores still dealing with birth control pill shortage

Are Triphasil and Alesse available in your pharmacy? Leave a message in the comments section.

From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
Popular birth control pills Alesse and Triphasil are in short supply again.

Pharmacists at several Halifax drug dispensaries confirmed Friday that they are experiencing difficulties obtaining the oral contraceptives.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the American firm that manufactures the pills, said last month that it had been experiencing problems at its production plants since the summer. ...more

Makers of controversial MS drug seek its use for Crohn's disease

From the Canadian Press:
The makers of a multiple sclerosis drug that U.S. regulators recently allowed back on the market despite a rare but life-threatening side effect are seeking approval to also market the drug for Crohn's disease.

Biogen Idec Inc. and Elan Corp. PLC said on Friday they applied to the Food and Drug Administration to expand Tysabri's use in the U.S. to cover moderate to severe cases of Crohn's disease, an intestinal disorder, along with its existing approval for MS, a disease of the central nervous system. ...more

Friday, December 15, 2006

Add antidepressant warning labels for young adults: U.S. panel

From CBC News:
Antidepressant drugs should be labelled to warn that their use may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in people up to age 24, a U.S. government advisory panel said Wednesday.

The information should be added to current "black box" warnings that say taking the drugs may increase risks in children and teens, said the panel of outside experts, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called on for advice on the issue. ...more

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Health Canada Endorsed Important Safety Information on Iressa (gefitinib)

From Health Canada:
Lack of Survival Benefit and Increased Incidence of Tumour Haemorrhage in Association with IRESSA® in Patients with Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck (SCCHN ...more

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Drug-name confusion can be deadly

Similar drug names leading to confusion is a long standing pet peeve of mine. Unfortunately, another bad example recently hit the Canadian market. Trosec (trospium chloride) is a newly approved antispasmodic medication. It sounds eerily similar to the hugely popular Losec (omeprazole), which is a proton pump inhibitor. Both products are typically dosed at 20mg once daily. Why didn't the pharmaceutical manufacturer call this product Sanctura, which is the brand name used in the United States?

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
As Bill Emrich left a Red Deer, Alta., hospital in 2004, emergency room staff thought they had given him a dose of morphine to deaden the pain of a riding accident.

In fact, a nurse had mistakenly administered hydromorphone, a similarly named narcotic that is seven times more potent. Less than an hour later, the 69-year-old was back in emergency, this time with doctors furiously trying to revive his stalled heart. "All resuscitation attempts failed," a report on the case said later, "and the patient expired." It was a dramatic example of a problem that has become almost routine in health care: the mixing up of drug names that sound or look alike, sometimes with deadly results. ...more

Health spending continues to rise

From the Globe and Mail:
Drugs cost more than the doctors who dish them out in Canada.

According to figures released Tuesday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) in its annual report on health care, health care spending in Canada is expected to reach $148-billion in 2006, an increase of $8-billion over last year but lower than the average increases of the last six years.

Medication is expected to be the second largest expense in Canadian health this year — second only to the cost of running hospitals. ...more

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pharmacists get power to prescribe

This article is from a week or so ago and doesn't exactly cover any new ground, but I thought it is a decent summary of the Alberta pharmacist prescribing situation.

From the (University of Alberta) Gateway:
As of 1 April, 2007, pharmacists in Edmonton will be able to prescribe drugs and administer injections, under the recently sanctioned Health Professions Act (HPA) and the Pharmacy and Drug Act (PDA), approved by the provincial Cabinet on 8 November 2006.

While some believe this will make pharmacists more effective, some members of Alberta’s medical profession are skeptical—with one concern stemming from the conflict of interest inherent in the possibility of pharmacists prescribing drugs for financial gain. ...more

Birth control now comes in spearmint

This sounds like an interesting idea, but it has not yet been approved by the Canadian government yet. It's unfortunate that a Canadian news website didn't add that important bit of info.

Looking for a contraceptive that's convenient -- and tasty? The first chewable birth-control method, a tiny, spearmint-flavoured tablet that also can be swallowed without chewing, has hit U.S. pharmacy shelves. ...more

Sunday, December 10, 2006

‘Canadians should sleep better tonight’

Thelink for the complete pandemic guidelines are here.

From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
The federal government released the latest version of Canada’s national pandemic influenza plan Saturday, the first official update of the plan in nearly two years.

It revises the document to reflect the real strides Canadian pandemic planning has made, suggested Federal Health Minister Tony Clement, who tabled the plan at a federal, provincial and territorial health ministers’s meeting in Moncton, N.B. ...more

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pfizer wins Canadian ruling on Lipitor

It looks like Pfizer has blocked an attempt by Novopharm to sell a generic Lipitor. There is one mistake in this article -- Novopharm is not "closely held" as stated but in fact is owned by Israel-based Teva, which is a publicly traded company.

From Crain's New York Business:
Pfizer Inc. said Friday that a Canadian federal court has blocked Novopharm Ltd. from launching a generic version of its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor until the patent expires.

The ruling, by the Canadian Federal Court in Toronto, prevents closely held Novopharm from selling a generic form of Lipitor until its Canadian patent ends in July 2010. The ruling is subject to appeal, said Pfizer, which sued to block Toronto-based Novopharm from moving forward with its generic plans. ...more

Friday, December 08, 2006

Internet drug firms' merger now permanent

Here's the official verification regarding the closing of Minnedosa's best known business. I don't really know how this is considered a merger. It sounds more like a takeover.

From the Winnipeg Sun:
Winnipeg-based Canada Drugs is absorbing the operations and patient files of rival Internet pharmacy, a company spokesman said yesterday.

The Manitoba companies explored the possibility of merging during a recent test run that saw Canada Drugs take over RxNorth's distribution of prescription drugs.

"After the last couple of months it looks like this is going to work so the parties have decided ... to have RxNorth continue to operate but as part of the group of companies," Canada Drugs spokesman and lawyer Troy Harwood-Jones said. ...more

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Health Canada advises consumers of the lack of a child-resistant cap on certain Robaxacet Caplets bottles

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is advising consumers that certain bottles of Robaxacet Caplets 40s do not have a child-resistant cap, despite the outer package indicating the bottle has a ‘child-lok' cap. This poses a risk that children could accidentally ingest the product. ...more

Xylocaine (lidocaine HCI) - Advisories, Warnings & Recalls (for hospitals)

From Health Canada:
On September 22, 2006 AstraZeneca recalled Xylocaine® (lidocaine HCl) Jelly 2% Single Use Plastic Syringe (10 mL) because of an issue related to the break seal construction of this syringe product and how it was being opened. ...more

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Drug-ad ban past expiry date

The linked article below is an opinion piece that argues in favour of changing the current advertising rules in Canada regarding prescription drugs. For those of you not familiar with these rules, it can be effectively summed up as following: A drug manufacturer can mention the name of their product in an ad, but can't mention its indicated use. Alternatively, they can place an ad promoting awareness of a medical condition as long as no drug product is mentioned.

These rules have forced advertisers to come up with commericals that bear little resemblance to those shown on American television. A prime example of mentioning a drug name but not the condition would be this Viagra commercial:

This ad works because everyone knows what Viagra is used for. Pfizer and their ad agency came up with a different approach when they wanted to promote Lipitor in Canada. In this case, they created the Making the Connection cholesterol awareness promotion. They were able to connect with their target audience with events like the Canadian Football League's Greatest QB/Receiver Connection while making no mention of a product.

While I admire the ingenuity of these ads, I think it's time to revisit the rules. The ads that mention the name only take advantage of the rules by not having to mention anything about the product, either good or bad. As a result, selling brand attitude without regard to any risks occurs. The worst example of this for me were the Alesse birth control pill ads. They simply sold a brand name in spots that resembled music videos with cool music and appealing actresses having fun then simply saying, "I'm on Alesse" with a big smile. There is no mention of what Alesse is, but the commercial ends showing a package of what is unmistakably birth control pills. The spots were clearly created with teenage girls in mind. There has to be a more upfront yet responsible way to allow drug companies to promote their products than this.

From the National Post:
Warning: Defective government policies can cause high blood pressure, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and loss of both freedom and income. Nowhere is this more true than in Canadian socialized health care, and nowhere more bizarre than in regulations on prescription-drug advertising.

Let me explain. ...more

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

U.S. stores change privacy rules after patient info found in trash

I found this pretty interesting. From what I've seen, most pharmacies have come a long way when it comes to proper disposal of patient information. I remember walking through a pharmacy parking lot perhaps 7 or 8 years ago and found extra patient labels that had blown out of the overfilled dumpster. I'm sure there are a few stores out there that still put this type of info in the regular garbage, but I think it's a lot less common now.

From CBC News:
The largest drugstore chains in the United States say they are working to better protect patient privacy after an investigative TV report checked city trash bins and found information on hundreds of store customers.

Indianapolis TV station WTHR inspected nearly 300 trash bins and found nearly 2,400 patient records, including pill bottles, customer refill lists and prescription labels. ...more

Pfizer stops Canadian trials

This is the first article I've seen mentioning a Canadian connection to torcetrapib. It shouldn't be a surprise that trials were being done here. There are many studies going on that are North America wide and essentially disregard the border.

From the Globe and Mail:
Canadian patients who were trying Pfizer Inc.'s new cholesterol treatment, torcetrapib, are being asked to stop immediately, the drug maker's Canadian arm told the Globe and Mail Monday.

The news comes after Pfizer said Saturday it had halted development of its key new cholesterol treatment. An independent board monitoring a study for torcetrapib recommended that the work end because of an unexpected number of deaths. ...more

Internet pharmacy to pull out of Minnedosa?

Minnedosa was once the poster child for international pharmacy in Canada, and now it's closing up shop. Now it's a symbol of how the business has fallen on tough times.

From the Winnipeg Sun:
A Minnedosa Internet pharmacy that helped shape a multi-million dollar industry appears to be on the verge of shuttering its call centre in the western Manitoba town.

A source said RxNorth is closing the centre this month, a move that would essentially put a halt to the mail-order pharmacy's operations in Minnedosa. ...more

Thursday, November 30, 2006

New information regarding Tamiflu

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is informing Canadians of international reports of hallucinations and abnormal behaviour, including self harm, in patients taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu. These reports include children and teenagers, primarily from Japan. While the connection with the drug in these cases has not yet been proven, high fever or other complications of influenza can affect mental state, which in turn can lead to abnormal behaviour. Health Canada has not received any such reports in Canada and is continuing to actively monitor adverse events reported for Tamiflu. ...more

Eastern Health package could hurt other regions: pharmacists

From CBC News:
One health board's attempts to ease a shortage in pharmacists could wind up creating new problems in Newfoundland and Labrador's health care system, according to the group that bargains on behalf of pharmacists.

The Eastern Health regional authority announced Friday it would pay an extra $12,000 to pharmacists who in return agree to not leave their jobs. ...more

Congress expected to renew push for drug imports

From the Boston Globe:
Efforts to allow Americans access to cheaper prescription drugs from abroad should blossom once Democrats assume control in Congress, but the issue won't be a top priority, lawmakers and healthcare experts said.

Members of the House and Senate are readying for for a renewed push to permit broader imports of prescription drugs from Canada and elsewhere, where certain medicines can cost less than two-thirds what they do in the United States. Their hope is the imports will drive down prices at home. ...more

Hospital nurses doing pharmacists' work: union

From CBC News:
The Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union says its members at an eastern Newfoundland hospital are being asked to do after-hours work that ought to be done by pharmacists.

Nurses at the hospital in Clarenville are left a supply of drugs in a secure cabinet on weekends, when no pharmacist is on duty. ...more

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Health Canada advises Canadians of health risks involved with using benzocaine

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is advising Canadians who will be undergoing surgical, dental and other medical procedures about a link between the local anesthetic benzocaine and a potentially serious blood condition known as methemoglobinemia (MHb).
For the Public
For Hospitals

New safety information about Evra (norelgestromin and ethinyl estradiol) Transdermal System

From Health Canada:
Following discussions with Health Canada, Janssen-Ortho Inc. would like to update you on important new safety information pertaining to EVRA*. The EVRA* transdermal system marketed in Canada contains 6.0 mg norelgestromin (NGMN) and 0.60 mg ethinyl estradiol (EE) and is indicated for contraception.
For Health Professionals
For the Public

Friday, November 24, 2006

Groups ask Ottawa to ban drug exports before U.S. Congress legalizes trade

With the American election over and the possibility of legislative changes in the U.S., I suppose it was simply a matter of time for these groups to announce they sent another letter to the government. There isn't anything here we haven't heard many times before. It sounds scary, but isn't very specific.

From CBC News:
A coalition of pharmacists and patient advocates wants the federal government to ban prescription drug exports to the United States in a bid to get ahead of any renewed efforts by the new U.S. Congress to legalize the trade.

In a letter to Health Minister Tony Clement, the group says the issue is urgent because some senior U.S. Democrats have said legalizing imports from Canada will be a priority when the next congressional session begins in February. ...more

Industry approves proposed legislation

I don't know all of the details of this legislation, but it does sound concerning that Manitoba pharmacists have given up the power of voting on pharmacy practice issues and have left it up to the executive only. Hopefully the pharmacists that voted for this weren't blinded by the negative effect that this legislation will have on internet pharmacy. No matter how badly some pharmacists want the online businesses gone, is the price worth it?

From the Winnipeg Free Press:
About 400 Manitoba pharmacists attended a special meeting of the industry association on Wednesday night for last-minute discussions on proposed legislation that will change the practice of pharmacy in the province.

After more than an hour of debate and procedural wrangling, pharmacists voted 221 to 151 in favour of the bill, effectively ending a debate that has been going on for more than four years. ...more

N.B. to monitor sales of prescription drugs

From CBC News:
The government of New Brunswick has announced it will set up a system to track prescription drugs in the province after a new study showed prescription-drug abuse to be a bigger problem than the use of heroin.

The study, published in Tuesday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed that heroin in 2005 wasn't even a factor among injection drug abusers in Fredericton, and it was barely noticeable in Edmonton and Quebec City. ...more

MD, pharmacist win national award

From the Hamilton Spectator:
Protecting yourself from medication errors is as simple as carrying around a list of the drugs you take.

It sounds like common sense, but is so rarely done that a Hamilton doctor and pharmacist have won a national award for making it easy for patients to do. Dr. Richard Tytus and pharmacist Iris Kravchenko teamed up to provide patients with a one-page summary of their medical record and prescribed drugs. ...more

Dr. Tytus' website is

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Creation of drug program imperative: Romanow

From the Globe and Mail:
The federal government must create a national catastrophic drug program to ensure that cancer patients don't have to worry about financial ruin while fighting for their health, says Roy Romanow, who headed a royal commission that called for such a plan years ago.

The strong warning follows a Globe and Mail story that showed how cancer patients in Atlantic Canada are taking out loans, racking up credit-card debt and rationing pills in an effort to afford crucial, costly prescriptions. ...more

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prescription opioids replace heroin as drug of choice on street: study

Finally there is some data that backs up what many of us have suspected. The growth in prescription drug abuse shouldn't be a surprise. I see two reasons for this: access and price.

If you live in Vancouver, heroin is probably a lot easier to find and with that higher level of supply brings a relatively lower price. I would suspect that an addict in smaller centres such as Saint John or Edmonton (for example) would have trouble getting heroin as easily or cheaply than prescription narcotics. Heroin needs to be shipped in from around the world and goes through a long and twisted supply chain. Meanwhile, there are pharmacies that dispense narcotics (which can be diverted to the street) in even the smallest towns and cities.

While this is concerning, I will mention that I feel for those in legitimate pain and need opoids for chronic pain relief. Many of these individuals are already viewed with a level of suspicion unseen in other medical conditions. Reports like this will not make it easier for these patients to convince everyone that they aren't addicts or traffickers.

From CBC News:
Heroin is no longer the drug of choice among many substance abusers in Canada, with prescription narcotics such as morphine and OxyContin now taking its place, says a study of street users in seven cities across the country.

Researchers found that heroin remains the No. 1 illicit drug only in Vancouver and Montreal. In the five other cities - Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec City, Fredericton and Saint John, N.B. - more often than not, getting high means grinding up and injecting prescription opioids. ...more

Fake drugs bought from 'walk-in'

The Norvascgate trial is adjourned until December 22 when closing arguments will be made. The defense will not call any witnesses.

Based on what has been published, I think the pharmacist is going to be found guilty of some charge. Even if you buy his story, he recklessly put the public in danger when he purchased these fake pharmaceuticals from a random guy who walked in the pharmacy and dispensed them to patients as medicine. That is not acceptable at any level.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
The defence will call no evidence at the trial of Abadir Nasr, the Hamilton pharmacist accused of selling fake and unauthorized heart drugs to the public.

Lawyer Dean Paquette told Ontario Court Justice Richard Jennis the defence will rely upon the evidence provided by the Crown, including approximately 45 witnesses and 200 exhibits. ...more

The killing cost of drug treatment

From the Globe and Mail:
Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July of 2004, Rhonda Morey knows she will likely not live long enough to see her girls grow up. So she has made them keepsakes: hand-stitched blankets for when they turn 13 -- they are 6 and 4 now -- and embroidered handkerchiefs for their wedding days.

There is something else Ms. Morey may leave behind, something she dreads -- as much as $4,000 of the $10,000 she put on her credit card to pay for cancer treatment. ...more

Officials warn of flu vaccine shortage

From the Globe and Mail:
There's a limited supply of flu vaccine for the healthy B.C. residents who are required to buy it if they want to get a shot.

An increased demand for doses for the public health system, coupled with production problems, meant manufacturers, British-based Glaxo Smith Kline Inc., and France's Sanofi Pasteur, diverted their vaccine supply to fulfill the public health sector's needs, said Patricia Daly of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. ...more

Doctors mull adult drugs for obese kids

From the Toronto Star:
Doctors are warning that obese children may have to start taking adult cholesterol-lowering drugs amid evidence that 5-year-olds are developing heart disease.

Canadian researchers believe the explosion in child obesity means that medication may be the only way to help youngsters who already run the risk of premature heart attack. ...more

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Didn't know pills were fake, insists pharmacist

Interesting testimony in the Norvascgate trial. I've spent some time in retail pharmacy, and it's always been my experience that the only companies that would ever offer volume price breaks are the generic companies. The brand name companies simply don't do it because they don't have to. There is no competition on a patented drug with no generics available. The only scenario where I can see a brand name company offering a price deal is when they are vying for a place on a hospital formulary. In this situation, they would be competing against other drugs within their class and price may be a consideration for one of those coveted spots.

I think this pharmacist is either incredibly naive or we're not hearing the whole story.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
Accused Hamilton pharmacist Abadir Nasr admits he purchased counterfeit drugs, but says he did not know the cardiovascular medication was fake at the time.

In an affidavit filed in court, Nasr, 29, told the Ontario College of Pharmacists that between January and June 2005 he purchased Norvasc in 5-milligram and 10-milligram strength from a man who identified himself as Ali Hussein, a drug wholesaler from Vancouver. ...more

New rules in Quebec for doctors renting from pharmacists

I'm quite sure that similar arragements happen between landlords and tenants in other types of industries regularly. This is an example of how the business of health care in Canada is not treated just like any other business. Is that good or bad?

From CBC News:
The Quebec government is putting a halt to the controversial practice of doctors getting a break on rent if they locate their clinics in buildings owned by pharmacists.

Jean Charest's government tabled legislation on Wednesday to limits trade-offs between the two groups of professionals.

The bill will force pharmacists to charge market-value rent to physicians who are tenants in their buildings, and will charge fines up to $20,000 for repeat offenders. ...more

'Silent exodus' will greet rejection of pay demands: pharmacists

I hope pharmacists in Newfoundland will be able to earn a higher wage. However, if pharmacists are sufficiently dissatisfied with the pay and there is no hope for improvement, they should vote with their feet and move to a job that pays them the wage they feel they deserve. There is a shortage of pharmacists pretty much everywhere in North America, so they have options. Ultimately, if pharmacists are serious about wanting a pay raise and move away, Newfoundland pharmacies will have to obey the laws of supply and demand and increase pay accordingly.

From CBC News:
The Newfoundland and Labrador government has turned down hospital-based pharmacists' requests for greater pay, even though professionals have been leaving for higher pay elsewhere and competitions for some vacancies have drawn no applicants.

Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan said the government does not currently have the resources to make hospital pharmacists' salaries competitive with rates in other provinces. ...more

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chemist helps court identify fake drugs

From the Hamilton Spectator:
A Pfizer chemist who analysed dozens of Norvasc prescriptions dispensed at King West Pharmacy is helping a Hamilton court to sort out which customers got fake pills and which got the authentic tablets.

Dr. John Thomas said some of the medicine bottles patients handed over to the RCMP after it raided the pharmacy on June 15, 2005, contained no amlodipine besylate, the active ingredient patented by Pfizer Products Inc. to treat high-blood pressure. ...more

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Generic drug makers fight brand protection

From CBC News:
The generic pharmaceutical industry went to court Tuesday to challenge new federal regulations, which it says will block its ability to produce cheaper drugs and cost consumers millions of dollars.

The Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association said its members began legal action in the Federal Court of Canada because they feel the new drug patent rules give brand-name drug makers an unfair competitive advantage. ...more

From the Toronto Star:
Prescription costs in Canada will soar dramatically if new rules that protect brand-name pharmaceuticals from competition are allowed to stand, manufacturers of generic drugs said today.

The companies that make generic drugs asked Federal Court to quash the regulations, arguing that Ottawa had no right to extend ``data protection" for brand-name drugs to eight years from five. ...more

From Reuters:
Canada's generic drug makers launched legal action in the country's highest court on Tuesday, arguing that a multi-year ban on generic competition favors the big brand-name companies.

The Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association said new federal regulations that protect brand-name drug makers with an eight-year ban on generic competition pads the balance sheets of large pharmaceutical companies and vastly exceeds Canada's trade obligations. ...more

Drug Rituxan linked to bowel problems, Health Canada advises

Here is some additional info about the Rituxan advisory...

From CBC News:
Health Canada has revised prescribing information for the medication Rituxan after some people taking the drug for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma developed potentially life-threatening bowel obstruction or bowel perforation.

Rituxan is approved for use in Canada to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph nodes) and rheumatoid arthritis.

The drug's manufacturer, Hoffmann-LaRoche, said there have been two cases of bowel obstruction, including one death, and two cases of bowel perforation related to the use of Rituxan in Canada. ...more

Reports of Bowel Obstruction and Gastrointestinal Perforation with RITUXAN® (rituximab)

Hoffmann-La Roche Limited, in consultation with Health Canada, has informed Canadian health care professionals of important safety information concerning RITUXAN® (rituximab).

From Health Canada:
Hoffmann-La Roche Limited, in consultation with Health Canada, has informed Canadian health care professionals of important safety information concerning RITUXAN® (rituximab).
For Health Professionals...
For the Public...

Acetaminophen Recall in the United States

It's good to see that Health Canada did get an advisory posted early in the week...

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is advising Canadians of the recall of 11 million bottles of store brand pain-relieving pills in the United States due to contamination with metal fragments.

Health Canada has received confirmation from the company that the affected bottles have not been distributed to Canada, but the product may have been purchased by travellers or over the Internet. ...more

Norvasc found in trash: trial

The Norvascgate trial continues this week. I will attempt to keep the links to the trial as current as possible.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
An inspector with Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long Term Care says a potentially hazardous prescription drug was found in a dumpster behind the King West Pharmacy when RCMP raided the drug store last year.

Robert Crews, a licensed pharmacist, was in the back alley on June 15, 2005, when Mounties pulled a vial containing a cardiovascular medication known as Norvasc from the garbage bin. ...more

Drug name confusion risks lives

Note at the end of this article a few common name errors are mentioned. I didn't notice anything regarding one of the most concerning ones -- Losec and Lasix. Both are often given as 20mg once daily. In the U.S. the drug company changed the name to Prilosec to prevent any confusion. Has anyone ever investigated why they didn't bother to change the name in Canada? It's rather old news at this point, but it's a question I've never heard answered.

From the National Post:
As Bill Emrich left a Red Deer, Alta., hospital in 2004, emergency-room staff thought they had given him a dose of morphine to deaden the pain of a riding accident.

In fact, a nurse had mistakenly administered hydromorphone, a similarly named narcotic that is seven times more potent. Less than an hour later, the 69-year-old was back in emergency, this time with doctors furiously trying to revive his stalled heart. "All resuscitation attempts failed," a report on the case said later, "and the patient expired." ...more

Low cholesterol linked to higher death rate: study

From the Vancouver Sun:
In what scientists are calling a "cholesterol paradox," new research is linking low cholesterol with a higher death rate in people with heart failure -- the opposite of what researchers expected.

A study of 10,701 patients with suspected heart failure found those with low cholesterol were 1.7 times more likely to die within 12 weeks of being hospitalized than people with normal cholesterol. ...more

Quebec judge opens door to vast lawsuit against Vioxx maker

From the Toronto Star:
A Quebec judge has authorized a ground-breaking class-action suit against pharmaceutical giant Merck Frosst, which, if successful, could expose the company to billions of dollars in damages.

Justice André Denis removed an important barrier to the legal action yesterday by certifying the class and allowing a formal suit to be brought against the company, which manufactures the painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx. ...more

New drugs could transform Alzheimer's treatment

From the National Post:
It was 100 years ago that Alzheimer's disease was discovered, and for most of the last century there has been little hope for sufferers of the devastating condition.

But a series of experimental drugs with a surprising amount of Canadian content are now taking aim at the molecular "bad characters" fingered as the illness's root cause, a national conference heard this week. Early results suggest they could transform the treatment of Alzheimer's, scientists said. ...more

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shelved malaria drug regains effectiveness, new study finds - The Boston Globe

From Reuters:
An inexpensive drug called chloroquine may again be effective in treating malaria because years of disuse have boosted its potency against the often fatal mosquito-borne disease, a new study shows.

Chloroquine had been the mainstay of malaria therapy until the disease developed a resistance to it and health officials stopped using it widely more than a decade ago. ...more

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Shoppers Drug Mart Says Profit Rises on Expansion

Shoppers Drug Mart continues to report good news to investors...

From Bloomberg:
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., Canada's biggest pharmacy chain, said third-quarter profit rose 15 percent as the company expanded stores and added products such as cosmetics.

Net income increased to a record C$123.9 million ($109.9 million), or 57 cents a share, from C$107.7 million, or 50 cents, the Toronto-based company said today in a statement. Revenue rose 8.9 percent to C$2.33 billion from C$2.14 billion. ...more

Not Just Tourists bring more than luggage to Cuba

I've heard of tourists bringing items like baseballs and schools supplies for Cubans, but never anything like this. The website for Not Just Tourists Toronto is If you check their links page you can find the contact info for a branch in your area.

From CBC News:
Some travellers from Ontario and Alberta have been bringing more than just tourist dollars to countries such as Cuba — they're also packing badly needed medical supplies.

A do-it-yourself humanitarian aid group called Not Just Tourists has been filling old suitcases with donated medicine and supplies such as syringe needles and eyeglass frames to send to developing countries. ...more

Vaccine patches may replace the dreaded needle

I think the increased use of transdermal patches would become popular. Let's hope that this will provide patients with more options in the future.

Thanks to Vicki at for this link.

From the Globe and Mail:
Dreaded vaccinations one day could be as simple as sticking on a Band-Aid — ouchless and do-it-yourself.

Early tests of skin-patch vaccines are beginning in hundreds of volunteers, one version designed to protect against the flu and another to prevent travellers' diarrhea.

The idea isn't just pain-free vaccination. The National Institutes of Health is helping fund patch research in hopes of strengthening today's imperfect flu shots, and gaining extra help if bird flu or some other super-flu ever triggers a pandemic. ...more

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The pill ups early breast cancer risk slightly

A potentially scary headline -- but in reality it's probably not a big deal. I'm sure some local TV news reports will pick up on this story as they think those scary teasers will get you to watch..."A popular prescription medicine can cause cancer! More info after the late local weather and the joke of the day!"

From Reuters:
Oral contraceptive (OC) use is a risk factor for premenopausal breast cancer, according to pooled data published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

However, even for women most at risk -- parous women (i.e., those who have given birth) and who used OCs for at least 4 years before their first full-term pregnancy -- "the absolute risk very small," Dr. James R. Cerhan, from Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, emphasizes in an accompanying editorial. ...more

Doctors warned to back away from freebie buffet

While it's good advice that health professionals need to be discerning and critical of drug rep sales pitches, I don't think anyone intentionally ever put patients at risk for free lunches.

By the way, I recently heard of an innovative way for physicians to handle those honorariums they receive from drug companies. One physician I met donates all of his speaking fees to a fund for graduate students that are engaged in research projects.

From the Canadian Press:
Doctors and pharmacists need to learn to say no to free lunches, gifts and bad information peddled by the promoters of new drugs and medical devices, say medical students and advocacy groups.

Misleading promotion can be a significant threat to health and needs to be taken more seriously, they say. As evidence, they point to how doctors swallowed the marketing hype about the wonders of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the safety of painkiller Vioxx. ...more

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Canada OKs limited use of Novartis arthritis drug

Prexige was officially introduced today as the first COX-2 inhibitor to be approved in Canada since the withdrawals of Bextra and Vioxx.

The articles mention that Prexige was approved with restrictions. As far as I can see, it has been only given an indication to treat arthritis in the knee, even though the anti-inflamatory effect likely extends to other body parts as well. I suspect that this limited indication won't stop the product from being prescribed "off label" for other body parts such as the hip (which Prexige is approved for in the European Union).

From Reuters:
Canada has approved the limited use of Novartis's arthritis drug Prexige, the first new medication to be allowed in a class of drugs that had come under question because of possible heart problems.

The Swiss drugmaker announced the Canadian approval on Tuesday for treating arthritis in the knee, hours after it said the European Union approved the same drug for knees and hips.

From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada has approved a new COX-2 inhibitor which has been shown to offer relief from arthritis symptoms without the same heart problems associated with other drugs in its class, such as Vioxx and Bextra.

Novartis Canada announced the approval of Prexige in a news release Tuesday. The medication is the first new COX-2 drug to be approved for use in Canada after the drugs came under fire for raising the risk of heart problems. ...more

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cheaper Canadian prescription drugs make the agenda in U.S. midterm elections

The American midterm elections are on Tuesday. Buying medications from Canada is not as big an issue as it was in the last election, but some politicians are trying to score points with voters by supporting the concept.

Regardless of the results, I don't see much of an alteration from the status quo. Even though some Republicans are in favour of the idea, the Bush administration is staunchly against Canadian pharmacy purchases. The FDA won't stand for any attempts to skirt its authority either. Bulk exports won't be allowed, and any changes to the personal imporatation rules will only result in mild to moderate improvement in Canadian internet pharmacy sales. It's simply not as appealing for individual consumers to buy from Canada than it was a few years ago because of the exchange rate, Medicare Plan D, and the supply clampdown by the pharmaceutical companies.

From the Canadian Press:
Canada's prescription drugs are on the ballot in the U.S. midterm elections.

Many Democrats, and even some Republicans, have been campaigning to open the door to cheaper Canadian medicines in the fight to control Congress.

If Democrats fulfil the predictions of pollsters by capturing the House of Representatives, and perhaps the Senate in Tuesday's votes, the drug issue will be near the top of their agenda. ...more

Prescribing rights an issue for MDs

The possibility of pharmacist prescribing has raised the concerns of Saskatchewan physicians. I'm not up to date with the progression of legislation there, but I suspect that it's still in the early stages of development.

From the Regina Leader-Post:
The province's pharmacists' desire to prescribe drugs was a tough pill to swallow for some doctors attending the Saskatchewan Medical Association's representative assembly this weekend.

Following a panel discussion about pharmacists prescribing in collaboration with doctors, Ray Joubert, registrar of the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacists, was challenged by doctors to explain why changes were needed. ...more

Canada OKs Novartis arthritis drug Prexige

This drug approval could very well be mentioned in the mainstream press, primarily because Prexige is in the same class as Vioxx and Bextra.

Prexige (lumiracoxib) is made by Novartis and is available in many countries throughout the world, but not the United States. If you want a bit of advance info, the prroduct information for Australian health professionals is located here and the Australian consumer package leaflet is linked here.

From Reuters:
Canada has approved use of Novartis's (NOVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) arthritis drug Prexige, the first such drug allowed after an investigation into potential heart problems linked to their use, a source familiar with the approval said on Monday.

Prexige is one of several COX-2 inhibitors, drugs that were originally designed to be safer long-term treatments than Aspirin or other analgesics for arthritis or other pain. ...more

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Private eye gave fake prescription, court hears

The Norvascgate trail continues in Hamilton. It's an intriguing story. Private investigators were hired by Pfizer to pass fake prescriptions to see what they would receive. I'm not sure why Pfizer went in this direction -- why didn't they go to the authorities?

From the Hamilton Spectator:
A private investigator who posed as a new customer with high-blood pressure told Ontario Court she presented a bogus drug prescription to staff of the King West Pharmacy.

Violet Viglasky was then with IPSA International, which was hired by Pfizer Products Inc. in May 2005 to investigate a Hamilton pharmacist suspected of selling counterfeit cardiac drugs. ...more

Misadventures in medicating

I suppose there is two ways to look at these numbers:
1) pharmacists are needed to help prevent these types of reactions
2) why aren't pharmacists catching more drug-related problems

From the National Post:
Many of the patients filling Canada's crowded hospitals are there because of side effects and other problems with their medication -- and most of those drug "misadventures" could be prevented, a new study suggests.

Almost one in four admissions to the internal-medicine ward of British Columbia's largest hospital was the result of adverse drug reactions, doctors prescribing the wrong medicine or similar glitches, the study found. ...more

Tablets found in Halloween bags were vitamin samples Store owner was promoting business; says children were not at risk

This isn't a pharmacy or pharmacist story, but since it's related to vitamins (and it's unusual) so I thought I'd include it. I don't have much experience in marketing, but I don't think trick-or-treating kids are the primary target market for a vitamin store.

From the Richmond (BC) Review:
Trick-or-treaters in Seafair found a healthy surprise among the candy they collected on Halloween, alarming some parents.

Karen and Ed Robinson found sample packages of children’s multivitamins and vitamin C, each containing two or three tablets, in their children’s treat bags.

...The vitamins were inside sealed manufacturer’s packages and tucked in a larger plastic bag that contained chocolate, chips and a business card for local vitamins and sports nutrition business......more

Alesse birth control pills back in stock soon

It sounds like there is some progress in the efforts to end the Alesse shortage. Has anyone received a new shipment recently?

From CBC News:
Pharmaceutical giant Wyeth says it's making progress in ending a shortage of two popular birth control pills in Canada.

Drug stores across the country are running low on Triphasil and Alesse, and some pharmacies have run out. The company blames a problem at its manufacturing plant. ...more

Codeine more lethal than OxyContin: N.L. data

From CBC News:
Codeine, a common ingredient in over-the-counter cold medicines, has been more lethal than OxyContin in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to provincial government data.

The office of Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical examiner listed codeine as the cause or a contributing factor in the deaths of 16 people between 2000 and 2005. ...more

Osborne 'surprised' by codeine-related deaths

From CBC News:
Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister said he was caught off guard by revelations that codeine may be related to twice as many deaths as OxyContin.

"This information is a surprise to me," said Tom Osborne, reacting to data obtained by CBC News through a provincial Access to Information Act request. ...more

Needle bungle prompts call for diabetes test changes

I'm not sure how this could happen. Who was conducting the tests? I don't buy that the directions with the machine were unclear. Surely if a typical patient can figure it out a pharmacy staff member should be able to as well.

From CBC News:
The public health authority in Quebec's Chaudière-Appalaches region wants changes made to the province's diabetes detection program after 150 people were tested with shared needles at a grocery store in Thetford Mines.

Public health officials are tracking down people who took the test to administer HIV and hepatitis B and C tests as a precaution after they discovered the device used wasn't working as expected. ...more

Obesity drug may help Type 2 diabetes

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but I am predicting that Acomplia/rimonabant will be the biggest pharmaceutical phenomenon since Viagra.

From CBC News:
An experimental obesity drug also appears to help reduce the health risks from Type 2 diabetes, researchers say.

The Sanofi-Aventis drug rimonabant, also called Acomplia, reduced risk factors for heart disease in people with Type 2 diabetes compared with those taking a placebo, European researchers report in Friday's online issue of the medical journal The Lancet. ...more

Medicare Part D having big impact on pharmacies

It appears that Medicare Plan D may be drawing customers away from Canadian pharmacies, but the plan also has brought negative effects to American pharmacies as well.

From the Pierre (SD) Capital Journal:
The South Dakota Health Care Commission recently took a look at the impact of Medicare Part D on pharmacies in South Dakota.

"What it all means is that independent pharmacies will be out of business," said Dana Darger, director of pharmacy at Rapid City Regional Hospital, and presenter at the commission meeting. ...more

Many ginseng-based cold remedy claims unproven, expert says

From CBC News:
The success of a natural cold remedy has spawned a number of knock-offs based on ginseng, but in most cases, the science behind the products is lacking.

Cold-fX was developed at the University of Alberta and has quickly become the biggest selling cold medicine in Canada.

"I think it's a big market," said Pam Lavold, a pharmacist in Edmonton. "I think everybody is jumping on the bandwagon and putting out their own product." ...more

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ontario battling drug firms

From the Globe and Mail:
Generic drug manufacturers have threatened to cut the supply of up to 150 medications to Ontario's drug benefit plan -- including antidepressants and a drug to control heart arrhythmia -- in an escalating price dispute with the provincial government.

Legislation designed to curb drug costs, which came into effect Oct. 1, has reduced the prices that the Ministry of Health pays pharmacies for generic drugs by more than 20 per cent in some cases. ...more

Methadone clinic nurse did not know overdose procedure, inquest told

From CBC News:
An Ottawa clinic nurse who first noticed a man had received a fatal methadone overdose during treatment told a coroner's inquest that she did not know of any procedure at the facility to deal with such a mistake.

Sandra Nault testified Monday into the death a year ago of 41-year-old Wade Hatt, who was sent home from the government-sanctioned clinic on Somerset Street after the accidental overdose. He later died. ...more/

Liberal MP tables bill to ban bulk drug exports

Private members bills don't rarely make it all the way to becoming law. I'd say it's even more unlikely in this session of Parliament, but it's an interesting statement.

From the Canadian Press:
The federal government says it has no immediate plans to ban the bulk export of prescription drugs because there’s no evidence the cross-border trade is putting Canadians at risk.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett tabled a private member’s bill Tuesday that would prevent U.S. state and city governments from buying cheaper drugs from Canada to help subsidize their health plans. ...more

Reimportation Looms

Typically the refrain as to why pharmaceuticals are cheaper in Canada is "government price controls." Well, it's never been as simple as that. This article breaks down some of the other lesser known reasons.

From the American Spectator:
As of last month, Americans can now purchase Canadian drugs through the mail without fear of U.S. Customs officers seizing the packages. Meanwhile Congress reached agreement on a bill that would allow Americans to buy prescription drugs at Canadian pharmacies and transport them home. ...more

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Birth control pills out of stock, women out of luck

At any given time there are several medications that Canadian pharmacies cannot purchase. Reasons can be varied, but typically the reasons behind the shortage is not revealed by the manufacturer. I can understand why these shortages made the news as both Alesse and Triphasil are among the most prescribed drugs in Canada. Fortunately there are potential alternatives available if the supply is totally drained.

How bad is the shortage thoughout Canada? Leave a message in the comments section and let us know.

From CBC News:
Two popular brands of birth control pills are in short supply across Canada, leaving many women scrambling to fill their prescriptions.

The pills — under the Alesse and Triphasil names — are made by the U.S. company Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. The company temporarily stopped production of the two brands in August, which means some pharmacies have run out, making refills almost impossible to get. ...more

Supreme court says pharmacist kickback probe must go on

Here is a bit more info regarding the Supreme Court decision relating to a Quebec Order of Pharmacists' investigation.

From CBC News:
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the Quebec Order of Pharmacists can pursue its investigation into allegations that some of its members received kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.

The SCOC ruled Thursday that four pharmaceutical companies must comply with the order's investigation, and hand over relevant records. ...more

Association of Avastin (bevacizumab) with hypertensive encephalopathy and reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome (RPLS)

From Health Canada:
Hoffmann-La Roche Limited, in consultation with Health Canada, has informed Canadian healthcare professionals of important new safety information concerning AVASTIN (bevacizumab).
For Health Professionals...
For the Public...

Canada - Internet Pharmacies - New U.S. Legislation Puts The Issue Back Into The Spotlight (27/10/2006 17:27:36) from Mondaq

From Fasken Martineau:
Over the last four years the issue of "internet pharmacy" and the import of pharmaceutical drugs into the United States from Canada has become a very contentious political and legal subject. According to IMS Health Incorporated data, the annual total value of sales to the United States through the 278 confirmed or suspected Canadian based Internet pharmacies, identified as of June 2005, was estimated at (CDN) $507 million.1 Early in 2005, a Health Canada official testifying before a committee of the House of Commons stated that there were, at that time, about (CDN) $1.35 billion worth of cross-border retail sales into the United States. Of these sales, approximately $840 million were via Internet pharmacies, with the rest coming from so-called foot traffic. Trans-border drug sales represent eight percent of a $16 billion prescription market in Canada, but less than 0.5 per cent of the U.S. market of some $300 billion.2 ...more

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Eyes wide open

It's suprised me that modafanil hasn't been discussed as a "lifestyle drug" more often. Alertec has been sold in Canada for years. It not hard to believe that attempts would be made to determine if modafanil can be the ultimate wake up pill.

Interestingly, when Alertec was initially released in Canada, it was considered a controlled drug. Shortly after its release it was changed to regular prescription drug status. I believe that it is still considered a controlled drug in United States, albeit at their lowest schedule of control.

From the Toronto Star:
"Could I have a non-fat cappuccino with modafinil to go?"

It's quite possible that a few years from now, that will be the wake-up mantra for millions of people around the world. Modafinil, distributed in Canada as Alertec, is a chemical first made in France in the 1970s for treating narcolepsy. But in the past few years, it has been used more and more to combat daytime sleepiness among shift workers. Doctors say it is safe, and that it can "turn off" the urge to sleep. ...more

Net pharmacy closing amid conflict questions

I wasn't aware of this website until I read this article. Based on the info from the article, it's probably best that this site has shut down. Drug manufacturers selling their product directly under the umbrella of a typical pharmacy (which they own) doesn't sound like a great precedent.

From the Toronto Star:
An online drugstore owned by a major U.S. drug maker and run by a prominent Waterloo pharmacist is suddenly shutting down Monday amid questions about a possible conflict of interest.

The move comes after the Toronto Star started asking questions about the unusual arrangement that had industry observers worried. ...more

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Weekend YouTube fun

Corey Nahman of posted a list of YouTube videos relating to pharmacy on his site. They are not to be taken seriously, but are good for a laugh. Below is the link to a clip from the Simpsons episode "Midnight Rx." The plot revolves around the issue of buying prescriptions from Canada.

Supreme Court orders Quebec drug maker to co-operate with inquiry

This article doesn't provide many details, but I suspect we'll hear more about this story in the near future.

From CBC News:
The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a generic drug manufacturer to co-operate with the Quebec Order of Pharmacists in a rebate investigation.

The Order has demanded since 2003 that drug manufacturer Pharmascience provide details of rebates or other advantages it has offered to pharmacists. The company refused. ...more

Studies challenge drugmakers' claims

This story really shouldn't be that surprising. These medications have been primarily touted as a modest first step to treat Alzheimer's. I suppose the bigger question is whether they are worth the expense. There are a lot of drugs on the market that are worthy of coverage, and budgets are limited. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made by the drug benefit managers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:
Canadians spent $143 million last year on three major drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease, but a national study suggests that investment produces few meaningful results for patients or their caregivers.

The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health last year completed a thorough review of drug trials related to the Alzheimer's drugs Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl. ...more

Flu shots rolling out for Canadians

From CBC News:
The bulk of seasonal flu vaccine is ready to go to the provinces and territories, says the Public Health Agency of Canada, which performs quality checks on all batches before releasing them for use.

In Ontario, people at highest risk, such as residents of long-term health-care facilities or those with chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, have already received their vaccines. ...more

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

GlaxoSmithKline CEO says drug law will 'restructure' Ontario drug market

From CBC News:
New legislation in Ontario designed to curb the price of prescription drugs through bulk discounts will scare away investors by creating a "transactional relationship" between government and drug developers, the head of GlaxoSmithKline Inc.'s (NYSE:GSK) Canadian operations said Tuesday.

The Transparent Drug System for Patients Act will have a ripple effect across the country by encouraging the use of copy-cat medication and cutting into drug company revenues, Paul Lucas said in a speech to pharmaceutical investors in Toronto. ...more

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Be your own advocate to increase safety, doctor suggests

This isn't a pharmacy-specific article, but it has a good message for patients and health care professionals.

From CBC News:
Patients put too much trust in doctors and should take a more active approach to their medical well-being, a health-care safety conference heard Friday.

Health experts from across Canada and around the world are meeting in Vancouver this weekend to attend the Canadian Healthcare Safety Symposium. ...more

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Opening doors to unproven treatments

From the National Post:
One expert calls 714X simply a "bad joke." Health Canada says there is no scientific evidence the cancer drug does any good.

But the regulator has just re-opened access to the controversial and unlicensed medication in the wake of a Federal Court ruling that analysts say could boost the availability of a host of other unproven, alternative treatments. ...more

Friday, October 20, 2006

Technical help may be of little value: pharmacy board

This could be a first: a pharmacist organization publicly questioning the role and usefulness of pharmacy technicians. They actually even went further by suggesting that technicians result in pharmacists having to do more work.

From CBC News:
...Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board registrar Don Rowe said: "It may help and assist in taking care of some of the technical functions, but it's an added task then that the pharmacist will have in terms of supervision and oversight of those technicians."

I think the pharmacy board is missing the point. The effective use of technicians has been shown to help pharmacists focus on professional tasks. Rowe says that technicians may help with technical functions. No kidding...that's what they are there for.

All of this seems to be as a result of a labour dispute occurring in Newfoundland hospitals. There is more info in this CBC News report.

From what I've seen over the years, pharmacy technicians do a pretty good job and fill an important role in any type of pharmacy practice. I would hate to see relations between pharmacists and techs damaged because of this, especially since the pharmacists' dispute is with the government, not their co-workers.

By the way, why are Newfoundland hospital pharmacists preparing chemo anyway? I know that many hospitals rely on qualified pharmacy techs to do the manual tasks of making the product and the pharmacist checks their work. This is done without incident all over the continent and is not considered bad practice as long as policies and procedures are in place.

New regulations give additional dose of protection to drug companies

I haven't read any of the actual legislation yet, but it sounds like these new regulations will protect the brand name pharmaceutical companies and their patents for an extended period of time. However, there is an interesting line in the article stating that these companies will not be able to throw up certain legal roadblocks when a generic company makes application for a new product. As I understand it, brand name companies have the ability to delay new generic approvals even if their patent has expired. These legal tactics effectively delay a generic coming to market and results in a practical extension of a patent.

I'm looking forward to reading more about this and what it will actually mean down the road.

From the Canwest News Service:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government quietly unveiled controversial new regulations Wednesday that will extend market protection for some drugs produced by brand name firms in a move critics predict will lead to higher costs for consumers and provinces already facing skyrocketing medicare bills.

The new rules, which took effect earlier this month, increase exclusive selling rights for all brand name drugs to eight years from five, with an additional six months of protection granted to drugs involved in pediatric studies. ...more

Health Canada warns consumers about counterfeit Lifescan blood glucose test strips

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is warning Canadians that certain Lifescan, Inc., One Touch Brand Test Strips, Basic/Profile and Ultra, sold in the United States are counterfeit. The counterfeit blood glucose test strips could potentially give incorrect blood glucose values, either too high or too low, which could result in a patient taking too much or too little insulin, leading to serious injury or death. ...more

Island doctors want province to cover cost of HPV vaccine

For years, vaccines seemed to be somewhat of an afterthought in the pharmaceutical business. Recently they have become one of the hottest areas of research and development. But now that some innovative products have either been released or soon will be approved, drug benefit plans are going to have to decide what will be covered or not.

The drug formulary commitees have always seemed to be more focused on treatment with prevention not viewed as being all that much of a priority. It will be interesting to see how they handle some of these products such as Gardasil, which appears to be a truly innovative breakthrough product.

From the Victoria Times Colonist:
Island doctors want the province to pay for a new vaccine to protect girls from genital warts and cervical cancer, a disease which kills 400 Canadian women each year.

But the human papilloma virus or HPV vaccine, approved by Health Canada for females aged nine to 26 years, costs about $400 for three doses. ...more

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A short break

There will probably not be any new posts until Tuesday or Wednesday as my access to a computer will be relatively limited until that time.

Canada shouldn't be 'medicine cabinet' for U.S., pharmacists warn

Cross border pharmacy has hit the headlines again. Now that the American government is stopping their crackdown on medications from Canadian pharmacies, there is considerable concern about the States using up the existing drug supply.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association are leading the charge. The OPA has issued this press release stating they are “deeply disturbed” about the situation. Jeff Poston of the CPhA has similar thoughts. "We can't afford to be the medicine cabinet for the U.S.," said Poston.

While I understand their concerns, I think their fears are largely unfounded. First of all, there is no sign that the doors have been flung open in the States without restriction. The FDA will still be seizing packages from Canadian pharmacies according to this article. Bulk imports of drugs still aren't allowed and there is no plan to change that.

Changing these rules don't alter the fact that prices of medications from Canada just aren't as appealing as they were two or three years ago. The increased exchange rate, pharmaceutical company restictions on the online pharmacies, and the option of Medicare Plan D will keep many Americans dealing with pharmacies in their own country regardless of any policy change. I don't see a return to the booming days of a couple years ago for internet pharmacies unless some of these factors also change.

Besides, many people look at these decisions to simply be a method to gain votes in the upcoming American midterm elections. I don't think too many people would be shocked to see a return to the previous policies in the new year once the votes have been counted.

From CBC News:
An American decision to stop seizing U.S.-bound prescription drugs at the border could jeopardize the Canadian drug supply and access to care, a pharmacy association warned Thursday. ...more

Updated Safety Information on Ketek (telithromycin) and hepatic events, aggravation of myasthenia gravis and syncope

From Health Canada:
Sanofi-aventis Canada Inc. in consultation with Health Canada would like to inform you of important updated safety information regarding KETEK (telithromycin) tablets. Based on information in published case reports* and post-market adverse event reports, the Canadian Product Monograph has been revised to include information on severe and sometimes fatal hepatotoxicity in patients taking KETEK. The Product Monograph also includes updated information regarding syncope (loss of consciousness) and the use of KETEK in patients with myasthenia gravis.

For Health Professionals
For the Public

Health Canada approves promising new drug to treat multiple sclerosis

This sounds like a rather promising new drug approval. Hopefully it can provide some benefit to MS patients, despite a rare but potentially deadly adverse reaction. The risk to benefit ratio always has to be considered, but I fully expect that many MS patients with limited treatment options will appreciate a new possibility.

From CBC News:
Canadians with multiple sclerosis will soon have access to a highly touted new drug for the treatment of the relapsing-remitting form of the progressive neurodegenerative disease, following approval of the medication by Health Canada.

The new drug, to be sold under the brand name Tysabri, is the first in a new therapeutic class of MS treatments called selective adhesion molecule inhibitors and the first pharmaceutical advance for treating MS in 10 years, manufacturers Biogen Idec Canada and Elan Corp. said Wednesday. ...more

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pharmacists on front line of drug rehab

From CBC News:
Hundreds of people trying to kick a drug addiction have been lining up at pharmacies in Cape Breton every day under an expanded methadone program.

Methadone is used to wean people off heroin, OxyContin and other highly addictive drugs, and used to be only offered at clinics. ...more

Monday, October 09, 2006

FDA role restored over mail-order drug imports

From Reuters:
U.S. customs officials will still seize prescription drugs imported from Canada through the mail but will hand over enforcement to federal health officials in a policy reversal that one lawmaker said would benefit consumers seeking cheaper medicines.

Since November 2005, customs officials have confiscated medicines ordered through Canadian pharmacies, sent letters to customers notifying them of the violation, and in many cases destroyed the drugs.

But the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said on Wednesday it will revert to its earlier policy of sending the confiscated orders to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration where enforcement is expected to be more relaxed. ...more

Katz Group commits $14M to U of A

From the Edmonton Journal:
The Edmonton-based Katz Group pharmacy chain has committed $14 million to the University of Alberta’s faculty of pharmacy, the largest ever one-time gift to a Canadian pharmacy school.

The money will be matched by the provincial government for a total of $25 million. ...more

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cancer drug may decrease heart function, company advises

Health Canada has recently issued advisories regarding the anticancer drug (imatinib mesylate (brand name Gleevec). Separate advisories are published for health professionals and the public.

From CBC News:
The cancer drug Gleevec may carry a risk for decreased heart function, drug maker Novartis Pharmaceuticals warned Monday.

Gleevec or imatinib mesylate is used to treat adults with a type of blood cancer called chronic myeloid leukemia and a type of cancer of the stomach and bowels known as gastrointestinal stromal tumour. ...more

U.S. to Allow Canadian Drug Imports

Here are a couple of articles from the Los Angeles Times and the Charlotte NC Observer about the apparent easing of U.S. Customs' ongoing campaign to restrict Canadian drug imports by mail.

From the Los Angeles Times:
The federal government plans to halt a controversial crackdown on discount
drugs mailed from Canadian pharmacies to U.S. customers, removing a significant
hurdle to Americans buying cheaper medications from abroad.

The Department of Homeland Security, which operates the Customs and Border
Protection agency, disclosed this week that it would halt confiscation of
Canadian drugs Monday and instead conduct random sampling to identify
counterfeit and unsafe drugs. ...more.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Drug imports from Canada set to be eased

I am rather behind on news, but I thought this was worth mentioning even though it's a few days old. Is it political posturing prior to an election or potential for actual imporation? We'll see, but as long as the exchange rate is at its current level there will probably not be a big push for Canadian drugs regardless.

From the Fort Worth Star Telegram:
House and Senate Republicans reached an agreement that would allow Americans to bring a 90-day supply of prescription medications back across the border from Canada.

Shopping for drugs in Canada has become popular with U.S. consumers. The cost of many popular brand-name prescription drugs can be 30 percent to 80 percent lower in Canada than in the U.S. because of government price controls, surveys by The Associated Press and others have shown. ...more

McGill researchers say reanalysis confirms antacids raise risk of C. difficile

If I was a researcher, I'd really like to set up a study to determine the difference in effectiveness between H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. This article is an arguement to avoid the PPI's when possible.

From CBC News:
Widely prescribed antacid drugs appear to be linked to a higher rate of C. difficile cases in people who have acquired the nasty bacterium outside of hospitals, a team of Montreal researchers reported Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Using data collected on the patients of family doctors in Britain, the researchers showed that non-hospitalized people who took drugs known as proton pump inhibitors were three and a half times more likely to develop Clostridium difficile than people who didn't take the popular drugs. ...more

Report reveals flawed drug system

These recommendations from the Institute of Medicine make quite a bit of sense. I like the idea of a mandatory re-evaluation of a new product within five years.

I suppose these concepts are being brought forward with the goal of preventing another Vioxx or Baycol incident. My concern is that these measures won't prevent the inevitable questionable prescribing of the latest new drugs over tried-and-true therapies that are lacking some tiny advantage that was pointed out by a drug rep.

From the Globe and Mail:
A new report that calls for a major overhaul of the way prescription drugs are regulated and monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also has applicability to Health Canada, medical experts say.

The report, released Friday by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, recommends that consumer alerts be put on the labels of all new drugs for a two-year period. Other recommendations include a mandatory re-evaluation of the safety and efficacy of new drugs within five years of their approval for use. ...more

Canada to Let Biolyse Make Generic Version of Roche's Tamiflu

From Bloomberg:
Biolyse Pharma Corp., a closely held Canadian firm, may soon become the first company to use a World Trade Organization treaty to make a low-cost generic copy of Roche Holding AG's Tamiflu and help developing countries fight a potential avian-flu pandemic.

The Canadian government on Sept. 21 added the drug, also known as oseltamivir, to a list of patented medicines that can be produced and exported to developing countries even as the patent remains active, a process called compulsory licensing, Doug Clark, Industry Canada's director of patent policy, said in an interview today. The list, which was established in compliance with the 2003 WTO treaty and contains 58 drugs, hasn't yet been used. ...more

Co-founder of online drug industry scales back after counterfeit allegations

Here's another RxNorth article, quoting the owner Andrew Strempler. It's difficult to say from the article how involved he will be in the new arrangement. It has been my understanding that he hasn't been too involved in day-to-day operations in Minnedosa for some time.

It appears that the pharmacy staff in Minnedosa will be let go. I have not seen any mention of the Barbados operation run by RxNorth, but I would expect that it will be closed up as well.

From CBC News:
A Manitoba co-founder of the multimillion-dollar online pharmacy industry is scaling back his business after allegations that his websites sold counterfeit drugs., owned by Andrew Strempler, has contracted its dispensing operation to, the largest player in the industry.

"This decision was made in the interest of continuity of patient care, medication supply and to maintain the same high standards of customer service and safety that has always provided," the company said in new release Wednesday. ...more

Internet pharmacy moves part of operation out of Minnedosa

It was bound to happen eventually. One of the first and largest Canadian online pharmacies is transferring its operations to a competitor. The fact that it's RxNorth shouldn't be a big shock. After the FDA warnings in the summer, the company was looking at a difficult road to recovery, especially in a trying online pharmacy market.

From CBC News:
Minnedosa, Man.-based internet pharmacy is shutting down its distribution operation there and moving it to a Winnipeg company, due to American concerns over drug safety., which is operated by Mediplan Global Health Inc., will transfer its operation to another company,, which is based in Winnipeg. ...more

Thursday, September 21, 2006

U.S. TV ad campaign backs purchase of Canadian drugs

The American midterm elections will be happening soon. I don't expect importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada to be remotely as important as it is was in the 2004 elections. However, I'm sure some politicians will try to get some attention by bringing up the topic. The AARP has decided to run a series of TV ads in the districts of "importation friendly" Senators.

From the Globe and Mail:
An advocacy group for the elderly is launching a $500,000 (U.S.) ad campaign Sunday in 14 states pushing for Senate action on legislation that would let consumers buy U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.

The ads will appear in newspapers and on radio David Certner, legislative policy director for the advocacy group, said the campaign focuses on the home states of senators who have shown some openness to letting people buy U.S.-made medicine shipped abroad.

Drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes also seems to prevent it in high risk cases

I wonder if the results of this study will result in high risk patients starting Avandia. I seem to remember a similar study regarding metformin, but I don't think it ever gained any traction.

From CBC News:
A drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes appears to prevent onset of the disease in some people who at high risk of developing it, authors of a large international study reported Friday.

The Canadian-led trial found people who took the drug rosiglitazone (sold as Avandia) and who were given advice about lowering their risk through diet and exercise were substantially less likely to develop diabetes in the three years of followup than people who received lifestyle advice and took a placebo. ...more

Pharmacist had 'friend'

The fake Norvasc in Hamilton trial is adjorned for a month or so, but here is a rather interesting article about the testimony of one of the drugstore's pharmacy assistants. She claims she found nothing unusual about the directive to not order Norvasc from traditional sources, even after the tablets looked different. I'm not sure if she came off as loyal to her employer or simply oblivious, but I can't imagine she looked that great on the stand.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
When RCMP entered the King West Pharmacy in June 2005 looking for counterfeit drugs, their attention was caught by a note on the wall where the fast-selling medications were kept.

The handwritten poster said: "Don't order any Norvasc. Ask Abs."

Pharmacist Abadir Nasr, who bought the Hamilton business in August 2004, had told staff not to order the cardiovascular medication from their regular wholesaler because he had a friend who would be supplying the store. ...more

Governor Blagojevich to expand prescription drug plan

Some harsh words for the I-Save-Rx program...

From WLS-TV (Ill.):
The Illinois auditor general says importing prescription drugs from Canada is not only illegal -- it doesn't help many seniors. But Governor Rod Blagojevich announced plans Tuesday to expand the state's prescription drug program.

The governor launched the program nearly two years ago to help Illinois seniors cut the cost of their medications. But Illinois Auditor General William Holland says the program not only violates federal law -- it's a failure. ...more

Monday, September 18, 2006

Naperville woman's medicine cut off

From the Joliet (Ill.) Herald News:
Grace Wojtowicz of Naperville has fallen into the doughnut hole and it isn't sweet.

Last February, Wojtowicz, 71, signed up for Medicare Part D, joining the 22.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who now obtain their prescription drugs under the program. At first, her $49 premiums under Part D were less than what she had been paying to order her drugs from Minitdrug, a Canadian pharmacy based in Calgary. ...more

Thursday, September 14, 2006

2nd heist rattles pharmacist

Another crime story relating to Canadian pharmacy. This one involves a pharmacist as a crime victim instead of being the perpetrator.

From the Ottawa Sun:
A pharmacist who's been robbed at gunpoint twice in the past month says police need to step up patrols to protect small retailers from armed robbers.

"We need more protection. There are certain pockets of the city that need more surveillance and more patrolling," said the owner of the Montreal Rd. Pharmacy.

"If the police know that there is a pharmacy that's been hit a couple of times, they should have a constant surveillance, whether it be undercover or whatever, to keep a watchful eye on us," said the pharmacist who didn't want his name published out of fear for his safety. ...more

Sight blurred after dizziness

I get the impression that updates from the courtroom are going to be a reasonably regular feature at Canada Pharmacy News over the next while. This post has two links: the first one was published yesterday and can be seen here.

I don't see much new in either report compared to the first one. More patients testified about problems associated with taking fake Norvasc. I find it reprehensible that the pharmacist dismissed their claims. Maybe he (misguidedly) thought that he could make more money by using cheap foreign Norvasc but once the problems started to reveal themselves, he should've put a stop to the whole thing and tried to make things right.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
John Dindial awoke the morning of April 24 last year feeling extremely dizzy, then his sight went blurry and the room began to go black.

The 69-year-old Hamilton man was visiting a friend in Scarborough who took him to the Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital. The patient, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, had been controlling his hypertension for about 12 years with a cardiovascular drug known as Norvasc.