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 coreynahman.com 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.