Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Generic drug prices skyrocketing in Canada: study

From Reuters:
Canadian government policies have driven up prices of generic prescription drugs so dramatically that they are more expensive than their U.S. counterparts, a study showed on Tuesday.

Prices of generic prescription drugs in Canada were, on average, 115 percent higher than U.S. prices, a study by Canada's Fraser Institute showed. However, Canadian brand-name prescription drugs were about 51 percent cheaper than those in the U.S.

"Canadians pay more for generic drugs because government policies shield generic drug companies and pharmacy retailers from normal market forces that would naturally reduce prices," the study said. ...more

Unauthorized Smoking Cessation Product Resolve May Pose Health Risk

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is advising Canadians not to use the unauthorized smoking cessation product Resolve, because of the potential health risk to consumers.

The product contains an unacceptable amount of an ingredient labelled as "CESTEMENOL-350." Consuming excessive amounts of this ingredient might result in damage to the kidney, liver or red blood cells.

Resolve is advertised as a natural stop smoking aid and is available in Cool Peppermint and Wild Cherry flavours. Resolve is distributed by The Winning Combination Inc. These products have been sold in retail stores across the country and are also available over the Internet.

Resolve is not authorized for sale in Canada and Health Canada has asked the company to recall the products. To date, the company has not complied with Health Canada's request. Health Canada will take further action to remove the product from the market. ...more

Class-action suits launched against makers of diabetes drug

From the Toronto Star:
A lawyer is attempting to launch class action lawsuits in two provinces against the makers of Avandia, a popular Type 2 diabetes drug.

Tony Merchant of the Merchant Law Group filed statements of claim in Saskatchewan and Ontario on Monday, alleging GlaxoSmithKline should have done more to warn consumers of the drug's risks.

Merchant says statements of claim will be filed in other provinces later this week.

"(The plaintiffs) have suffered heart attacks or suffered loss of their vision, and in some cases they have died," Merchant alleged in an interview late Monday. ...more

Monday, July 30, 2007

Diabetes drug should remain on market: advisers

From CTV News:
The widely used diabetes drug Avandia should remain on the market, U.S. government health advisers recommended Monday. They say evidence of an increased risk of heart attack from taking GlaxoSmithKline's Canadian-manufactured drug doesn't merit removal.

The nonbinding recommendation to the Food and Drug Administration came on a majority vote by the panel.

"We're being asked today to take a very draconian action based on studies that have very significant weaknesses and are inadequate for us to make that kind of decision," said Rebecca Killion, a Bowie, Md., diabetic and the panel's patient representative. ...more

Drug for mild to moderate Alzheimer's also helps severe disease: study

From Canada East:
A drug used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's can also ease some symptoms in people with a more advanced stage of the condition, helping patients and their caregivers to better cope with the effects of the debilitating neurological disease, a Canadian-led international study has found.

While the drug donepezil does not arrest the progression of Alzheimer's disease, the study found it improved the memory and overall functioning of those taking the medication compared with patients given a placebo.

"So it slows down what we call the symptomatic progression of the disease," said principal investigator Dr. Sandra Black, a neurologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. ...more

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Two Diabetes Drugs Double Heart Failure Risk: Study

From the Washington Post:

Patients taking either of the diabetes drugs Avandia or Actos face twice the risk of developing heart failure compared to people not on the popular medications, a new study finds.

This means for every 50 patients with type 2 diabetes taking these drugs, one patient will develop heart failure within 26 months, according to the report released Friday and published in the August issue of Diabetes Care.

"Both Avandia and Actos double the risk of heart failure," concluded the lead author of the first study, Dr. Sonal Singh, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "We know these drugs increase the risk, but we found the risk is more substantial than suspected. This occurs at even the lowest dose and among young patients." ...more

Methadone mixup upsets Sask. pharmacists

From CBC News:
Confusion about how Saskatchewan pharmacists get paid for a federal methadone program was largely Health Canada's fault, an official with the department says.

Some Saskatchewan pharmacists were upset after getting a June newsletter from Health Canada's Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program that said, effectively, some of them could expect less money from now on.

Specifically, it told them that for each of their methadone clients, who typically receive a dose every day, they could bill for only one prescription a week, with the pharmacist's fee capped at $36.17. Methadone is a drug used to wean addicts off heroin. ...more

Unauthorized drug being sold on Canadian shelves, despite warnings

From the Montreal Gazette:
Health Canada is trying to halt the sale and use of Resolve, a product used to help quit smoking, because of a potential health risk to consumers.

Despite not being authorized for sale in Canada, the products is sold in retail stores across the country, and is also available over the Internet.

Health Canada has asked the company to recall the products, but the company has not taken Resolve off the market, said a press release on Saturday. ...more

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Painkillers invade Victoria streets

From the Victoria (BC) Times Colonist:
An increasing number of Victoria drug dealers are selling prescription painkillers -- sometimes referred to as hillbilly heroin -- on the streets, pushing the city toward a troublesome trend already plaguing major Canadian cities.

"I would term it as the evolution of the drug use in Victoria," said Const. Conor King, a drug expert. "What we're seeing is people who are heroin and cocaine dealers are becoming prescription drug dealers as well."

Those dealers sell Dilaudid, OxyContin and morphine sulphate -- opium-based painkillers from the same drug class as heroin. OxyContin's street name is "hillbilly heroin" because its abuse started mainly in rural areas where heroin was unavailable. Now it has supplanted heroin as the dominant drug in urban centres. ...more

Health Canada to crack down on fake pills

From the National Post:
A B.C. woman is fatally poisoned by counterfeit anxiety pills she ordered over the Internet, four Ontario patients die after apparently consuming fake -- and ineffective -- heart drugs, while Quebec vendors are spotted selling knock-off Viagra at a flea market.

The peddling of bogus pharmaceuticals is becoming such a worrisome problem that Health Canada has begun drafting a new anti-counterfeit strategy, expected to include beefed-up enforcement, stronger ties with police and a public-education campaign, a department official confirmed last week. The federal agency is also planning to hold a conference of interested parties to discuss the threat when the plan is released this fall.

For Health Canada officials used to dealing with a "generally compliant industry," counterfeiting represents a novel kind of health issue, said Paul Duchesne, a department spokesman. ...more

B.C. wants review of hepatitis drug coverage

From the Vancouver Sun:
Health Minister George Abbott said Monday the B.C. government has asked for a review of whether Pharmacare should pay for the hepatitis B drug Hepsera.

Tung Chan, chief executive of Chinese immigrant services organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S., strongly urged the government Monday to start paying for the drug.

He said hepatitis B especially affects people of Asian descent and Hepsera is recommended for patients whose liver conditions become unresponsive to other, approved drugs.

Hepsera is not covered by Pharmacare, but is now provided free of charge by drug maker Gilead Sciences as part of a compassionate care program. ...more

Coverage changes

From the Regina Leader Post:
An advocacy association that represents Saskatchewan pharmacists believes that federal changes to methadone coverage short-changes its members.

Brett Filson, executive director of the Pharmacists' Association of Saskatchewan (PAS), said Canadian pharmacists weren't warned that the definition of a prescription changed until they got a newsletter in mid-June from the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program of the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (NIHB).

Filson said he contacted NIHB last summer to ask questions about methadone coverage after a Saskatchewan pharmacy was audited and at that time, he was told that three different strengths of methadone constituted three different prescriptions and could be billed accordingly.

"When a patient is starting on it they'll have a strength for a few days and then the strength will be adjusted for a few days and then another strength adjustment will be made and the doctor will write that on the prescription," Filson explained. "Usually it's a run of about three days at each different strength as the patient is being brought on to the methadone." ...more

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Natural remedies ‘potentially harmful’

From the National Post:
Half the pharmacists surveyed by Alberta researchers said they had seen evidence of dangerous interactions between natural health products and prescription drugs, a "startling" result that suggests natural remedies cause many more harmful side effects than once thought, a new study concludes.

Most of those pharmacists, however, failed to report the side effects to Health Canada's adverse-reaction database, the study indicated. The findings point to an "urgent need" for additional safety data on herbal and other natural products used by millions of Canadians, said the University of Alberta scientists behind the research.

"This [study] leads us to believe that natural-health product [NHP] adverse events are far more common than previously suspected," said their paper, just published in the journal Annals of Pharmacotherapy. "The majority of Canadians use NHPs and our data confirm that this use may carry unrecognized risk." ...more

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Not enough doctors advise smokers to butt out: report

From CBC News:
Doctors and other health-care professionals seem to be missing chances to help patients quit smoking, according to a report based on a large Canadian survey.

The 2005 government survey concluded half of smokers who visited health-care providers in the preceding 12 months got advice about quitting, suggesting that doctors, dentists and pharmacists need to take greater advantage of opportunities to provide such advice.

The report was published this week in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a public health journal by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Its findings are based on a Health Canada survey of the smoking habits of more than 20,000 people aged 15 and older that suggested 19 per cent of Canadians smoked in 2005. ...more

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Campaign hopes to erase bad handwriting

From the Globe and Mail:
Along with the stethoscope and the white coat, bad handwriting is central to the popular image of the physician.

But the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has launched a campaign to stamp out hastily scrawled prescriptions after an audit revealed a third of the orders issued in its hospitals could have compromised patient safety, either because they were illegible or contained banned abbreviations.

“We know from the literature that there are certainly medical errors that result from miscommunication,” said pharmacist Lora Jaye Gray medication safety co-ordinator for the WRHA. “There are continually reports throughout Canada of patients who have been harmed and killed through medication errors. We also know from the Canadian Adverse Events Study in 2004 that 7.5 per cent of patients admitted to Canadian hospitals had at least one adverse event. Not all were medications, but medications were a big part of that.” ...more

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shoppers Drug Mart Profit Climbs 19% on Expansion

From Bloomberg:
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., Canada's biggest pharmacy chain by sales, said second-quarter profit rose 19 percent on new stores that sell higher-priced beauty brands.

Net income increased to C$112.3 million ($107.7 million), or 52 cents a share, from C$94.4 million, or 44 cents, a year earlier, Toronto-based Shoppers said today in a statement. Sales in the period through June 16 climbed 9 percent to C$1.93 billion. Earnings beat analysts' estimates by 2 cents.

Shoppers opened 21 locations in the quarter, increasing retail space by 11.4 percent from a year earlier. The company has expanded space and added brand-name cosmetics at its in-store beauty boutiques to attract shoppers from department stores. ...more

Warning against over-the-counter sleep aids

From CTV News:
Health Canada is advising consumers not to use a sleep aid product called Optimum Health Care Sleep Easy because it contains an undeclared drug that can be habit-forming.

The department says the drug, clonazepam, is known to be habit-forming after even a few months of use.

Health Canada says people who have been using the product should consult with a health-care professional before they stop taking the pills, because of the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms. ...more

Pharmacists welcome more time with patients

Pharmacists would love to meet with their patients every year to discuss drug interactions and negative side effects, but some fear they lack the time and money to follow through with the Ontario government's new service, their association warned Tuesday.

Legislation passed by the Liberal government last summer set aside $50 million to allow patients who take three or more medications can book a 30-minute annual consultation with their pharmacist to ensure they're taking the drugs properly.

But the new law also puts a squeeze on pharmacists because it reduces the amount of cash they can get from dispensing generic drugs, said Ken Burns, chairman of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association.

"It's a question of whether pharmacists will have the time and the resources to actually be able to do this," Burns said as Health Minister George Smitherman launched the province's new MedsCheck program at a news conference. ...more

Alberta covers costly cancer drug

From the Calgary Herald:
Alberta is now footing the bill for a common colon cancer treatment, leading advocates to call for provincial funding of a second drug with a steep price tag.

The provincial government has begun picking up the tab for Oxaliplatin after years of controversy because many patients paid thousands to undergo the therapy, an effective colon cancer treatment.

Alberta is expected to spend about $7 million a year to treat about 300 patients with the drug.

It's certainly a positive step for patients," said Dr. Tony Fields, a vice-president with the Alberta Cancer Board. ...more

Older, cheaper diabetes drugs as good as newer

From CTV News:
Older and cheaper pills are just as effective for treating diabetes as some of the more expensive new drugs, researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The findings are good news for diabetics who have trouble affording their medication and could further hurt sales of newer and heavily-marketed drugs, such as Avandia.

Researchers, led by Dr. Shari Bolen of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, read through 216 published studies and two systematic reviews. Their comparison of 10 diabetes drugs showed they all worked well to reduce levels of glucose in the blood, though each has its drawbacks, the researchers found.

One of the best medications was metformin, sold under the brand name Glucophage and Glumetza as well as generically, for about US$100 a year. It works just as well as other diabetes pills but does not cause weight gain or too-low blood sugar, the analysis found. It also lowers LDL or bad cholesterol. ...more

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Folic acid fortification cut birth defect rates

From CTV News:
In the 10 years since Canadian food manufacturers began fortifying their grain-based products with folic acid, the rate of spina bifida and other neural tube birth defects has been cut in half, a new study reveals.

The study, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is not the first to show that folic acid fortification can reduce rates of birth defects. But it is the largest to assess the effects since Canada introduced folic acid fortification in 1998.

The new rules made Canada one of only a few countries in the world to require manufacturers of products such as bread, cereal and pasta to add the B vitamin to their products. ...more

N.S. approves funding for two more cancer drugs

From CTV News:
Nova Scotia will fund two additional cancer drugs - but Avastin is not one of them.

Health Minister Chris D'Entremont says Oxaliplatin, a drug that treats colorectal cancer, and Mab Campath, a drug that treats chronic lymphocytic leukemia have been added to the list.

The decision is based on recommendations by the province's Cancer Systemic Therapy Policy Committee, which includes oncologists, pharmacists and cancer survivors.

The committee feels Oxaliplatin can treat colorectal patients after surgery and prevent the disease from progressing. ...more

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Merck's Drug for AIDS Virus Faces Review in September

It should be interesting to see how the FDA handles the application of this fantastic new antiviral drug. Some of the reports regarding this drug have been extremely promising.

It's my understanding that Health Canada is trying to speed up the review on this product as well.

From Bloomberg:
Merck & Co.'s experimental HIV/AIDS treatment will be scrutinized by a panel of U.S. regulatory advisers on Sept. 5.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland, will review Merck's application to sell the drug, called Isentress, according to a notice posted today on the agency's Web site. The twice-a-day tablets are intended for patients with the human immunodeficiency virus who don't respond to existing antiretroviral therapy.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, is competing with Pfizer Inc. to develop the first new type of medicine in a decade to treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Thousands of Americans have drug-resistant forms of the infection and could benefit from new therapies, according to doctors. ...more

Canadian passengers sue U.S. TB traveler

From Reuters:
Passengers who were aboard a flight with a U.S. tuberculosis patient in May launched nine civil lawsuits against him on Thursday, claiming that he knowingly exposed them to the disease.

Andrew Speaker, an American lawyer, sparked international health alarms after he flew around Europe and to Canada with what was then believed to be a deadly form of tuberculosis, known as XDR TB.

Speaker was recently found not to have had XDR TB but an equally contagious form of the disease, known as MDR, or multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. MDR is easier to treat than XDR, or extensively drug-resistant TB

The suit was launched by seven Canadian passengers and two Czech women who were on the Czech Airlines flight with Speaker from Prague to Montreal, their lawyer, Anlac Nguyen, said.

The suits are worth a total of C$1.37 million ($1.3 million), he said. ...more

Rules set to loosen for issuing narcotics

The proposed legislation in this article could potentially allow a wide range of health professionals to prescribe controlled drugs. This list could include pharmacists.

For example, in Alberta, the new pharmacist prescribing rules prohibit controlled drug precribing because it's federally regulated. However, these changes would allow a profession to go Health Canada, prove it has the necessary training and then Health Canada would sign off on the profession in a general sense. Then the individual provinces would have to decide whether they would allow narcotics to be included in the scope of other pharmacist prescribing.

Not being able to prescribe these drugs was never a dealbreaker for Alberta pharmacists when it came to pharmacist prescribing, so it may not be necessary to do right away, but it does at least open that door.

From the National Post:
Foot doctors, midwives and nurses would be able to prescribe morphine, Oxycontin and other powerfully addictive medicine under a proposed federal rule that some analysts fear could inadvertently fuel Canada's growing prescription drug-abuse problem.

Health professionals who stand to benefit from a loosening of the decades-old restrictions on "controlled substances" applauded the move. It should mean better service for patients and less strain on the overworked physicians who must prescribe the medications now, they said.

One drug-abuse expert, though, warns that the monitoring and control of opiates is already inadequate, so allowing additional professionals to approve them would shift more pills into the burgeoning black market.

It probably makes sense to give the three groups such prescribing authority, said Dr. Benedikt Fischer of the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C.

However, with Canada using five times as many opiates per capita as the U.K., we need tighter limits generally on the distribution of narcotics, he said. ...more

Premier backs deal giving health professionals money to stay in Saskatchewan

From CBC News:
Saskatchewan's premier is backing a tentative contract agreement that gives experienced health professionals more money to stay in the province.

Premier Lorne Calvert says the demand for health professionals is high across Canada and that retention money will help keep senior workers in the province's health system. Calvert says the workers, who include paramedics and hospital pharmacists, are sought after by other jurisdictions.

The tentative agreement, reached overnight, gives a 2.5 per cent retention adjustment for health professionals with more than five years of experience. ...more

Protect medication like cash, says N.B. pharmacist

From CBC News:
People who take prescribed painkillers have to be careful not to draw attention to the drugs they are taking, a Sackville pharmacy owner said Wednesday.

George Murray, who is a past president of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, was reacting to an incident Monday in which a customer at Lawton's Drug Store on Elmwood Drive in Moncton was assaulted and had his narcotics stolen at gunpoint outside the pharmacy.

Murray said a person should take the same precautions with drugs as are followed when visiting a bank or using an automatic teller. ...more

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Area honouree helped shape pharmacy services of today

From Northumberland (Ont.) Today:
For its 100th anniversary this year, the Canadian Pharmacists Association invited nominations from its 7,000 members for nominations for 100 past or present members to be designated Centennial Pharmacists.

Cobourg resident Bill Wensley has been so declared. And the work he has done has helped shape many of the pharmacy and health-care services we enjoy today.

While on the Ontario Council of Health in the late-1960s, for instance, his was one of the voices recommending district health councils.

He was also involved in product selection legislation in the early 1970s that allows a pharmacist to substitute a less costly generic drug when a brand name one is prescribed. As a result, he also worked on the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee that researched exactly what generic drugs could be prescribed in substitute for which name brand drugs and under what circumstances, helping to compile the formulary on which pharmacists rely in making these decisions. ...more

Health workers, employer taking 2-day break after weekend talks go nowhere

From Canada East:
Striking Saskatchewan health workers and their employer are taking a break in talks.

The union representing the 2,700 workers and the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations met with a conciliator on the weekend. But officials emerged Sunday to say they will restart talks in Regina on Tuesday.

Twenty-eight members have been on strike since July 2, and the union has promised that no more will go off the job while talks are underway. ...more

FDA approves patch to treat dementia

From CBC News:
The first patch to treat the dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease was approved Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The prescription patch from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. contains the drug Exelon, or rivastigmine, currently available in Canada and the U.S. in an oral solution and in capsule form.

The oral and capsule medications have already been approved for use in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients, to treat symptoms of mild to moderate dementia such as impaired thinking and memory loss. ...more

Many use sleeping pills after hospital stay

From CTV News:
Half of elderly Canadian patients who are prescribed the type of sleeping pills called benzodiazepines after being sent home from the hospital are still chronic users of the drugs six months later, finds a new study.

Doctors say the trend is worrisome because benzodiazepines can be addictive. They have also been linked to falls and related injuries such as hip fractures, motor vehicle collisions, as well as cognitive impairment -- particularly when combined with other drugs or alcohol.

"Many patients are first introduced to benzodiazepines during hospitalization," says Dr. Chaim Bell, the lead author of the study and an adjunct scientist with ICES, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, "and although the intent may have been to manage insomnia during the short period of time the patient was in hospital, there are concerns that their use in hospital may result in chronic use after discharge, together with the accompanying risks." ...more

Methadone policy review 'impractical,' pharmacist says

From the St. Catharines (Ont.) Standard:
The recommendations of a coroner’s jury that examined the death of a St. Catharines man who poisoned himself with booze and methadone are well-meaning but impractical, a local pharmacist says.

“They were trying to do the right thing, that much is obvious,” said pharmacist Tom McAnulty, owner of Pharmasave on Carlton Street. “But their recommendations are impractical and expensive and really would not solve anything.”

Last week, after a two day coroner’s inquest was in the death of Grant Spielmacher, the jury recommended methadone policies in Ontario be reviewed.

Spielmacher died in the custody of Niagara Regional Police in February 2004. ...more

Counterfeit toothpaste potentially more harmful than suspected: Health Canada

From the Edmonton Sun:
Health Canada warns consumers that ongoing tests on counterfeit toothpaste have resulted in preliminary evidence of a more harmful bacterial contamination than first suspected.
The report follows a June 29 warning in which the agency said that counterfeit toothpaste products, labelled as Colgate Fluoride Toothpaste Herbal and Colgate Fluoride Toothpaste Maximum Cavity Protection, contained high levels of harmful bacteria.

The agency warns in a new release issued today that if confirmed through further testing, the presence of this bacterium could pose a serious health risk.

Health Canada advises all those who have the phoney toothpaste to immediately stop using it and keep it out of the reach of children. ...more

Bayer's blood-clot drug beats Lovenox in key study

From the Scotsman (UK):
Bayer AG's experimental pill rivaroxaban is significantly more effective than standard injections of Lovenox in preventing blood clots after knee surgery, researchers said on Sunday.

The news confirms the German drugmaker's leadership in the multibillion-dollar race to bring a new class of oral anticoagulants to market.

Results of a large Phase III trial showed only 9.6 percent of patients given rivaroxaban experienced venous thromboembolism (VTE), or blood clots, following total knee replacement against 18.9 percent of those on Sanofi-Aventis SA's Lovenox. ...more

Internet drugs are blamed for woman's death

From the Vancouver Province:
Health Minister George Abbott is cautioning British Columbians about buying drugs from Internet pharmacies after a coroner determined a Quadra Island woman died from counterfeit drugs she bought online.

Coroner Kerry Clarke found that Marcia Bergeron, 58, died of cardiac arrhythmia due to acute metal poisoning.

Shortly before she died last December, Bergeron complained of nausea, diarrhea and aching joints.

She was losing her hair and having vision problems.

An autopsy discovered high levels of aluminum, phosphorous and many other metals in her body, and the coroner said they came from the pills she bought on the Internet.

Among the 100 pills found in Bergeron's home were sedatives, painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs.

They were bought from a pharmacy which billed itself as a Canadian pharmacy, but it wasn't. ...more

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pharmacist from Dal part of intensive drug study

From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
A Dalhousie University pharmacist will be part of the first extensive study of whether public and private drug policies across Canada and internationally help or harm patients.

Neil MacKinnon, associate director of research at Dal’s college of pharmacy, is one of 13 people worldwide selected as 2007 Harkness Fellows.

The fellowship, administered by the United States’ Commonwealth Fund and the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, will allow him to work with experts from around the world to learn more about drug policy in other countries.

The first meeting of the group is in New York in September.

The process of determining what drugs are safe and effective and which of those will be covered by public and private insurers varies by country and province, said Mr. MacKinnon, a Bridgewater native. ...more

Combination of sunscreen, insect repellent can pose threat

From Canada.com:
With summer's sunshine and biting insects here, new Canadian research suggests applying sunscreen and insect repellent containing DEET at the same time may compromise the safety and effectiveness of each product.

Xiaochen Gu, a pharmacology professor at the University of Manitoba, warns that when the chemical ingredients are applied at the same time, the repellent permeates the skin in far greater amounts. The sunscreen also loses some of its protection ability.

The research poses a conundrum for Canadians who want to protect themselves from skin cancer and keep possible West Nile-carrying mosquitoes away.

Gu said people should wait at least half an hour after applying sunscreen before using bug repellent containing DEET. Health Canada maintains people can use sunscreen and insect repellents together, as long as the sunscreen is applied first and the insect repellent second. It does not give any advice about waiting in between applications ...more

Health Canada approves Seasonale

From the Calgary Herald:
Say goodbye to "that time of the month" and hello to "that time of the season."

An oral contraceptive designed to give you only four menstrual periods a year instead of the usual 13 will be hitting Canadian pharmacy shelves by the end of the year.

On Thursday, Health Canada approved Seasonale, the first extended-cycle birth control to come to Canada. The drug was approved for use in the U.S. in 2003.

Taken as a 91-day regimen -- 84 active tablets with hormones followed by seven inactive tablets, during which time a woman would have her period -- Seasonale will appeal to busy women who don't want to deal with the inconveniences of a monthly period and to women who have severe premenstrual syndrome. ...more

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Canadian pharmacies see decline in U.S. business

From CBC News:
The soaring Canadian dollar and changes to the U.S. Medicare system have a senior's group south of the border calling off prescription drug-buying excursions to Manitoba.

The Minneapolis Senior Federation has organized between 30 and 40 bus trips to Winnipeg over the last decade so members can get their prescriptions filled at less expensive Canadian prices.

But with the Canadian dollar above the 94-cent US mark — its highest value in almost 30 years — American customers find their dollar doesn't go as far as it used to in Canadian pharmacies. ...more

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sask. health workers begin strike action

From the Globe and Mail:
More than two dozen health professionals across Saskatchewan went on strike Tuesday, but an agreement has been reached to keep job action from escalating.

The respiratory therapists, hospital pharmacists and others walked out in six health regions, including Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

Chris Driol, president of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, said the union chose to pull only 27 of its 2,700 members off the job as a sign of good faith.

“We also demonstrate it as a signal to the employer to make us a better offer and resolve this situation,” Mr. Driol said at a news conference in Saskatoon. ...more

Monday, July 02, 2007

‘Miracle’ needed to avoiding Saskatchewan health strike

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
It would take “a miracle,” to avoid a strike by 2,700 health workers across Saskatchewan Tuesday, according to their union.

Bargaining officials from the union and the province’s health regions failed to meet, let alone reach an agreement, over the Canada Day long weekend.

Chris Driol, president of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, said Monday afternoon that “unless a miracle happens in the next 15 hours,” at least some professionals will walk off the job this morning.

It’s feared a walkout could cripple Saskatchewan’s health system, halting all non-emergency surgeries and impacting the dispensing of drugs in hospitals and long-term care homes. ...more

The Corner Drugstore, Barely Clinging to Health

Here's a good article regarding the state of American independent retail pharmacy. There are some definite parallels to the Canadian retail scene.

From the Washington Post:
Cheri Garvin and her staff at Leesburg Pharmacy will mix pediatric reflux medicine from scratch, in any flavor a child desires. If peppermint doesn't suit, she has peaches and cream, pina colada, pineapple -- and those are just the Ps. And the kids get an advance taste, ice-cream-parlor style. "We want to make Mom's job of getting it down them easier," said Garvin, a mother of two young boys. "We'll mix Tutti-Frutti if that's what it takes."

"What it takes" is a mantra for Garvin, a community pharmacist in a world being overtaken by chain stores and, increasingly, mail-order warehouses. She has survived by turning her brick-and-glass storefront in the Virginia Village strip mall into a refuge for anyone whose health-care needs don't fit within the template of the big-box economy.

Sandy Bishop drove her daughter Elizabeth, 14, eight miles from Ashburn, past a dozen pharmacies, to buy a brace for her ankle, which she sprained while playing lacrosse. "They have a much better selection here than Wal-Mart," said Elizabeth. Parents of autistic children, who are sensitive to many additives, come here to have their medicine specially mixed, allergen-free, in the pharmacy's state-of-the-art compounding lab. People with questions about medications can ask them at an out-of-the-way consultation counter. "I feel like I can actually talk to someone without those horrendous lines at CVS where everyone hears you," Sandy Bishop said. And if your baby has runaway diaper rash, Leesburg Pharmacy has an acclaimed homemade remedy with an unvarnished name: Robert's Butt Paste. Try asking your mail-order drug plan for that. ...more

Why pooches pop more pills

Here's a good article on the growing use of pharmaceuticals in pets. I'd love to see a follow up article which discusses why pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers won't sell these veterinary drugs to pharmacists. The pharmaceutical industry and veterinarians have, in my opinion, created a completely unfair system which forces pet owners to buy their pet's prescription from their veterinarian only. As a result, the veterinarian can essentially charge what they want. But what concerns me even more is the lack of choice. There is also a definite perception of conflict of interest.

In the U.K., they had a similar system in place until some pharmacists brought the case to court. Ultimately, the veterinarians and drug companies were found to be breaking rules regarding limiting competition. British pet owners now have the option of getting their dog or cat's prescription filled at their regular pharmacy or at their veterinarian's office.

From the Toronto Star:
A dog named Sky became so blue when left alone that he was inconsolable. The 20-month-old Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever would start howling as soon as Kingsley Butler left the condo they shared.

Because no one else in his life had stuck around, "every time I went out and closed the door, Sky thought: `I'll never see him again,'" Butler says.

Separation anxiety.

There's a pill for that these days. Just one of the many fixes from pharmaceutical giants as the competition heats up in the growing market to treat pets behaving badly. ...more

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Senior group halting trips to purchase drugs from Canada

From the West Central Tribune (Minn.):
The Minnesota senior citizens' group that for a dozen years organized regular trips north to Canada to buy cheaper prescription drugs may have made its last run.

On Friday, the Minnesota Senior Federation's bus ferried 26 customers to a pharmacy in Winnipeg, where government controls keep prices lower than in the United States.

But a new Medicare drug benefit for older and disabled Americans, plus a stronger Canadian dollar, have slashed in half what had been $1 billion in annual cross-border sales. Half of Canada's 140 or so mail-order pharmacies have gone out of business.

Still, Senior Federation executive director Lee Graczyk said people "are still getting gouged on drug prices." ...more