Thursday, May 31, 2007

When drug-resistant tuberculosis goes extreme

From the Globe and Mail:
Until recently, researchers thought that multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR TB, was as bad as the disease got.

They were wrong.

In 2005, doctors in South Africa discovered a new strain of the disease. Extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis - or XDR TB - was found to withstand all of the front-line drugs in the tuberculosis treatment arsenal.

Officials in Canada and the United States are searching for passengers who may have travelled with a U.S. man infected with XDR TB on two transatlantic flights this month. ...more

No prescription needed for contraceptive pill

From the Vancouver Sun:
The B.C. College of pharmacists is now offering women the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B as a non-prescription product.

The move comes two years after Health Canada approved the sale of the pill without a prescription. ...more

Authorities hunt 70-80 passengers who sat near TB patient on flights

This is a rather disturbing story. While it seems unlikely anyone was infected, I know I wouldn't want to have been sitting next to this person on a flight.

From the Globe and Mail:
Public health officials in the United States and Canada revealed Wednesday they are looking for roughly 70 to 80 people on two recent transatlantic flights who were seated in close proximity to a man infected with a rare and potentially deadly form of tuberculosis.

In Canada, officials are seeking anyone who sat in Row 12 — plus the two rows ahead and behind — of Czech Airline flight 0104 to Montreal from Prague on May 24.

Officials of the Public Health Agency of Canada have obtained the passenger manifest — the airline's official list of passengers — and are using it to try to trace the passengers to urge them to undergo testing for TB. ...more

Pharmaceutical companies behind push for Ottawa to pay for HIV drugs

It's about time that someone revealed that these patient advocacy groups are totally funded and supported by the pharmaceutical companies. While I think patient groups should be allowed to be formed and pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to sponsor them, there needs to be some transparency.

If any other lobbying group in Canada was 100% funded by one sponsor, they probably wouldn't have a lot of legitimacy. But the Best Medicines Coalition has testified in front of the House of Commons, with a supposed role of being a solely a patient advocacy group. The chairwoman of this group was very ambigious and misleading in describing their funding sources.

During her visit to Parliament earlier this month, Fletcher asked Binder some pointed questions about her group's funding and potential conflict of interest. She told the committee her group receives half its funding from the drug industry and half from Health Canada. Binder said she couldn't name which companies provided money, and said some of it comes from Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies, an industry association

But during an interview, Binder said the group actually receives 100 per cent of its $250,000 operating budget from the pharmaceutical industry. Although it received half its funding from Health Canada last year, it was an anomaly, in the form of a grant for a research project.
But the articles ends with this:

The Best Medicines Coalition has nothing to hide, Binder said. She said she doesn't conceal where the group gets its money and would even post that information on the group's website if she thought it were "relevant."

But for now, she said, "I don't think it is."
Excuse me, Louise, but you hid the truth in front of a Parliament committee hearing. If you mean what you say, let's see a complete list of donors over the last several years.

Louise Binder is HIV-positive and chairwoman of a coalition that fights for drug-policy reform in Canada. During a recent visit to the nation's capital she urged members of Parliament to rewrite the rules governing prescription drugs that would increase the access patients have to new, expensive medications and require the government to foot the bill.

One thing she didn't mention during that visit is the fact her association, the Best Medicines Coalition, receives 100 per cent of its funding from Canada's pharmaceutical companies - the very industry that stands to profit most from a governmental decision to approve new and expensive drugs for use and coverage in Canada. ...more

Pricing pinches drugstores

From the Globe and Mail:
Uncertainty lingers about whether generic drug pricing changes in Ontario will hurt Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., but already some rivals are feeling the pain.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd., which has a wide network of pharmacies in its supermarkets, has reported a $10-million hit to its first-quarter operating profit because of the legislative reforms, which lower the price the province pays for generic drugs. Other pharmacies in Ontario are being pinched.

"It has hurt pharmacy tremendously," says Neil Bornstein, owner of a drugstore in Toronto that is part of Langley, B.C.-based Pharmasave Drugs (National) Ltd. "The waters are more muddied than ever ... I can't understand how Loblaw can identify it as a significant hurt and Shoppers not." ...more

Cardiac Safety of Avandia® (rosiglitazone maleate)

From Health Canada:
GlaxoSmithKline Inc (GSK), in conjunction with Health Canada, would like to address public concerns about the safety of Avandia®.

An article recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has raised concern about an increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cardiovascular death in patients with type 2 diabetes treated with Avandia®. This article was based on a review of 42 clinical studies. The conclusions reached require confirmation. Further investigation of these results is underway and more information will be communicated when available.
For the public

Sickest patients less likely to get full care

From CTV News:
Two new studies by Canadian researchers suggest that patients in greatest need of heart medications and treatments are often less likely than moderately ill patients to be offered them, and it may because of what's known as the "treatment-risk paradox."

One of the studies, by researchers at universities in Edmonton and Calgary, showed that only 56 per cent of higher risk patients were taking statin drugs a month after being diagnosed with heart disease. In contrast, 63.5 per cent of lower risk patients were taking the drugs a month later.

After analyzing differences between the groups, the researchers found that patients who were depressed or whose lives were most restricted by their heart disease accounted for the difference. ...more

Drug use climbing

From the Sarnia (Ont.) Observer:
Prescription drug addiction can happen to anybody.

Without the proper information and monitoring, it is very easy for someone to become dependent on medications such as opiates, benzodiazepines and stimulants, Luis Viana said.

The pharmacist consultant told those gathered for the annual Chatham-Kent Crime Stoppers appreciation luncheon that addiction to prescription medication is a growing problem. ...more

Monday, May 28, 2007

Canadian drug imports shrink in half from 2004

From the Detroit News:
The once-booming business of selling Canadian prescription drugs to Americans has shrunk in half since 2004-05 as the surging Canadian dollar and better U.S. government health insurance erode the price gap.

Annual sales have slipped below $500 million Canadian, down from nearly $1 billion Canadian in 2004, according to figures supplied by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, which represents Internet and mail-order drugstores.

The figures include sales of drugs to Americans from third countries, mainly in Europe, but brokered by Canadian pharmacies. ...more

Cancer drug Avastin battleground in debate over fairness versus costs

I suspect that someone is eventually going to take this type of inequality to court as a Charter of Rights challenge. I'd suspect that the court would rule it's a breach of Charter rights, and would that result in a chaotic aftermath in the health care system.

While a ruling like that would appear to be a victory for patients, I think it would financially break the provincial systems, and that would bring in more of a private element into the system. Ironically, this would the opposite result that the plantiff would be looking for.

From the Canadian Press:
Two middle-aged women living on opposite sides of the country, both battling the spread of colorectal cancer, believe a medicine called Avastin separates their fates.

Ruth Tremblay of Vancouver says she's now "cancer free" because the drug is part of her treatment.

Halifax resident Judee Young wonders if her life will be cut short because her provincial government has declared the same medicine, at roughly $35,000 a year, too expensive to provide.

Young, 47, the married mother of an eight-year-old, calls the contrasts "crazy."

"It's a question of whether my health is not as important as someone else's health. I've been a taxpayer for 25 years and the time comes I need help from my government, and I can't get it."

Tremblay, 48, married and living on a yacht with four step children, said she always thought there was an equality of health care in Canada.

"What I've discovered is it's divided down by province on who gets what." ...more

Doctors too slow to embrace electronic health records

I'm glad to see this issue getting attention. I think it's embarrassing that Canada is so far behind when it comes to using electronic record keeping when it comes to medical records.

From CBC News:
Patients would be better cared for if Canadian hospitals and doctors' offices would stop relying on paper charts and begin using electronic health records, health policy experts say.

Computers can improve patient care, for example, by helping to prevent drug interactions, said Charlyn Black, head of the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia.

It can "make sure patients are receiving refills, that they don't forget to take medications, that they get reminders for important preventive care," said Black. ...more

Shoppers has competitive advantage in Ontario: Analyst

From the Financial Post:
Analyst Keith Howlett of Desjardins Securities has reconsidered his position on Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., (SC/TSX) saying the retailer might have a competitive advantage over others despite recent changes to drug policy in Ontario.

The analyst has upgraded his rating on the stock to "hold" from "sell" with an unchanged target of $50.

“Given recent share price weakness, management’s steadfast confidence in the outlook for the business and our possible identification of the company’s competitive advantage in dealing with drug policy changes in Ontario, we are upgrading our rating,” Mr. Howlett wrote in a note to clients. ...more

Trade gambit doubles cost of cancer medicine

From the Globe and Mail:
A chemotherapy medicine that sells for $500 a vial is about to be marketed for double that amount due to changes in Canada's intellectual property rules that, unwittingly, will leave one pharmaceutical company with a monopoly on a long-established cancer drug.

The regulation changes will give Sanofi-aventis Canada eight years of market exclusivity over the colorectal cancer drug oxaliplatin as soon as the firm receives its licence from Health Canada to sell it - expected as early as next month.

That means that three other companies will have to stop selling versions of oxaliplatin to cancer centres, hospitals and patients at deep discounts. ...more

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pharmacist wins compensation

From the Vancouver Sun:
In a landmark decision, the Interior Health Authority has been ordered to pay compensation to a former pharmacist who alleged he was discriminated against because he was a recovering drug addict.

Mark Brady filed the complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in 2003 when he was turned down for a pharmacy job at Kelowna General Hospital after he divulged his painkiller addiction history.

He also told former hospital pharmacy manager Gary Inaba and Interior Health that he was continuing in drug treatment programs. ...more

Vioxx, Avandia, what next?

From the Associated Press:
How does a drug go from blockbuster to bust?

How can big safety issues go undetected in medicines taken by millions of people for many years, as happened this week with the diabetes pill Avandia and a few years ago with the painkiller Vioxx?

Or with devices like drug-coated stents, which came under a cloud last year after six million heart patients had already received them?

All roads - and fingers this week - point to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. From a company's labs to a consumer's lips, the chronically understaffed federal agency has the power and duty to keep dangerous products from harming the public. ...more

Stronger warnings urged for herbal hot-flash remedy

Health Canada is being urged to issue stronger safety warnings about the potentially dangerous side-effects of a popular herbal remedy that’s predominantly marketed to menopausal women after reports that it could be linked to liver damage.

Black cohosh is purported to ease hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause, but has also been linked to liver problems in Canada and around the world, including a recent death in the United States.

Health Canada announced last summer it would review the safety of black cohosh after reports of problems associated with it. At the same time, the department issued a public advisory warning about the possible link to liver damage. ...more

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Diabetes drug linked to heart attacks

From the Toronto Star:
The widely prescribed diabetes drug Avandia is linked to a greater risk of heart attack and possibly death, a new scientific analysis revealed, prompting the U.S. government to issue a safety alert yesterday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged diabetics taking the pill to talk to their doctors, but stopped short of forcing a sharper warning label on the drug sold by GlaxoSmithKline PLC of London.

More than six million people worldwide have taken the drug since it came on the market eight years ago. Pooled results of dozens of studies revealed a 43 per cent higher risk of heart attack, according to the review published by the New England Journal of Medicine. ...more

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Health Canada faces huge backlog in the licensing of natural health products

From the Toronto Star:
An estimated 20 per cent of Canadians regularly use natural remedies because they believe they are safer than man-made pharmaceuticals, according to David Bailey, a clinical pharmacologist at the University of Western Ontario.

"That is simply not true," he says. "Many of our most potent medications and toxic substances are derived from plants."

Health Canada tries to keep up with new products through its Natural Health Products Directorate. Products that meet the agency's criteria for safety, efficacy and quality get a licence and an eight-digit Natural Product Number. All 50,000 natural health products for sale in Canada must have an NPN by 2010. ...more

Monday, May 21, 2007

Rapid spread of disease alarms experts

From the Globe and Mail:
The public-health world has been alarmed since the early 1990s about what's called multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis.

Drug resistance emerges when people are prescribed the wrong drugs or do not complete a course of treatment, which allows for the natural selection of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs.

MDR is found all over the world, with the fastest growth in cases in China and Russia. It is curable in about half of cases, but patients must take highly toxic drugs for as long as two years to get rid of it. (The other half of people die of the disease within a few years.) ...more

Experts scorn 'natural' products

From the Toronto Star:
It's a billion-dollar industry that uses photos of svelte bodies and flashy fat-busting claims to peddle its products:

"Lose 30 pounds in 8 weeks!"

"Pound-for-Pound, The Most Powerful Weight-Loss Formula on Earth!"

"Lose 10.65 pounds fast!"

And it works: Thousands of overweight and obese Canadians are lured to store shelves and strip malls by these promises of perfection. ...more

Province to cover new AIDS drug

From the Toronto Sun:
Brian Finch is thrilled the Ontario government is now reimbursing AIDS patients for a new drug that has kept his viral load of the disease undetectable for the first time in 10 years.

The Toronto man had run out of options for battling his HIV until Health Canada approved Prezista last year, a drug now listed on the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary. ...more

Med money turnaround

From the Ottawa Sun:
For the first time in more than a decade, Ontario is the only province in the country expected to see a decline in prescription drug spending over the next few years.

That's the conclusion of a new report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Ontario's situation is part of a greater trend: A projected slowdown in national drug spending. Last year, national spending was projected to rise 6.9%, down from an average increase of 11.2% between 1997 and 2004. ...more

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Recent reports of black particles after reconstitution of Myozyme

From Health Canada:
Genzyme has received isolated complaints pertaining to an observation of black gelatinous particles after reconstitution of 50 mg vials of Myozyme® (alglucosidase alfa). Working in close consultation with relevant regulatory authorities, Genzyme immediately initiated an investigation and discovered that when certain types of needles are used to penetrate the rubber stopper on Myozyme vials, black gelatinous particles may appear in the product, on the stopper or on the needle. Although we have not received similar complaints with Genzyme's other products, we are writing to alert our customers to the potential that such particles might appear and to provide current advice and recommendations. ...more

$21B spent on drugs in Canada in 2006: report

From CBC News:
Spending on prescribed drugs in Canada reached an estimated $21.1 billion in 2006, up $1.4 billion from the previous year, although spending seems to be slowing, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information's annual report, Drug Expenditure in Canada, highlights trends in public and private spending on both prescribed and non-prescribed drugs from 1985 to 2006.

Prescribed drugs have been one of the fastest-growing components of total health spending over the past two decades and continue to outpace most other health sectors, including spending on hospitals," said Michael Hunt, manager of pharmaceutical programs at the institute. ...more

Monday, May 14, 2007

Recall of two Valproic acid drugs, Depakene 500 mg and Ratio-Valproic 500 mg

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is warning patients taking the anti-epilepsy medications Depakene 500 mg and ratio-VALPROIC 500 mg that they may not be getting the full dose of the active drug, which could result in inadequate treatment of their seizures. These products are being recalled and patients using Depakene 500 mg and ratio-VALPROIC ECC 500 mg (valproic acid) are advised to contact their physician or pharmacist immediately to obtain another suitable product. Patients should not discontinue their medication before consulting their health care provider.
For the Public

Use of IRESSA® in patients with Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck (SCCHN) failed to prolong survival and increased bleeding events

From Health Canada:
AstraZeneca Canada Inc., in consultation with Health Canada, would like to inform all patients in the IRESSA Patient Registry (IPR) Program of new information from a clinical trial on the use of IRESSA in patients who have head and neck cancer. It should be noted that head and neck cancer is not an approved use for IRESSA, but patients with this diagnosis may be participating in the IPR Program if benefiting from therapy.
For the Public

To market a drug

From the Vancouver Sun:
When Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced $300 million in federal money for a program to vaccinate girls and young women against the human papilloma virus, it was hailed as the most important development in women's reproductive health since the pill.

This vaccine promises to tackle more than the warts caused by certain strains of HPV. It is billed as the first anti-cancer vaccine designed to prevent the vast majority of cervical cancer cases.

But it's too early to tell whether this is just a victory for women's health or also the triumph of an aggressive, multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that has infiltrated our living rooms and the political backrooms. Probably it's both. ...more

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Canada stays out of Afghan opium poppy harvest

This barely qualifies as a Canadian pharmacy story, but I thought I'd include it anyway. Why aren't coalition forces governments working with pharmaceutical companies to buy the opium produced in Afganistan? I would think that this would be really helpful to get the average farmer behind the coalition and against the Taliban. The drug companies need raw material to produce narcotics anyway. I'd even be in favour of giving them a tax break or some kind of incentive to buy these poppies.

From CTV News:
Afghanistan is on the verge of harvesting its latest record opium crop, and Canadian troops are staying out of the way.

"We have nothing to do with poppy eradication. We stay away from it as far as we can," Maj. Steve Graham of the Royal Canadian Dragoons told CTV News.

The plan is to attack the insurgency first and leave the battle against drugs for another day. ...more

Experimental drug is Ian's only hope

From the Hamilton Spectator:
Hope was the last thing Ian MacPherson expected.

Pompe Disease was marching through his body on schedule, disabling his muscles and lungs. There was nothing doctors could do to stop it.

"I didn't expect any treatment in my lifetime," he said.

But then his parents discovered Myozyme on the Internet. The drug was so new it was still being tested in rabbits. Desperate, they requested it anyway. They were denied. It was too experimental and expensive. ...more

Cancer patients protest cost of medication

From CTV News:
A group of cancer patients angry over the massive out-of-pocket expenses they pay for unfunded treatments stood up and turned their backs on Health Minister George Smitherman on Saturday as he spoke about his government's commitment to medicare.

About 25 protesters wore shirts bearing the slogans "Cancer patients need a credit card'' and "Where did medicare go?'' at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new home for patients with terminal illnesses at Toronto's Trillium Health Centre.

Protest organizer Roman Gawur said Ontario ranks ninth out of ten provinces for the amount of funding it puts toward cancer drugs. ...more

Friday, May 11, 2007

Court fines OxyContin maker $634M US

From CBC News:
The maker of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin and three executives pleaded guilty Thursday to making false claims about the drug's risk of addiction, a U.S. federal prosecutor and the company said.

Purdue Pharma L.P pleaded guilty in a Virginia court to felony misbranding of OxyContin with the intent to defraud. The company's president, chief lawyer and former chief medical officer also pleaded guilty to charges of misbranding – a crime of mislabelling, fraudulently promoting or marketing a drug for an unapproved use.

"With its OxyContin, Purdue unleashed a highly abusable, addictive and potentially dangerous drug on an unsuspecting and unknowing public," U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said in a release. ...more

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Association between Long-Term Treatment with ACTOS® (pioglitazone hydrochloride) Tablets for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Fractures in Women

From Health Canada:
Eli Lilly Canada, after consultation with Health Canada, would like to bring to your attention important safety information concerning ACTOS® (pioglitazone hydrochloride) tablets, used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus and the occurrence of bone fractures in female patients.
For health professionals
For the public

Sinus drug linked to liver damage, skin peeling

From the Vancouver Sun:
Somewhere near Quebec City lives a young mother who spent four weeks in a burn unit last year after a suspected drug reaction covered her body with burn-like red blisters and peeled off her skin from head to thigh.

The woman had been prescribed the antibiotic Ketek for a simple sinus infection.

But the 26-year-old developed toxic epidermal necrolysis, an extremely rare drug reaction where people essentially shed the outer protective layer of their skin. ...more

Drug import limits stand

From the Birmingham (AL) News:
The Senate voted on Monday to preserve current restrictions on the importation of lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and other countries, fearing that such imports could pose risks to consumers, even with new safeguards.

By a vote of 49 to 40, the Senate approved a measure saying that imports will not be allowed unless the secretary of health and human services first certifies that they "pose no additional risk to the public's health and safety," and that they will significantly reduce costs to consumers. Alabama's Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions voted against the measure.

Consumer advocates have long favored such imports as a way to make medicines more affordable. But health officials in the Clinton and Bush administrations have blocked such efforts, saying they cannot guarantee the safety of imported medicines. ...more

Poor prognosis prompts action

From the Financial Post:
Canada is facing a critical shortage of health care professionals as Baby Boomers retire and too few graduates are emerging from medical schools to care for the ageing population.

While all health care provider roles stand to be affected, the number of nurses in particular is falling rapidly. The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) projects by 2011, the nation will be in need of 78,000 nurses; if no action is taken, the system will be down 113,000 nurses by 2016.

The prognosis has prompted organizations representing medical professionals to band together in an effort to boost education and recruits. ...more

Fatal chemo overdose prompts Alberta reforms

From CBC News:
An investigation into a fatal chemotherapy overdose has led Alberta to revise procedures for the administration of some cancer drugs.

On Tuesday, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada released its independent report on the death of 43-year-old Denise Melanson last summer at Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute.

Denise Melanson, 43, died last summer at Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute.
A pump was supposed to deliver fluorouracil, a drug used to treat tumours, over four days, but it was given to Melanson over four hours, along with another chemotherapy drug, cisplatin. ...more

Monday, May 07, 2007

U.S. Senate guts latest attempt to legalize bulk drug imports from Canada

From the Canadian Press:
The U.S. Senate gutted the latest attempt Monday to legalize prescription drug imports from Canada and other countries.

Despite a lot of support for the plan from both Democrats and Republicans, senators ultimately decided to require that the Food and Drug Administration first certify the imports are safe and effective.

Federal officials have said for years they can’t do it. So the requirement, passed on a 49-40 vote, effectively quashed the imports effort.

Even if the bid for expanding the drug trade had made it through without any caveats, the administration said it would have recommended a veto from President George W. Bush. ...more

Drugs produced dramatic change in HIV patient

I have been able to see the use of these two new Tibotec drugs in action. Both look to be quite promising. TMC125 is most notable in that it's a new non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI). We haven't seen a new drug in this class in some time. Its resistance profile is quite good as well. Typically, if the HIV virus is resistant to one of the existing NNRTI's, the virus is resistant to all drugs in this class. TMC125 appears to be effective in these resistant patients.

One addtional bit of info not included in this article: TMC125 has been given the generic name of etravirine. I have not heard of a suggested brand name yet.

From the Vancouver Sun:
The human immunodeficiency virus could have killed Vancouver artist Tiko Kerr 20 years ago, just as it claimed so many other promising lives.

Instead, his successful battle to live is now propelling him on a whirlwind world tour, talking to drug researchers, doctors and scientists about his story of survival and the two controversial AIDS drugs that helped him beat the odds.

"I've really come to the conclusion that the worse you have to go through, the greater the reward," Kerr says of his dramatic change in fortune.

The tour began in December, when Kerr, just shy of the one-year anniversary of his initial treatment with TMC114 and TMC125 as part of a small clinical trial at St. Paul's Hospital, travelled to New Jersey where he was invited to speak at the corporate headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiary, Tibotec, which developed the two drugs. ...more

Agency decisions threaten cancer patient health: doc

From the Edmonton Sun:
An Edmonton doctor says the health of Canadian cancer patients is being threatened by a government-appointed agency that makes decisions on provincial drug funding.

The Common Drug Review (CDR) is using a decision-making process that is flawed, said Dr. Scott North, a medical oncologist at the Cross Cancer Institute.

North explained that the CDR recently reviewed two new drugs for the treatment of kidney cancer.

One of the drugs, Nexavar, was found to be especially effective halfway through one recent clinical trial, North said. ...more

New drug drastically reduces fractures, research shows

From the Globe and Mail:
A drug that needs to be injected only once a year can sharply reduce fractures in women suffering from the bone-weakening disease osteoporosis, according to a new study.

Annual treatment with zoledronic acid produced impressive results in a large clinical trial, including:

A 70-per-cent reduction in spine fractures;

A 41-per-cent drop in broken hips;

A 25-per-cent reduction in other fractures, such as broken wrists.

On the downside, the drug appears to increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that greatly increases the risk of stroke. ...more

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bid to allow drug imports advances - Los Angeles Times

From the Los Angeles Times:
The Senate, giving a boost to a measure long favored by congressional Democrats, opened the door Thursday to letting American consumers save money on prescription medicines by ordering them from Canada and other developed countries where prices are lower.

But the move could have an unintended side effect — derailing a long-awaited, bipartisan effort to improve the Food and Drug Administration's faltering system for protecting patients from potentially dangerous medications. The reform plan includes increased funding for drug safety and the creation of a nationwide computer surveillance system designed to spot problems with medications.

The proposed improvements were developed in response to highly publicized safety lapses, including the belated withdrawal of the diabetes drug Rezulin and the painkiller Vioxx. ...more

Edmonton pharmacy billionaire steps up with surprise offer of $145 million for Oilers

From the National Post:
Edmonton drugstore billionaire Daryl Katz, the reclusive owner of the 1,800-store Katz Group pharmacy empire, has launched a surprise $145-million bid to acquire the Edmonton Oilers.

The all-cash offer by Katz, 45, an Edmonton native and University of Alberta law school grad whom Forbes magazine now ranks among the world's richest men, was made to the 37-member Edmonton Oilers ownership group earlier this week.

Under terms of the offer, disclosed to The Journal late Friday by a source familiar with information shared at the meeting, the Oilers would remain in Edmonton. ...more

Man who robbed pharmacy jailed 3 1/2 years

From the Sault (Ont.) Star:
Police caught up with an Alberta man wanted for a robbery at a Sault Ste. Marie pharmacy when his stolen car ran out of gas north of the city.

Jody Berge was arrested south of Wawa on April 16, about two hours after he robbed the Great Northern Road Medicine Shoppe of $350 worth of drugs.

Berge, 33, of Lethbridge, pleaded guilty Friday to robbery in a Sault court for stealing morphine and other drugs while using threats of violence. ...more

Shoppers boss unfazed by drug laws

From the Globe and Mail:
The new chief executive officer at Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., who must contend with new drug laws, insists that an aging and more health-conscious population creates huge business opportunities for everything from prescriptions to organic foods and premium skin-care products.

Jurgen Schreiber, at his first Shoppers annual meeting, dismissed "rumours" that new generic drug pricing laws, which came into full effect on April 1 and reduce the amount Ontario will pay for generics, could put a damper on Shoppers' stellar financial performance. ...more

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ont. cancer patients say having to pay for drugs violates Canada Health Act

There are a couple of comments at the end of this article that intrigue me.

"(Patients) are paying a hospital for injections of a medically necessary drug, and from their perspective that's a violation of the Canada Health Act."
Perhaps there will be a day in the not-too-distant future where someone will take a hospital and their provincial government to court over this issue. The impact of such a ruling could be huge. Agreement by the court could essentially bankrupt the health care system. I think eventually we are going to hit a point where people will want their government to do more for them than put virtually every tax dollar accumulated into health care and it still isn't enough. Denial by the court could open the door for more private plan involvement in the system.

From the Canadian Press:
There's no public or private health insurance plan in the country that could afford to pay for all of the latest cancer drugs, Ontario's health minister said Wednesday amid criticism from patients paying for expensive drugs not covered by the province.

Ontario has more than doubled spending on new cancer drugs, but it would be impossible to cover every new medication that's developed, Health Minister George Smitherman said, describing the province's medication approval system as the best in the country.

"In a world where there will be a new product available every day - which sometimes is offering very, very modest enhancements to life, measured sometimes in days - it's going to be very, very challenging for any insurance system, public or otherwise, to be in a position to buy every product that is out there," he said. ...more

Methadone victim's family sues clinic, doctors

From the Ottawa Sun:
Parents of a man who died of a methadone overdose administered by accident at a downtown addiction treatment clinic are seeking a half-million dollars in damages in a lawsuit.

The statement of claim filed April 24 by Linda and Douglas Hatt, and on behalf of their son Wade Lamont Hatt, names as defendants the Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres and a number of doctors and nurses connected with the centre. ...more

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

U.S. FDA rejects painkiller Arcoxia, Merck's Vioxx successor

I would think that the FDA rejection of Arcoxia is not going to help its chances of being approved in Canada. As far as I'm aware, it's still somewhere in the Health Canada approval process.

From CBC News:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected Merck & Co.'s request to market a successor to its withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx in the United States, the drug maker said Friday.

The move was widely expected, after a panel of FDA advisers two weeks ago voted 20-1 against approving the drug, Arcoxia.

Arcoxia is in the class of anti-inflammatory drugs called COX-2 inhibitors, which are touted as less likely to cause stomach bleeding and other dangers but have been linked to cardiac risks. ...more

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Shoppers Drug Mart profit jumps almost 19 percent

From Reuters:
Shoppers Drug Mart (SC.TO) reported an 18.7 percent jump in first-quarter profit on Monday, as Canada's largest drugstore chain continued to enjoy robust prescription and front-store sales.

Shoppers said it earned C$85.1 million ($76.6 million), or 39 Canadian cents a share, for the quarter ended March 24, up from a profit of C$71.7 million, or 33 Canadian cents a share, in the corresponding period a year earlier.

Solid top-line growth, an enhanced sales mix and an ongoing commitment to cost reduction helped power profit higher in the quarter, the company said, noting those factors offset higher operating costs and increased amortization in new and relocated stores. ...more

Pfizer says Canadian court blocks generic Celebrex

From the Financial Post:
Pfizer Inc. said yesterday the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada has blocked generic drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. from launching a copycat form of its Celebrex arthritis drug in the country until 2014.

Pfizer said the court, in its ruling, reversed a lower court ruling that would have permitted Teva's Novopharm affiliate to launch its form of Celebrex in Canada.

The patent concerned the chemical composition of Celebrex, Pfizer spokesman Bryant Haskins said. ...more

Depression May Be Early Sign of Parkinson's Disease

We know that dopamine plays a role in both illnesses, so it makes sense that a link between the two exists. I find it surprising that it's taken this long for the connection to be shown in a study. I think this information will be considered essential in the future and may result in the faster diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.

From CBC News:
In some cases, depression can be an early manifestation of Parkinson's disease, new research suggests.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health compared antidepressant use among more than 1,000 individuals with Parkinson's disease to more than 6,600 age- and gender-matched individuals without the degenerative neurological illness.

They found that people currently on antidepressants had an 80 percent higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease than those who had never taken antidepressants. This was true for both men and women, regardless of age or the class of antidepressant used. ...more

Updates coming soon

I will have new posts online tonight.