Thursday, September 27, 2007

Alberta tops B.C. as chief destination for health care workers

Heath care workers in Canada are people on the move, according to a new study that shows they are generally more mobile than the rest of the country’s workforce.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information tracked the movement of health care professionals within and between provinces over a 15-year period and published the results in a report released Thursday.

The study showed that Alberta attracted more health care workers than any other province between 1996 and 2001, surging ahead of British Columbia as the number one destination for the first time in a decade.

Alberta had the largest growth of any province in its health care workforce during the period studied, expanding it by four per cent. ...more

Human trial of experimental cancer drug approved

From the Toronto Star:
Health Canada has approved the first human trial of an experimental cancer drug called dichloroacetate, or DCA, in people with an advanced form of an aggressive brain cancer.

The molecule has drawn international attention after the University of Alberta's Dr. Evangelos Michelakis published promising results in January showing it significantly shrunk tumours in rats. This new trial will give doctors a clue as to whether the research's impressive results will make the jump into human subjects.

"Typically from the time you report results in animals to the point that you test in a human being, takes about three years, even with the support of the pharmaceutical industry," Michelakis said Wednesday. "For us to have completed it in eight months is remarkable."

Researchers hope to try the drug on up to 50 people with glioblastomas over the next 18 months. Michelakis said they are recruiting from the Edmonton area to start, but aren't ruling out allowing people from other provinces to take part, as long as the funding can be found. The first subjects could begin within a few weeks. ...more

Lung cancer poses deadliest threat - by far

From the Toronto Star:
In the time it takes to read the next few paragraphs, someone will die of lung cancer somewhere in the world.

The Global Lung Cancer Coalition says lung cancer consumes one human being every 30 seconds – more than breast and prostate cancer combined, with another 1.2 million new cases diagnosed every year.

If everything goes well, Milton resident Sherry Walker, 57, won't be among the casualties.

In June, surgeons made a crescent-shaped slice along the right side of her upper back, cracked open her ribs and removed the top lobe of one lung, where a 2.5-centimetre tumour festered. Tests later revealed a trace of cancerous cells in a single lymph node, putting her in stage two of the disease.

Walker's early diagnosis came to light by a stroke of good fortune. In March, family doctor Helen Pyle told her about an early lung cancer screening study for people at high risk – former and current smokers included – at Princess Margaret Hospital. As a half-pack-a-day smoker for most of her adult life, she had no trouble qualifying for the study. ...more

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pediatricians endorse HPV vaccine

Your little girl may still be playing with dolls and sleeping with her favourite teddy bear, but the Canadian Paediatric Society says she should receive the vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection identified as the major cause of cervical cancer.

On Monday the group representing more than 2,500 pediatricians across Canada officially endorsed the vaccine, saying it should be given to girls aged nine to 13. The society indicated earlier this year that it intended to support the vaccine.

It's "a very safe, efficacious and exciting vaccine," said Dr. Lindy Samson, lead author of the pediatricians' position paper on Gardasil, the only HPV vaccine approved for use in Canada. Samson stressed the importance of vaccinating girls before they become sexually active. ...more

Shoppers Drug Mart buys seven-store pharmacy chain in Quebec City

From Canada East:
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. (TSX:SC) is increasing its presence in the Quebec City area.

A subsidiary of Shoppers has bought the assets of Centre d'Escomptes Racine, a long established pharmacy chain, Canada's biggest drug store operator announced Tuesday.

No financial terms were revealed for the sale of the seven-store chain to Pharmaprix Inc., Shoppers' wholly owned Quebec-based unit, according to a release.

The acquisition of the stores boosts Pharmaprix's outlets to nine from two in the area. ...more

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Atlantic Canadians sue makers of OxyContin

From CTV News:
More Canadians who became addicted to OxyContin are taking the maker of the painkiller to court claiming the company undersold its addictive side effects.

A class-action lawsuit, claiming Purdue Pharma L.P. knew of OxyContin's addictiveness, is to be launched in Nova Scotia Supreme Court next week.

"I'd like to see the people that made it and made money off of it be held accountable for it," George Bellefontaine told CTV Newsnet. "Why should they get rich off of hurting people?"

Bellefontaine, who is joining the suit, said he became addicted to the drug when it was prescribed to him after a car accident four years ago. ...more

Patient rips Ontario over access to drugs

From the Toronto Sun:
Suzanne Aucoin held golf tournaments, dinner dances and comedy nights to pay for her cancer treatment.

The 37-year-old St. Catharines woman -- diagnosed in 1999 with colorectal cancer, a disease that roared back in 2003 -- travels once a week to Buffalo for infusions of Erbitux, a drug approved by Health Canada but not available here.

Aucoin paid more than $50,000 out of pocket and, after fighting with OHIP, the province reimbursed Aucoin in January.

"Cancer doesn't wait. I had to get the drug right away," Aucoin said yesterday as she joined a coalition in pressing the three provincial parties to commit to better access to cancer drugs. "It's a full-time job being sick. The stress level is high when you fighting for your life." ...more

No prescription, no problem

From the Globe and Mail:
Ever wonder what would happen if you actually opened that e-mail titled "Vi@GRa, LeVitr@ with the LOWEST prices!" and ordered up some pills?

Researchers at the University of Toronto-based Centre for Global eHealth Innovation recently took on the task, sifting through more than 4,000 spam e-mails and placing 27 orders in an attempt to gauge how easy it is for Canadians to buy prescription drugs online.

The study leaders, Alejandro Jadad and Peter Gernburd, received one product for every three orders they placed.

"We were very surprised to find you could get so much from these spammers. Canadians have to be wary of this," Dr. Jadad said.

The study was published yesterday in the online journal PLoS Medicine. ...more

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fewer seniors taking higher-risk medications: CIHI study

From CBC News:
The proportion of seniors on drugs that may put them at a higher risk of adverse effects has decreased over the past six years, according to a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The study released Thursday assessed drug program claims in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick. It suggests 27 per cent of seniors took drugs on the so-called Beers list in 2005-06, down from 34 per cent in 2000-01.

About one in four seniors took medication listed on the Beers list of higher-risk drugs in 2005-06, according to a new CIHI survey of four Canadian provinces.
(CBC) The internationally recognized list identifies medications that are “potentially inappropriate” for seniors because of an elevated risk of adverse effects. ...more

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dilaudid abuse rampant in P.A.

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
Dilaudid -- a powerful painkilling opiate -- continues to ravage the streets of Prince Albert.

Though local health workers are taking some measures to stop users from destroying their lives by abusing the prescription drug, current tactics fall short of getting Dilaudid off of the streets and out of the addicts' arms.

"We still have a Dilaudid problem," said Cheryl Lucas, a methadone case co-ordinator who works with addicts hooked on the drug.

At one point, up to three-quarters of the province's Dilaudid prescriptions were being doled out in the city. ...more

Friday, September 14, 2007

Feeling left behind

This isn't a Canadian article per se, but it is a pharmacy story. I remember dealing with a similar patient a few years ago. It was an interesting conversation. He made almost the exact same comments compared to the quotes in this article.

From the Indianapolis Star:
In his refrigerator, Glenn Vogel keeps a shelf clear to hold up to 90 bottles of pork insulin, a six-month supply, to treat his diabetes.

When the supply dwindles to a dozen bottles and a new shipment from Europe hasn't arrived, he will spend hours, sometimes days, on the phone, calling the manufacturer, the shipper, the Food and Drug Administration, even his congressman.

"It's a day-to-day struggle," said Vogel, 47, a diabetic from Fullerton, Calif., who swears by the pork insulin for keeping his blood-sugar levels on an even keel. "I need this to stay alive. It's as important to me as oxygen." ...more

Monday, September 10, 2007

Merck rewarded the brave

From the Financial Post:
Merck & Co. Inc. suffered through some dark days a few years ago, soon after it faced the prospect of battling an onslaught of 28,000 lawsuits connected to its now-withdrawn Vioxx painkiller. Turns out, those dark days presented investors with one of the best moments in the past decade to buy this top-rate pharmaceutical giant.

The lesson? Once again, it shows that the best time to invest in a company is when it is on the ropes -- an observation that should prove useful to investors as they sift through some of today's most battered stocks and stock market sectors.

Merck hit the ropes about three years ago, when it withdrew Vioxx from the market after a study showed the drug was linked to higher rates of heart attacks and strokes. ...more

Antidepressant good as antipsychotic for dementia, fewer side-effects: study

From the Canadian Press:
An antidepressant appears to work as well as the most commonly prescribed antipsychotic medication in treating agitation and aggressive behaviour in people with Alzheimer's - but without the severe side-effects, a Canadian study suggests.

Researchers at Toronto's Baycrest geriatric centre and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health teamed up to conduct a head-to-head trial of the antidepressant citalopram (Celexa) and the antipsychotic risperidone (Risperdal) in non-depressed patients with dementia.

During the 12-week study, 53 patients were treated with citalopram - one of the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs - and 50 received risperidone. Researchers found that the two medications were almost equally effective in controlling psychotic behaviour in patients. ...more

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ah, Cuba: sun, cigars and hip replacements

This isn't speciifically a pharmacy story, but it does involve a Canadian pharmacist.

From Macleans:
Cuba -- a mecca for fine cigars, rusty cars and rickety communism -- is being sold by a Winnipeg entrepreneur as a cutting-edge destination for health care queue jumpers. Daren Jorgenson, founder and "chief idea officer" of Choice Medical Services, has sent some 200 Canadians and Americans on medical tourism excursions to the island for services including drug rehabilitation, hip replacement, eye surgery and breast augmentation. "The standards of care are very high," says Jorgenson, who also runs an Internet pharmacy and a chain of Canadian medical clinics. "Obviously Cuba is an impoverished country, but when you're having surgery done, you're in some pretty premier facilities."

Medical tourism is a growing source of hard currency for Cuba, which trains a surplus of doctors. "I like to call Cuba's physician pool Fidel's oil, an untapped economic power," says Jorgenson. His business lets Canadians with the ability to pay avoid long wait times. For Americans who enter Cuba through a third country to thwart the U.S. embargo, it's a way to stretch inadequate private insurance. The cost of a hip replacement in Cuba is $8,000, compared to $63,000 in the U.S. ...more

Dutch stroke study urges greater anticoagulant use

From Reuters:
Dutch doctors called on Sunday for greater use of oral anticoagulants to prevent strokes in people with a common heart arrhythmia.

Atrial fibrillation (AF), a heart flutter, is dangerous because blood pools in the heart, forming clots that can lead to deadly strokes.

Current guidelines recommend that AF patients be treated with drugs to stop this happening, but many doctors are wary of using the anticoagulant pills because they are difficult to monitor and can lead to uncontrolled bleeding.

That physician caution may be costing lives, Ron Pisters and colleagues at the University Hospital Maastricht told the annual European Society of Cardiology congress. ...more

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Alberta revisits drug funding

It's no surprise that the generic/rebate debate is spreading across the country. It looks like Alberta is going to be moving on it soon. Since Alberta has seen value in pharmacy services and has been open to pharmacist prescribing, perhaps they will be a bit more friendly to pharmacists compared to what has happened in Ontario.

From the Calgary Herald:
On a May day in 2006, as Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman spoke to a luncheon crowd at Toronto's National Club about his plan to cut drug spending, opposition to the proposal raged outside.

Pharmacists, wearing their white lab coats, protested at the club while Smitherman gave his speech.

They said the plan would deal a serious blow to their business -- forcing them to lay off staff -- because it banned pharmaceutical firms from paying pharmacies lucrative "rebates" to carry their products. ...more

Discipline Case : Abadir Nasr

I haven't seen any related news articles to post yet, so I thought I'd put up the link to the Abadir Nasr verdict from the Ontario College of Pharmacists. We've been following this story for a long time, and I expect that this will finally close the book on it. As I suspected, the college was a lot more harsh than the legal system. In the court, Nasr could blame lack of criminal intent and ignorance. However, the pharmacy board was looking for standards regarding public safety, unprofessional conduct, and the lack of following regulations. These are a lot easier to prove.

From the Ontario College of Pharmacists website:
The member was found guilty of professional misconduct as a dispensing pharmacist, designated manager as well as the owner of King West Pharmacy, with respect to the purchase and dispensing of counterfeit and/or unapproved prescription medications, labeling errors, failure to keep records, failure to maintain patient confidentiality, misidentified or inadequately identified drugs, expired drugs, and narcotic discrepancies. With regard to his practice, a panel of the Discipline Committee found that he: ...more

KETEK® is no longer approved for the treatment of bronchitis, sinusitis or tonsillitis/pharyngitis

From Health Canada:
Upon review of the available safety information, including reported cases of severe liver injury, Health Canada has determined that the benefit-risk profile for KETEK® no longer supports its use for the treatment of acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis (AECB), acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) or tonsillitis/pharyngitis. These indications will be removed from the label.
For health care professionals
For the public

Coroner investigates high-risk painkiller

From the Globe and Mail:
Ontario's chief coroner is investigating the deaths of three patients who appear to have overdosed on pain medication that was administered using a stick-on patch. And at least three more deaths in B.C. have been linked to the same drug.

The news is drawing attention to the dangers of fentanyl patches, which have been growing in popularity despite repeated warnings from health regulators that they should not be used indiscriminately.

David U, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said the painkiller patch is a good drug and a convenient alternative to the pills, injections and pumps often relied upon by chronic pain sufferers, but fentanyl patches are being widely misused.

"These cases are preventable," he said of the deaths and the dozens of reports of illness among patients using fentanyl patches in Canada. ...more

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

From Bloomberg:
Eli Lilly and Co.'s experimental schizophrenia drug, which may replace its top-selling Zyprexa, was just as effective without causing patients to gain weight, according to a study.

Unlike other schizophrenia medicines on the market, the new compound doesn't target dopamine, a chemical that functions within the brain's reward system. It affects glutamate, involved in learning and memory. The study showed the new drug candidate to be as effective as Zyprexa in reducing symptoms such as hallucinations and social withdrawal.

The new drug candidate, dubbed LY2140023, would be the first for the disorder affecting glutamates, a company official said. Zyprexa, with $4.3 billion in 2006 sales, now faces competition from less expensive copies in Canada and Germany, the Indianapolis-based company said on June 8. The drug's U.S. patent expires in 2011. ...more