Thursday, February 28, 2008

Doctors critical of optometrists' new role

There is a couple of paragraphs later in this article that mentions pharmacist prescribing in Alberta.

From the Calgary Herald:
Alberta's eye specialists and optometrists are at odds over an agreement allowing optometrists to treat more patients with eye diseases -- a dispute that may mark the next battle around the changing role of medical professionals in the province.

Physicians with the Ophthalmological Society of Alberta said Tuesday they are concerned optometrists don't have enough training to treat patients with serious eye diseases such as glaucoma, noting they are not medical doctors.

Optometrists receive four years of training in optometry following their bachelor's degree. Ophthalmologists are physicians who receive five years of hospital training for their specialty after medical school. ...more

Health Canada says no evidence of cardiac risk from Nexium, not clear for Losec

From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada says it finds no evidence to suggest a popular heartburn drug increases the risk of cardiac problems.

The department says it will continue to monitor safety data for Nexium (esomeprazole) as it is produced, but at this point does not see a link between the drug and cardiovascular risks.

But the department says the picture is less clear for another heartburn drug, Losec (omeprazole).

It says after a thorough analysis, Health Canada cannot definitively say if there is a potential for increased cardiovascular risk in people taking the drug on a long-term basis. ...more

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bayer's Trasylol Boosts Death, Kidney Risks After Heart Surgery

From Bloomberg:
Bayer AG's Trasylol, a drug whose sales were halted last year, raises the risk of death and kidney damage when used to control bleeding in heart surgery, two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Trasylol patients were 27 percent more likely to die than those getting a rival drug a decade after open-heart surgery, according to a review of 10,275 consecutive patients at Duke University Medical Center. Another study of 78,199 patients, presented to regulators last year after Bayer initially withheld it, found a 78 percent higher death risk a week after surgery.

Trasylol was approved in the U.S. in 1993 to reduce transfusions and bleeding during open-heart surgery. It became a mainstay of care, generating about $333 million in 2005, until an international study the next year tied it to higher rates of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and death. Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer suspended sales in November after a pivotal Canadian trial linked it to higher death rates. ...more

Once-a-day drug means 'spontaneous' sex

From the Montreal Gazette:
Canadian pharmacies have begun stocking a new full-time version of an anti-impotence drug its makers say will allow men to be sexually "spontaneous," day and night.

Cialis was originally designed to be taken on an "as needed" basis, with one dose lasting 24 to 36 hours, earning it the moniker Le Weekend when it was first approved in Europe in 2002.

Now it's being repackaged and sold in a once-a-day, lower-dose version. Taken daily, the drug builds in a man's body until it reaches a circulating level in the bloodstream that would allow a man to be sexually active "whenever the moment is right," according to a news release issued by drug giant Eli Lilly. ...more

Friday, February 22, 2008

A spoonful of honey may be all the medicine required

From the Calgary Herald:
It's the height of the season for the common cold. Parents of young children scramble to find a quick fix to take away the aches, sniffles and lack of sleep for both their kids and themselves.

Late last year, drug companies pulled liquid cold medicines for babies and toddlers, citing overdosing dangers by parents. At the same time, the United States Food and Drug Administration suggested that parents refrain from using the liquids for kids under six, partly due to reported deaths and the overall ineffectiveness of the elixirs.

This created a practical and philosophical dilemma for parents who rely on the formulas. ...more

Lessons to be learned from methadone controversy, says pharmacist

From the Cape Breton (NS) Post:
It’s relatively uncommon for a complaint filed to the professional body governing Nova Scotia pharmacists to proceed to the hearing stage, its registrar said Tuesday.

Susan Wedlake, registrar with the College of Pharmacists, was commenting on a recent settlement worked out between the college and Glace Bay pharmacists Donald and David Ferguson of Ferguson’s Pharmacy in Glace Bay.

An investigation into how the pharmacy dispenses methadone resulted after Ron Whalen of Glace Bay filed a complaint about the care his son, Robert, received there on the day he died.

Wedlake noted the college can follow different processes in response to a complaint — they can be dismissed, resolved informally, or can go on to investigations committee or to hearing committee.

“(Whalen’s complaint) went all the way through the process . . . it’s not common that complaints end up at the hearings level,” Wedlake said. ...more

Drugstore chains rely on pharmacy technicians

From USA Today:
When Americans bring prescriptions to their neighborhood pharmacies, odds are the person in the white lab coat who greets them and enters the prescription in the computer is not a pharmacist. Neither, most likely, is the person who puts the pills in the medicine vial.

They're probably pharmacy technicians, in some cases teenagers with no more than high school diplomas. The nation's largest drugstore chains say technicians don't replace pharmacists. But the companies have come to rely on technicians because of regional shortages of pharmacists and steady increases in prescriptions.

Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain by sales and profits, employs about 39,000 technicians, compared with more than 24,000 pharmacists. CVS, the largest retail chain in terms of store count, employs about 41,000 pharmacy technicians, more than double the 20,000 pharmacists who work for the firm.

Technicians do much of the administrative work pharmacists used to perform, such as prescription data entry, counting pills, filling vials and ringing registers. Depending on your point of view, that's good news, because it frees pharmacists to do more important clinical functions — or bad, because technicians sometimes make mistakes that pharmacists don't catch, and because pharmacists often have little time to help teach the technicians. ...more

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Layton renews call for drug plan

From the Toronto Star:
In addition to lost paycheques, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs can mean the loss of benefit plans that helped workers pay for vital drugs, NDP Leader Jack Layton says.

As a result, many cash-strapped households are cutting back on needed prescription drugs, he said.

"They then have to say `no' to prescriptions that their doctors say they're supposed to have. In the end, they'll end up in an emergency ward and there's no economy there," Layton said in an interview.

During a swing through Northern Ontario yesterday, Layton renewed his call for a national drug plan that would help Canadians cover the costs of their prescriptions, saying the program is needed now more than ever.

"People are deeply concerned about it, as they feel themselves slipping into poverty, as they have to move to minimum wage part-time jobs, longer and longer jobs and no benefits," he said in a telephone interview. ...more

In-hospital stroke patients more likely to die: study

From the Ottawa Citizen:
One of the worst places to be if you have a stroke is in a hospital, new Canadian research suggests.

A study based on thousands of Ontario residents found patients who have a stroke while they're already in hospital wait twice as long for a brain scan and twice as long for a clot-busting drug as people who come to an emergency room with a stroke. They are also more likely to die.

"You would think, naively, that if someone has a stroke while in hospital -- given that we keep emphasizing the concept that 'time is brain' and the sooner you get to treatment, the better -- you would anticipate that they would have the best treatment," says Dr. Frank Silver, co-principal investigator of the Registry of the Canadian Stroke Network and medical professor at the University of Toronto. ...more

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Overdose victim’s dad calls for public inquiry

From the Halifax (NS) Chronicle Herald:
Two Glace Bay pharmacists will lose their licences for a week after an investigation found they dispensed methadone improperly.

One man died of an overdose of the drug.

And at least three other patients became ill after taking prescribed methadone prepared at Ferguson’s Pharmacy Ltd. in 2005.

The Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists launched a probe of David and Donald Ferguson after Ron Whalen filed a complaint.

Mr. Whalen’s son, Robert Whalen, 23, died in 2005 of a methadone overdose.

"I’m not very happy at all," Mr. Whalen of Glace Bay said Tuesday.

"The two of them lose their licence for a week and they don’t even have to close down the pharmacy. One guy can go to Florida and the other guy can run the pharmacy for a week and then vice versa." ...more

New patch formulation of Alzheimer's drug brought to market in Canada

From the Canadian Press:
A new treatment option for Alzheimer's patients - the first licensed skin patch - could make life easier for both some people with the disease and their caregivers, experts say.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. announced Tuesday it was bringing to the Canadian market a once-a-day skin patch formulation of its existing drug Exelon.

Exelon - its generic name is rivastigmine - currently is administered in the form of capsules which must be taken twice a day. Novartis said both the once-a-day formulation and the fact it is administered via a patch will help reduce the risk of confusion over whether the medication had been taken or not. ...more

B.C. vows huge changes to health care

From the Victoria (BC) Times Colonist:
...Nurses aren't the only health-care professionals who will see their duties expand. The Liberal government will also enable pharmacists to authorize routine prescription renewals, "making it easier for patients with chronic illnesses to manage their conditions" and reducing visits to the doctor......more

Cancer drug slows multiple sclerosis progression

From the Guardian (UK):
Two infusions of the cancer drug Rituxan given two weeks apart slowed the progression of multiple sclerosis for nearly a year, researchers reported on Wednesday.

And Rituxan appears to be twice as effective as first-line treatments for MS, which reduce the number of relapses by about a third, the researchers said.

"It's quite remarkable that the effect was sustained for 48 weeks with just a single course of therapy," said Dr. Stephen Hauser of the University of California at San Francisco, who worked on the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Multiple sclerosis, which affects as many as 350,000 people in the United States and 2 million worldwide, is apparently caused when the immune system attacks and breaks down the insulation surrounding cells that make up the brain and spinal cord. ...more

One Thousand Lives A Month, Researcher Estimates 22,000 Lives Could Have Been Saved Had Trasylol Been Pulled Earlier

From CBS News:
This is the story of a drug that was on the market for 14 years and may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of patients. Trasylol, made by Bayer, is given in the operating room to control bleeding. It was a big money maker.

As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, Bayer marketed Trasylol aggressively until it was used in about one third of all cardiac bypass operations in America.

But then, in 2006, a study showed widespread death associated with Trasylol, and as it turns out there was concern long before that.

How much did Bayer know? And why did it take Bayer and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nearly two years to take the drug off the market after major studies revealed the danger? Two years - during which it's estimated Trasylol was contributing to the loss of one thousand lives a month. ...more

Where you live influences cancer survival

According to the latest report of a Cancer advocacy group, Canadians are experiencing care that is inconsistent, unfair and ineffective.

The Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada says that has created discrepancies in access to treatment.

"Tell me your postal code, and I will tell you your chances of surviving cancer," says Dr. William Hryniuk, past chair of CACC and former director of cancer centres in the Canada and U.S.

This year's report highlighted several areas in the fight against cancer.

Access to new and expensive cancer drugs continues to be one of the most urgent problems cancer patients face, according to the report.

Coalition researchers conducted a province-by-province review of access to 24 drugs featured in past reports, adding an analysis of 18 new therapies. ...more

Your medical chart, just a mouse click away

From the Globe and Mail:
With the ease of online banking comes this Canadian first: patients perusing their X-rays, checking laboratory test results and discreetly obtaining a second medical opinion - all from the comforts of their home computers.

Ontario's Privacy Commissioner even keeps her electronic health record, called MyChart, on a memory stick, a device the size of a pack of gum that neatly tucks into a pants pocket.

"Given that I travel extensively, it's very important to have access to my [medical] records at a moment's notice," said Ann Cavoukian, who has undergone neurosurgery three times.

Although MyChart is available only to patients at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, other Canadian hospitals are coming out with their own versions of the paperless health record.

"By 2010, the goal is to have half of the population with an electronic health record," said Richard Alvarez, president and chief executive officer of Canada Health Infoway, an independent, federally funded agency that works with provinces and territories to invest in electronic health-record projects, typically by funding half the cost. By 2016, he wants every Canadian to have one.

The reality today, however, is far different: Only 9 per cent of Canadians have an electronic health record. ...more

Disgraced doctor jailed 5 years for dealing prescription drugs

From the Toronto Star:
A notorious former doctor, stripped of his licence for administering useless cancer treatments to terminal patients, has been sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking in prescription pills, including highly addictive OxyContin.

For this "serious breach of trust," Ravi Devgan, 60, deserves to have his 5-year-sentence added on to the three-year sentence he is already serving for fraud, Justice Todd Ducharme said Friday.

But because of his extreme ill-health and the likelihood that he has few years left to live, that would amount to a life sentence, Ducharme said. So the judge ruled that he is to serve both sentences concurrently. ...more

Monday, February 18, 2008

Too many prescriptions, too few pharmacies

From the Indianapolis Star:
When Tabitha Jones picked up her stepson's medicine at a Walgreens store near Nashville in 2004, she had no way to know the pharmacy was so busy that its manager had asked for more staffing months earlier to "decrease the pharmacist's stress."

She also had no idea the drug Walgreens gave her that day was a steroid never intended for children, and not the blood pressure drug prescribed to treat Trey Jones' hand tremors and hyperactivity. Walgreens refilled the prescription four times, eventually at double the adult dosage, before the error was caught. The 5-year-old not only went into premature puberty but also erupted in rages.

Trey's parents sued Walgreens, fearing the steroid could stunt the boy's growth or cause liver damage. "We don't know what could happen later on down the road," his father, Robert Jones Jr., said in a 2006 pretrial deposition.

Pharmacy chains say they've spent billions of dollars on safety technology and other improvements that have cut their prescription-error rates to a fraction of 1 percent. As aging baby boomers and other Americans increasingly rely on prescription drugs, an Auburn University pharmacy study in 2003 projected the odds of getting a prescription with a serious, health-threatening error at about 1 in 1,000. That could amount to 3.7 million such errors a year, based on 2006 national prescription volume. ...more

Pot may impair mental function in MS patients

From CTV News:
Patients with multiple sclerosis who choose to smoke marijuana to help relieve some of their symptoms may be harming their cognitive abilities, finds new Canadian research.

The researchers, with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, say they found that MS patients who regularly smoked pot appeared to have more difficulties with processing information and short-term verbal memory.

Study author Dr. Anthony Feinstein says MS patients should be aware of the risks of pot, because many are already dealing with cognitive problems.

"The significance of this finding is particularly important because MS is itself a cause of neuropsychological impairment in 40 to 65 per cent of patients, and therefore this research suggests that smoking marijuana may only be worsening the problem," Feinstein said in a statement. ...more

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Doctors look forward to return of palliative care drug

From CBC News:
Doctors caring for dying patients are looking forward to the reintroduction of a drug used to make the end of life easier.

Sanofi-aventis stopped production of Nozinan last November because of declining sales. The drug relieves anxiety, agitation and nausea.

Doctors on P.E.I. ran out of Nozinan last week. Dr. Mireille LeCours said the drug was useful because it treated multiple symptoms.

"You have to keep the patient comfortable, so if it takes three drugs to keep the patient comfortable, well, the patient will have three drugs," said LeCours. ...more

Fentanyl pain patches recalled in Canada

From CTV News:
In the latest of several alerts on the safety of fentanyl pain-relief patches, Health Canada has announced the recall of two brands of the powerful patches.

The agency advises against using:

* 25 mcg/hr Duragesic (fentanyl transdermal system) patches sold by Janssen-Ortho Inc.
* 25 mcg/hr Ran Fentanyl Transdermal System patches sold by Ranbaxy.

Both products are being voluntarily recalled because they may have a cut along one side of the patch that could result in leaking of the fentanyl gel from the patch.

"Exposure to fentanyl gel that has leaked from the patch may lead to increased skin absorption and could result in serious, potentially life-threatening adverse events, including respiratory depression (slowed breathing) and possible overdose, which may be fatal," Health Canada said in its warning. ...more

FDA to offer guidance to companies on marketing drugs for unapproved uses

From CBC News:
The U.S. government on Friday proposed guidelines for how pharmaceutical companies can use medical journal articles to market drugs for unapproved uses.

The Food and Drug Administration guidelines, criticized by some legislators as too lenient, have been eagerly anticipated by drug and device companies like Pfizer Inc. and Medtronic Inc. that often use medical literature for marketing.

Companies are not allowed to market products for "off-label" uses, or those that have not been cleared by the FDA as safe and effective. However, under a law that expired in 2006, the agency made an exception for reprints of medical journal articles, which sales people often give to physicians. ...more

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Out-of-pocket costs vary widely by province for seniors

From the Globe and Mail:
Technically, every Canadian aged 65 or older is covered by a provincial drug plan, but the out-of-pocket costs paid by seniors for prescription drugs vary wildly between provinces, new research shows.

For example, a 65-year-old single woman on a government pension who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and is being treated with four prescription drugs pays only $8 for the medication in Ontario but $503 in Manitoba.

Similarly, a 73-year-old married man with an above-average income taking five drugs to treat heart failure pays $60 for the prescription medicine in New Brunswick and $1,332 in Manitoba.

"Given differences in reimbursement according to age, income level, marital status and province of residence, drug reimbursement in Canada is manifestly unequal," said Louise Pilote with the divisions of general internal medicine and clinical epidemiology at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. ...more

Monday, February 11, 2008

NDP touts drug plan

From the Edmonton Sun:
Facing staggering monthly drug bills on top of rising rent, seniors Steve and Arlene Smeredely helped the NDP introduce a drug plan yesterday it says would slash seniors' costs.

The Edmonton couple's monthly drug bill accounts for about $400. Coupled with $840 rent for their one-bedroom apartment and a few hundred for groceries, and the seniors say times are hard.

"It's terrible. By the time we pay our rent and the great big drug supply that we need -- which doesn't always cover our insulin needs, because we're both diabetic -- it can be very hard," said Arlene. "We worry about it, yes we do."

They get some help from family and some government support through the Aids to Daily Living program.

But what the couple really needs is a comprehensive reform of drug benefits in Alberta, said NDP leader Brian Mason. ...more

Hospitals may have to report bad drug reactions

From the National Post:
Hundreds of hospitals across the country would be forced to inform federal authorities whenever patients had serious reactions to drugs and medical devices under a controversial plan Health Canada is quietly proposing.

The regulator notes that as many as 45,000 hospital patients a year suffer from sometimes fatal side effects to the treatments meant to help them, yet only 2% of the incidents are reported.

The tentative proposal is already meeting resistance, though, with critics arguing that making reporting mandatory is a "quick fix" that by itself will not generate the desired flow of safety information.

"Simply passing a law that says, 'It's mandatory' I don't think is going to remove the barriers that are there to improved reporting," said Jeff Poston of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, whose members produce most ad-verse-reaction reports currently. "I don't think it's really a solution." ...more

Doctors, patients find ease in e-prescribing

From the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette:
Looking over a prescription refill request, Dr. Jeff Gladd scans his options.

He can approve it or reject it. He can send a note with his decision to the pharmacist.

He can check it against the patient’s medical record to make sure the drug is appropriate, based on past ailments and current medications. And now – like a small but growing number of doctors around the country – Gladd is managing that part of his business work online.

Last year, 35 million prescriptions were routed electronically between health care providers and pharmacies in the U.S. That number was more than the three previous years combined, according to SureScripts, which operates the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange. The exchange facilitates electronic transmission of prescription information between physicians such as Gladd, who practices at Parkview Medical Group-Branch Court in Columbia City, and pharmacists.

“E-prescribing” is, defined by SureScripts, when a physician uses a computer or hand-held computing device to electronically generate and send a prescription to a pharmacist’s computer. ...more

Saturday, February 09, 2008

New drug rules pose grave risks: critics

From the Globe and Mail:
The federal government is about to overhaul the way drugs are regulated in Canada to give consumers faster access to breakthrough treatments, but some medical experts and political critics are worried the changes will turn Canadians into guinea pigs for new drugs that haven't been adequately tested.

A new regulatory system, outlined in a broad package of changes to consumer product and food regulations announced last December, would allow certain drugs to be quickly approved for sale without the safety evidence that is normally required.

The changes are designed to update Canada's aging drug regulation system to allow faster access to new blockbuster pharmaceuticals and let health officials evaluate potential risks throughout a drug's lifespan, instead of focusing on safety mainly before they're approved.

But without massive changes in the way health officials monitor drugs once they hit the market, the new system could pose serious risks to consumers, said David Juurlink, clinical pharmacologist and drug safety researcher at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. ...more

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Funding for liver cancer treatment to depend on evaluation

From the Regina Leader Post:
Health Canada approved a drug to treat liver cancer on Monday, but funding Nexavar could be a tough economic pill for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency to swallow.

Nexavar was approved by Health Canada after a worldwide trial involving 602 patients demonstrated that the average survival rate for Nexavar-treated patients was 10.7 months compared to 7.9 months for those taking a placebo.

Before the cancer agency decides about funding Nexavar it will wait for an evaluation of the drug's benefit and cost from the Joint Oncology Drug Review (JODR), a process underway in all provinces except Quebec, said Kathy Gesy, the agency's provincial leader of oncology pharmacy services.

If the JODR gives Nexavar its stamp of approval, then the agency must determine where the drug fits in its queue of many unfunded drugs. ...more

FDA Faults Drug Plants

This article references pharmaceuticals being made in Puerto Rico for the U.S. market. While it's not mentioned in this article, many of these plants are producing medications for the Canadian market as well.

From the Houston Chronicle:
The first warning sign came when a sharp-eyed worker sorting pills noticed that the odd blue flecks dotting the finished drug capsules matched the paint on the factory doors.

After the flecks were spotted again on the capsules, a blood-pressure medication called diltiazem, the plant began placing covers over drugs in carts in its manufacturing areas.

But the factory owner, Canadian drug maker Biovail Corp., never tried to find out whether past shipments of the drug were contaminated _ or prevent future contamination, according to U.S. regulators.

Thirteen of the 20 best-selling drugs in the United States come from plants on this island. But an investigation by The Associated Press has found dozens of examples over four years of lapses in quality control in the Puerto Rican pharmaceutical industry, which churns out $35 billion of drugs each year, most of it for sale as part of the $300 billion market in the U.S.

An AP review of 100 pages of Food and Drug Administration reports shows even modern drug plants here under the watch of U.S. regulators have failed to keep laboratories sterile and have exported tainted pills. ...more

Time for a facelift

I hope you enjoy the blog's new look. With traffic at an all time high level, I thought this would be a good time to do a bit of updating. Watch for more upgrades over the next few weeks, including some new content pages.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cutting Plavix too soon could be deadly

From the Globe and Mail:
Patients given the blood-clot preventer Plavix after a heart attack or after receiving a stent have a far higher risk of heart attack or death in the three months after they stop taking the drug, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

They found a cluster of heart problems occurring within 90 days of stopping the drug in people whose heart disease was treated either with drugs or a stent to prop open their arteries.

"It was almost a twofold increased risk in that initial period compared to later follow-up periods," said Dr. P. Michael Ho of the Denver VA Medical Center, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

People who have acute coronary syndrome -- an umbrella term for heart problems caused by reduced blood flow to the heart -- routinely get a prescription for Plavix, one of the world's best-selling medicines sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Sanofi-Aventis. ...more

Smoking drug Champix's risks flagged

From the Globe and Mail:
Just one year after it was approved for use in Canada, federal health officials are investigating safety concerns about smoking cessation prescription drug Champix amid fears it is linked to suicide and serious psychological problems.

The investigation and reports of major side effects highlight what many medical experts describe as chronic problems with the way new drugs are approved in Canada and the ability of government officials to adequately monitor them once they're put on the market.

"Existing systems don't really seem to be adequate," said David Henry, chief executive officer of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto. "That means often times the studies that are the basis for market approval are not large enough to test for safety properly." ...more

Shoppers Drug Net Rises 16% on Expansion; Shares Gain

From Bloomberg:
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., Canada's biggest pharmacy chain, reported fourth-quarter profit that rose more than analysts estimated as it opened new stores.

Shoppers gained the most in almost five years in Toronto trading.

Net income climbed 16 percent to C$153.7 million ($152.7 million), or 71 cents a share, and revenue advanced 7.5 percent, Toronto-based Shoppers said today in a statement. The company forecast sales to rise as much as 12 percent this year, exceeding the average analyst projection.

The chain added 30 stores including some with convenience food and cosmetics to lure more customers. Shoppers boosted sales of its own Life products, which are about 10 percent more profitable than national brands. The company wants to increase purchases of its store brand to a quarter of total sales. ...more

Monday, February 04, 2008

Pharmacist bridges conventional medicine with natural remedies

From the Calgary Herald:
Necessity drove Sherry Torkos to explore natural medicine.

Torkos, now an Ontario-based pharmacist, became ill at the age of 15.

She was struggling with celiac disease, a small bowel disorder, but doctors misdiagnosed her condition.

For three years, her health suffered.

She lost her night vision, was covered in eczema and felt depressed. Her hair stopped growing completely.

When doctors finally diagnosed her with celiac disease and put her on a gluten-free diet, she felt better, but not wonderful.

"It wasn't until I started investigating the value in taking supplements and essential fatty acids to replace what I'd been losing for all those years, and taking therapeutic dosages of vitamins, that I actually started to feel better," said Torkos on a recent stop in Calgary. ...more

New natural health product rules to allow cancer prevention claims

From the Globe and Mail:
Companies that sell natural health products will soon have unprecedented freedom to promote the ability of vitamins, herbal supplements and non-prescription drugs to prevent serious diseases and medical conditions, including cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

The changes to the federal rules, which take effect June 1, represent a significant boost for the natural health industry, which is eager to increase its credibility and capitalize on a booming market for vitamins and botanical supplements by directly marketing their health claims to consumers.

But medical experts and consumer advocates warn the federal government's decision could result in a flood of deceptive claims about natural health products that are backed up by inadequate or even flawed scientific evidence.

"It seems to me they're [Health Canada] authorizing wholesale misleading claims," said Bill Jeffery, national co-ordinator for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. "They're giving industry even more latitude and they're prepared to approve even more impressive claims about more worrisome diseases with very little evidence." ...more

Tendering touted as B.C.'s drug solution

From the Vancouver Sun:
The future of British Columbia's Pharmacare program rests in the controversial practice of forcing drug companies to compete for contracts, Health Minister George Abbott says.

'If there's going to be any hope of corralling the ever-escalating costs in this area it is going to be through those [competitive] processes,' Abbott said in a recent interview.

'I don't see any other ready answers to that constant escalation of costs,' he added.

Abbott's comments come as one of the province's first experiments in competition-based contracting remains before the courts.

In November, the government issued a tender asking two companies to compete for a contract to exclusively supply Pharmacare with olanzapine, an anti-psychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. ...more

Soft drinks related to gout, Vancouver research shows

From the Vancouver Sun:
Men who drink sodas and other sugary soft drinks are more likely to develop a painful joint condition called gout, according to a new long-term study conducted by a Vancouver-based researcher.

The 12-year study of more than 46,000 dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians in the United States and Canada found that as men increased their pop intake, their odds of getting the painful swelling condition spiked.

Choi's research found that men who drank less than one serving per month of sugary soft drinks were least likely to develop gout - a condition which occurs when excess uric acid builds up in the blood, causing crystals to form around the joints, inflicting extreme pain and swelling. ...more

Sunday, February 03, 2008

AMA cautions against pharmacist sick certificates

Australian pharmacists can now write a legal sick note for their patients (and charge for this service). As expected, physicians are not happy about this. I'm not so sure how I feel about this one. Is a pharmacist really able to make an assessment that a person is too sick to go to work or school?

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says allowing pharmacists to write sick certificates could have serious repercussions for pharmacists, and lead to misdiagnosis.

Pharmacists across Australia will soon be able to issue medical certificates to sick workers in need of a day off.

However AMA national president Doctor Rosanna Capolingua says it could mean some people will not receive appropriate treatment for a serious illnesses.

"Apart from something such as a headache which could turn out to be significantly serious like meningitis, a tummy upset or a gastroenteritis which is a viral infection, it could in fact be something as serious as a bleeding ulcer," she said. ...more

EU to begin legal proceedings vs Germany on pharmacy ownership

From Forbes:
The European Commission will initiate infringement proceedings against Germany over its restrictions on the ownership of pharmacies by sending a letter of formal notice, a spokeswoman said today.

The commission objects to a German ban on 'multiple ownership' of pharmacies, a problem for the kind of major pharmacy chains seen in Britain, France and elsewhere.

'The commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Germany' over the restrictions, a spokeswoman for EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy told Agence France-Presse.

According to German chemists' federation BVDA, under the current rules a trained pharmacist is allowed to run one main pharmacy and no more than three affiliates. ...more

Value of first pharmacist prescriber pilots questioned

The concept of pharmacist prescribing is gaining momentum around the world. But it looks like no matter where you go, physicians are resisting the move in this direction.

From Health Care Republic:
Independent prescriber pharmacists are being put in place in GP surgeries, despite GPC protests that the move threatens the future of general practice.

GP practices in Hampshire are among the first in the country to be using independent prescriber pharmacists.

Stephen Inns, a pharmacist and lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, has been running two four-hour hypertension clinics a week since obtaining his independent prescriber certificate last November.

The clinic treats around 1,800 patients at the Bishops Waltham surgery in south Hampshire, which has a list size of 13,500. ...more

International pharmacy articles

I have posted interesting and/or relevant pharmacy articles in the past, and I'm planning on doing so in the future as well. From now on, I'm going to tag all these posts "world pharmacy news." Typically I have not posted much on the weekend unless I'm really behind, but I'm going to try to put up the international stories on either Saturday or Sunday.

By the way, feedback and comments are always welcome on the site. Also, don't forget to check out the sponsored ads on the right side of the page.

Ottawa moves to reduce price of drug after cancer patients complain of gouging

From the Globe and Mail:
A cancer drug will be subject to retroactive price controls after its cost to patients jumped almost ninefold - to as much as $4,200 a month.

The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board ruled that it has jurisdiction over the multiple myeloma drug thalidomide and can regulate its cost.

The next step is for the board to scrutinize the drug's price with an eye to determining whether it is excessive - as patients and at least one cancer agency have charged.

If the price of the half-century-old drug, which can be made for less than a dime per capsule in a Brazilian government laboratory, are found to have been too high over the past 13 years, governments could receive refunds. Today, one capsule costs about $35.

According to E. Richard Gold, a lawyer who specializes in patents, the decision closes a loophole. Since the drug is not licensed by Health Canada and was available only under its special-access program, it avoided price regulation. ...more

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Health Canada investigates Botox

From CBC News:
Health Canada is reviewing safety information on the wrinkle treatment Botox, just days after a call from a U.S. lobby group to increase the warnings on the drug.

Last week, Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen Health Research Group said severe reactions including deaths have been linked to Botox.

Botox uses botulinum toxin, which blocks nerve impulses to muscles, causing them to relax. But in a few cases, the toxin has spread to other parts of the body, resulting in problems including paralysis of respiratory muscles and difficulty swallowing, potentially leading to food or liquids entering the lungs and causing aspiration pneumonia, Wolfe said.

Botox is traditionally used as a cosmetic treatment to ease facial wrinkles, but is also used for treating spasticity and tense muscles. ...more

Cough syrup may harm toddlers; City pharmacist supports study

From the Peterborough (Ont.) Examiner:
Giving cough and cold medication to a child younger than two could do more harm than good, a Peterborough pharmacist says.

Marwah Younis, of Westmount Pharmacy on Charlotte Street, said the medicine in babies could lead to liver problems, over-stimulate the heart or cause an allergic reaction such as hives, itching and pronounced red spots on the skin.

The best way to treat babies with a cough is to use a dehumidifier for congested coughs, or a humidifier for dry coughs, and ensure the child is well-hydrated, she said.

Younis's comments followed news reports of a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found cough and cold medications send about 7,000 American children under the age of 11 to hospital emergency rooms each year. ...more

Quit-smoking drug linked to serious psychiatric side-effects: FDA

From the Canadian Press:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public health warning Friday about a highly touted smoking cessation drug after it was linked to potentially serious neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Adverse effects have been reported in relation to the prescription medication Chantrix (varenicline), which is sold in Canada under the brand name Champix, including changes in behaviour, agitation, depressed mood, and suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

The FDA has requested that Pfizer, the drug's manufacturer, add the new safety information to the warnings and precautions section of the medication's prescribing information or labelling. The agency also is working with Pfizer to finalize a medication guide for patients.

"Chantix has proven to be effective in smokers motivated to quit, but patients and health-care professionals need the latest safety information to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to use this product," Dr. Bob Rappaport, director of the FDA's division of anesthesia, analgesia and rheumatology products, said in an advisory. ...more