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