Monday, March 31, 2008

ACE Inhibitor as Effective as More Expensive Blood Pressure Drug

From U.S. News and World Report:
Treatment with an ACE inhibitor drug was as effective in reducing deaths, heart attacks and stroke in a high-risk group of patients as a newer and more expensive angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB) drug, a large international study has found.

The study of more than 17,000 people with coronary artery disease or diabetes found no major differences between those treated with the widely used ACE inhibitor ramipril (Altace) and those given the ARB telmisartan (Micardis).

"This is the first study in such a population that shows ACE inhibitors are as effective as ARBs," said study leader Dr. Salim Yusuf, a professor of medicine at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. ...more

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Further Details on Recall of Contaminated Heparin

From Health Canada:
The following is to update Canadians on the recall of contaminated lots of heparin products from B. Braun Medical Inc., and the ongoing testing of the heparin supply in Canada.

The presence of a contaminant in the active pharmaceutical ingredients of certain lots of B. Braun heparin products was first identified by Health Canada and communicated to Canadians on March 20, 2008. This contaminant has been found in the following specific products and lots, which are being recalled ...more

Drug recalls linked to U.S. testing deadlines

From the Globe and Mail:
New drugs that are rushed through the approval process to meet government-imposed deadlines in the United States are much more likely to be the subject of recalls and safety problems, reveals a new study that sheds light on how these constraints affect decisions made by health officials.

Working within rigid deadlines may put too much pressure on health regulators, compromising their ability to focus adequate attention on the safety and efficacy of the drug, as well as the quality of clinical data submitted by the pharmaceutical company, according to the study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Deadlines are a part of life and they do a lot," said Daniel Carpenter, professor of government at Harvard University and lead author of the study. "The question is should we be relying so heavily on deadlines, or could we rely a little bit less on deadlines and a little more on resources?" ...more

Company kept heparin on market during tests

From the Globe and Mail:
A drug company continued to market its heparin products in Canada even though it knew its supplier was implicated in a growing scandal involving tainted ingredients that have been linked to 19 deaths and hundreds of illnesses in the United States.

B. Braun Medical Inc. announced a recall of its heparin products in Canada, the United States and Australia last Friday, after tests confirmed some products were contaminated with an ingredient also found in heparin products recalled a month ago by Baxter International Inc., which is now the subject of a major U.S. investigation.

Baxter purchased the contaminated ingredients from Scientific Protein Laboratories LLC, a Wisconsin-based company that has a factory in China. B. Braun Medical also buys its heparin ingredients from SPL, but didn't issue a recall until tests confirmed the contamination, weeks after the supplier's ingredients were first called into question. ...more

Prescription drug sales see slower growth

Sales of prescription drugs in Canada grew by 6.3 per cent last year, the slowest rate in a decade, health industry tracker IMS Health said Wednesday.

The rate, on sales of almost $19 billion worth of prescription medication, is about two percentage points lower than the average growth of 8.4 per cent between 2002 and 2006, IMS Health said in a statement.

IMS attributed the slower sales growth to product withdrawals issued by Health Canada, along with the expiry of patents on several major brand-named drugs. ...more

Depression drugs linked to diabetes

From the Edmonton Sun:
People using two specific kinds of antidepressants are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, says a University of Alberta PhD candidate.

Lauren Brown, 29, has studied the relationship between depression and diabetes for several years.

Her previous research showed that people are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes if they are clinically depressed, and prompted her to investigate whether antidepressants trigger the disease.

In a paper recently published in the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice journal, she concludes that people using two specific types of drug - selective serotonin re- uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) - are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. ...more

Provinces should cover pricey Lucentis: federal body

From CTV News:
A federal body that reviews medications has recommended that a high-cost drug for treating one form of the leading cause of vision loss among older Canadians be covered by provincial insurance plans.

The Common Drug Review recommended Friday that provincial drug plans cover the drug Lucentis for the "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration, but limit coverage to 15 vials "to treat the better-seeing eye."

The CDR said Lucentis has been shown to be effective in stabilizing and improving sight in people with wet macular degeneration. ...more

Ad ban probably saved Canadians $150 million in 2006 for cholesterol drug

From 660 News Calgary:
Canada's ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising probably saved Canadians with high cholesterol and their drug plans $150 million in 2006 alone, suggests a new study comparing sales patterns of a controversial cholesterol lowering drug in the United States and Canada.

Canadian sales of the drug Ezetrol - the generic name is ezetimibe - were four times lower than those rung up south of the border, where the drugs' manufacturers spent US$200 million advertising the drug to consumers in 2007.

Sales of ezetimibe, which is sold solo in the U.S. as Zetia or combined with a statin drug as Vytorin, are expected to drop after Sunday's release of trial results showing the drug failed to slow atherosclerosis, the clogging of the arteries with fatty deposits.

"It basically shows that the approach in Canada to this whole drug was much more appropriate and evidence-based compared to the U.S. approach where basically it's been marketed very aggressively," said Dr. Jack Tu, one of the authors of the study comparing usage trends in the two countries.

"It's sort of a textbook example of the potential downsides if you have direct-to-consumer advertising where the manufacturer potentially can promote new and expensive drugs that don't have a huge amount of evidence behind them and get them to be first-line therapy as opposed to older, cheaper medications with a lot more evidence." ...more

FDA, Health Canada probing possible suicide link with allergy drug Singulair

From the Canadian Press:
U.S. and Canadian drug regulators are investigating the popular allergy medication Singulair in response to reports of mood changes, suicidal behaviour and suicide in patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it is reviewing a handful of such patient reports and has asked Singulair's maker, Merck & Co., to dig deeper into its data for more evidence of possible links to suicide.

Meanwhile, "patients should not stop taking Singulair before talking to their doctor," the FDA said in a statement, adding that doctors should monitor patients for suicidal behaviour and mood changes.

Health Canada is also investigating a possible link between Singulair and suicidal behaviour, said spokesman Paul Duchesne, noting that consumers should see their doctors if they have concerns about taking the prescription drug.

He was unaware of any reports of suicide among Canadians taking the medication.

The FDA said it has not established a "causal relationship" between Merck's drug and suicidal behaviour. The review was prompted by three to four suicide reports it has received since last October, an agency spokeswoman said. ...more

FDA reviews safety of HIV drugs from Glaxo, Bristol-Myers after heart attack risks

From the Canadian Press:
The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday recent data show patients taking HIV drugs from GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb may have increased risk of heart attack.

FDA said data pooled from a 33,000-patient study of HIV patients showed those taking Glaxo's Ziagen and Bristol-Myers' Videx had a greater chance of heart attack than patients on other medications.

Labelling changes could be needed for the drugs, FDA said, though it stressed it is still working with incomplete data. The agency does not have information on heart attack risks of two other drugs in the class of virus-fighting medications. ...more

Drug-resistant Staph killed 2,300 Canadians in 2006

From CTV News:
An estimated 2,300 Canadians died in 2006 after contracting antibiotic resistant Staph bacteria, costing the national heath-care system between $200 million and $250 million that year, new figures suggest.

The figures, based on data gathered from a national surveillance program undertaken in 48 Canadian hospitals, indicate doctors saw 29,000 new patients carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria on their skin or nostrils in 2006.

Of those, 11,700 contracted new MRSA infections.

MRSA, one of the strongest drug-resistant bacteria currently known, can live on human skin without causing infection. However, if it gains entry to the body through a cut or wound, it can cause serious illness and death, according to the Mayo Clinic's website. ...more

Doctors dining on pharma's 'free lunch'; Continuing education of Canada's doctors 'a broken system'

From the Niagara Falls (Ont.)Review:
The system that keeps working doctors abreast of medical developments is too reliant on drug company funding and organization and needs an overhaul, the Canadian Medical Organization Journal said in an editorial published this week.

The strongly worded editorial, written by the journal's editor-in-chief, said giving drug companies such control over the continuing medical education of doctors distorts medical practice and compromises the ethical underpinnings of the profession.

The author, Dr. Paul Hebert, placed much of the blame on doctors themselves, saying they have developed a sense of entitlement to the lavish perks often paired with continuing medical education programs - things like tickets to the ballet or professional sporting events, cruises or access to exclusive golf courses.

"Over the years, the powerful pharmaceutical enticements have resulted in physicians believing that strong industry involvement is not only normal, but also that they are entitled to receive the benefits. This culture of entitlement is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome," Hebert wrote. ...more

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SEBIVO (telbivudine) - Advisories, Warnings & Recalls

From Health Canada:
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., in consultation with Health Canada, would like to inform you of an increased risk of peripheral neuropathy observed in chronic hepatitis B patients treated with telbivudine (SEBIVO®) in combination with peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys®), compared to the interferon or telbivudine alone, during a controlled pilot clinical trial. An increased risk cannot be ruled out for treatments combining telbivudine with other interferon products (pegylated or standard).
For health care professionals
For the public

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Drugs in Water Hurt Fish and Wildlife

From the Associated Press:
On this brisk, glittering morning, a flat-bottomed boat glides across the massive reservoir that provides Las Vegas its drinking water. An ominous rumble growls beneath the craft as its two long, electrified claws extend into the depths.

Moments later, dozens of stunned fish float to the surface.

Federal scientists scoop them up and transfer them into 50-quart Coleman ice chests for transport to a makeshift lab on the dusty lakeshore. Within the hour, the researchers will club the seven-pound common carps to death, draw their blood, snip out their gonads and pack them in aluminum foil and dry ice.

The specimens will be flown across the country to laboratories where aquatic toxicologists are studying what happens to fish that live in water contaminated with at least 13 different medications — from over-the-counter pain killers to prescription antibiotics and mood stabilizers.

More often than not these days, the laboratory tests bring unwelcome results.

A five-month Associated Press investigation has determined that trace amounts of many of the pharmaceuticals we take to stay healthy are seeping into drinking water supplies, and a growing body of research indicates that this could harm humans. ...more

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Dying for drugs

From the Charlottetown (PEI) Guardian:
Many sick Islanders are paying a very heavy price for poor provincial drug coverage — some the ultimate one.

P.E.I. drug programs only cover a small portion of the population: seniors, low-income families and those with one of the province’s “selected diseases.’’

There is a large gap of people, notably many that fall between the ages of 40 and early 60s, that don’t qualify for any of the drug programs, says Pat Crawford, pharmacy consultant with the Department of Health and Social Services and Seniors.

Many sick Islanders, Crawford said, likely make the decision not to take a helpful medication because they have insufficient coverage or none at all.

Asked about the potential fallout, he said: “They can get sicker.’’

And even die more quickly?

“That is correct — and that is likely happening now,’’ he said. ...more

Drug to treat excess iron in blood may cause liver problems: Health Canada

From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada is updating safety information for a drug used to treat chronic iron overload from blood transfusions after reports of severe, even potentially fatal, liver problems in some people using the medication.

Exjade (deferasirox), made by Novartis, is used to treat excess iron accumulation in the blood following transfusions for anemia in adults, adolescents and children aged six and over. Children under six cannot be adequately treated with the drug.

Cases of severe liver problems - some causing death - have been reported internationally following Exjade's approval for widespread use in various countries, including Canada.

As of Oct. 31, 2007, almost 37,000 patients have been treated with Exjade worldwide. In all, there have been 24 reports of liver failure - two of them in Canada. Most of these cases involved patients that already had multiple medical conditions, including liver disease (cirrhosis) and multiple organ failure. ...more

Exjade warning from Health Canada for health professionals

Exjade warning from Health Canada for the public

Return old pills to pharmacy, don't flush down the toilet: B.C. health minister

From CBC News:
Health Minister George Abbott says tossing old pills into the garbage or flushing them down the toilet can make animals, people and the environment sick.

He urged British Columbians on Tuesday to take their unused prescription drugs and medicine to a local pharmacist where they will be safely stored and disposed of at a later date.

Thousands of kilograms of medications are thrown out every year in British Columbia, Abbott said.

Old pills tossed in the garbage may be found by children or animals and they can end up leaching into ground water from local landfills, Abbott said.

And pills dumped down the toilet or sink end up in local sewage systems and some can find their way into drinking water systems, he said.

Drug recall puts overseas inspections in spotlight

From the Globe and Mail:
A major U.S. recall of a blood-thinning drug linked to a Chinese factory last week is prompting new questions over the ability of government and industry to ensure the safety of drugs made with ingredients from China.

China has become one of the world's largest suppliers of pharmaceutical ingredients, but the country's questionable safety reputation, combined with reports of death and serious illness associated with Chinese products in the past year, has convinced some experts and industry members that North American governments need a more aggressive approach to overseas inspections and safety checks.

The issue has reached a boiling point in the United States in recent days after Baxter International Inc. expanded its nationwide recall of heparin, a blood thinner, amid reports it had been linked to 19 deaths and hundreds of illnesses. The affected products are not sold in Canada.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said this week that the problems may be the result of a counterfeit ingredient from China that was used in the drug. U.S. health officials had never inspected the Chinese factory owned by U.S.-based Scientific Protein Laboratories LLC where some of the raw heparin ingredients were processed. When U.S. inspectors finally visited the plant last month, they found evidence of and quality-control and hygiene problems. ...more

Prescribing powers gained by 15 pharmacists

From the Calgary Herald:
A group of 15 pharmacists in Alberta has become the first in Canada given powers to prescribe new medications to patients without needing final authorization from a doctor.

They were part of a pilot project to ensure all future pharmacists wanting additional prescribing powers under Alberta's Pharmacists Act are rigorously evaluated before taking on the new responsibility.

"Pharmacists are quite highly educated, and to just be stuck doing dispensing-type things, it's not really a good use of our training and expertise," said Christine Hughes, a pharmacist since 1994. ...more

Hundreds dying of AIDS never accessed drug cocktails: report

From the Vancouver Province:
Hundreds of people with HIV are dying without ever taking the drug cocktails that can prolong their lives for decades and the biggest at-risk group is poor, homeless, mentally ill or drug-addicted.

A new study by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found 40 per cent of the 1,436 people who died of HIV-related causes between 1997 and 2005 hadn't accessed the antiretroviral drugs.

It found 567 persons, or about 63 a year or more than one every week, who had tested positive died without treatment.

The antiretrovirals have improved in the past 10 years from a "burdensome quantity of therapy" requiring "many doses, many side effects" to a once-a-day dose that can prolong a person's life for decades, said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the centre.

They also prevent those infected from spreading the disease.

"The treatment is free and effective but in reality is not accessible to those who need it most," he said.

He said the problems of mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction and food security have to be tackled first because those infected may not be pursuing treatment of a long-term illness while they're faced with more immediate concerns. ...more

Friday, March 07, 2008

Reverse treatment aids Crohn's sufferers

From the Globe and Mail:
Conventional wisdom about the treatment of Crohn's disease is being turned on its head by a new study.

Traditionally, patients diagnosed with the devastating inflammatory bowel disease are treated with a "step-up" approach, a series of drugs given sequentially as their health deteriorates.

First, they get corticosteroids to control symptoms like abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. They are then prescribed a powerful immune-suppressing drug, which prepares them for a third medication, an antibody that curbs the inflammation at the root of the disease.

But a group of European and Canadian researchers decided to see what would happen if they treated newly diagnosed Crohn's patients immediately with a combination of an immune-suppressing drug, azathioprine, and an antibody, infliximab, simultaneously. Patients were only treated with steroids if they had symptoms.

In the study, published in today's edition of The Lancet, this "step-down" approach proved to be markedly more effective. ...more

Germany recalls locally made blood thinner heparin; Canadian products differ

From the Canadian Press:
Germany's medical authority said Friday it has recalled a locally produced version of the blood thinner heparin believed to be linked to contaminated ingredients from China after 80 patients suffered adverse reactions.

Axel Thiele, a spokesman for the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, said the drug, produced by RotexMedica GmbH, was pulled from the market after 80 patients suffered shortness of breath, low blood pressure and episodes of rapid heartbeat.

No one taking the drug in Germany has died, he said, and no other drug companies' products are involved.

A different brand of heparin produced in the United States has been linked to 19 deaths there, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported.

On Friday, Health Canada said the U.S. deaths are associated with injectable heparin sodium made by Baxter International Inc., and these products are not sold in Canada. ...more

Drug import plan eyed

From the (Springfield, Mass.) Republican:
A city councilor said last night he will push the state to change its policy and let the city buy prescription drugs from Canada to save money, free up a revenue source and allow for the rescinding of the trash fee.

But other officials said multiple hurdles await such a move including that it is still illegal to import prescription drugs and opposition to the move by the head of a key state agency.

City Councilor James J. Ferrera III has pitched ending the fee of $90 a year per trash barrel, which has been unpopular with many people since its inception on July 1.

Ferrera answered challenges about how he would replace the trash fee's $3.5 million to $5 million in yearly revenue by saying the city could look into saving money by revisiting the Canadian prescription drug option.

In a maverick move that gained Springfield national attention in 2003, city employees and retirees were given the option of buying cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. ...more

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pain pill may go over the counter

As a pharmacist and as a patient, I'm thrilled about the prospect of OTC naproxen. My view is that it is no more dangerous than ibuprofen, which has been over the counter for years. It's analgesic effect and longer duration of action seals the deal for me.

It is curious that Health Canada has decided to address this now. Did someone request that the regulatory body re-evaluate the status of naproxen? With the long list of drugs already waiting for approval, it seems unlikely they decided to create a "make work" project for themselves.

From the National Post:
Health Canada is proposing to let a form of Naproxen be sold without a prescription for the first time, which would make the popular drug easily the most powerful painkiller available over the counter.

Some experts are questioning the change, though, noting that it comes as scientists shine increasing light on such "NSAID" medications and the risks they pose. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause ulcers and other stomach problems, may increase the risk of heart attacks and, one recent study suggests, seem to boost the danger of birth defects if taken by pregnant women.

"It's strange that we would be doing it now," said Dr. Pat Morley-Forster, head of the University of Western Ontario's multi-disciplinary pain centre. "I think it's a bad move."

Other specialists say the medicine is already available over the counter in the United States, and many Canadians bring shipments of it back across the border. They also note that Naproxen appears to be safer for the heart than other NSAIDs, such as Celebrex and Ibuprofen, which is sold in Canada without a prescription. ...more

B.C. man left blind after using prescription eye drops files lawsuit

From CBC News:
A British Columbia man who claims he went blind after using mislabelled prescription eye drops is suing a pharmacy and the drug company that makes the drops.

Harvey Yuill said in a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit filed Wednesday that the eye drops he bought in April 2006 contained a drug called Blue Collyrium.

"The misprescription was caused by the negligence of the defendants, which led to further complications and eventually the loss of vision," Yuill said in court documents.

Health Canada recalled the drug in May 2006 because of concern over possible side effects.

By then,Yuill claims, he had been using the drops for nearly a month after cataract surgery and suffered complications that caused him to go blind. ...more

Tories push for cancer drug funds

From the Winnipeg Sun:
A cancer drug that can help patients live longer should be fully funded and not done on a “case-by-case basis” say the provincial Tories and a national cancer group.

“Why shouldn’t everybody have equal access to this drug?” said Barry Stein, president of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.

“There needs to be quality of treatment for patients in Manitoba,” said Kelvin Goertzen, Tory health critic.

A spokeswoman for the province’s health minister Theresa Oswald said doctors can prescribe Avastin in Manitoba based on a patient’s need. The drug cost is covered in a limited number of cases. ...more

Luring African doctors criminal, says Vancouver researcher

From the Vancouver Sun:
Rich Western countries, including Canada, are demolishing African medical systems and destroying African lives by continuing to lure away their health care workers, a group of international medical experts led by a Vancouver doctor said Thursday.

The problem is so bad future active recruitment should be considered a crime in international law, argue the doctors, pharmacists and researchers in a commentary released today by the Lancet.

The article is the latest addition to a growing body of academic literature that suggests sub-Saharan Africa's ability to cope with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and even to provide basic health care is being crippled by the flow of medical personnel to the wealthy world. ...more

FDA warns Duluth about presciption importation from Canada

From the Rochester (Minn.) Post Bulletin:
The Food and Drug Administration has warned the city of Duluth that a program to import prescription drugs from Canada and save money for city workers is unsafe and most likely violates federal law.

In a letter to Duluth Mayor Don Ness, the FDA warned that any packages sent to employees would likely be detained by U.S. Custom and Border Protection.

Ness, who inherited the program from former mayor Herb Bergson, said he would keep because it would continue to save the city taxpayer money on health costs -- up to $2 million a year, he said.

"If the FDA cannot give a definitive answer that this is illegal, that demonstrates the question is still out there," Ness told the Duluth News Tribune . "I'm hopeful that the federal government will address their own policy that seems to be designed to protect the profit margins of drug companies at the expense of the American citizen."

Importing prescription drugs from Canada has been hotly debated in Minnesota and the country the last few years. Gov. Tim Pawlenty was one of the first governors in the nation to implement a drug import program, and his administration has joined numerous government entities in ignoring similar letters from the FDA. ...more

Cost is the real drug threat

From the Los Angeles Times:
In his weekend radio address, President Bush warned of rogue pharmacists making potentially dangerous prescription drugs readily available online.

"The Internet has brought about tremendous benefits for those who cannot easily get to a pharmacy in person," Bush said. "However, it has also created an opportunity for unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists to profit from addiction."

That's undoubtedly true, as are most observations that the Internet has become a hotbed of fraud and flimflammery. And I think we can all agree that patients should see doctors face to face, rather than via an online chat or survey, before receiving prescriptions for painkillers and other such meds.

But Dr. Bush is addressing a symptom and not the cause of one of the country's top medical problems. ...more

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

N.S. premier encourages residents to enrol in new prescription drug plan

From the Amherst (NS) Daily News:
Nova Scotians living without prescription drug coverage are being encouraged to enrol in a provincial plan at no cost.

Rodney MacDonald launched the family pharmacare program Monday.

Individuals and their families are invited to enrol in the universal drug plan with no premiums or fees.

The program will cap annual out-of-pocket costs for eligible drugs at a percentage of a family’s income.

For example, a family of four with combined income of $25,000 and annual drug costs of $1,000, will only have to pay $440 through family pharmacare coverage. ...more

Anti-cancer smart bomb ready for human use

From the Vancouver Sun:
B.C. cancer patients who don't get better on standard treatment will be offered a locally developed experimental drug using a nanotechnology smart bomb type of treatment derived from the bark of the "happy tree," indigenous to China.

Scientists at the B.C. Cancer Agency have developed an anti-cancer weapon that is not unlike a cruise missile, which is meant to hit targets with precision. It's been tested in mice and they say it's now ready for testing in humans.

They are calling their drug Irinophore C; its compounds are originally derived from a somewhat stubby tree called Camptotheca (or happy tree), which was found 40 years ago to have anti-cancer properties that were eventually extracted and synthesized. ...more

Review Determines Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccine Lots Can be Released for Use

From Health Canada:
Health Canada has recently completed its review of Merck Frosst’s reports pertaining to a lot (1529U) of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine potentially associated with six cases of suspected anaphylaxis in young adults in Alberta during November and December 2007. The review found no link between this vaccine lot and the adverse events in Alberta.

Based on this information, the suspension of this lot (1529U) and two other associated lots (1528U and 1680U) have been lifted and are available for use by provinces and territories to vaccinate both adults and children requiring MMR immunization. Health Canada had asked provincial and territorial health authorities and all other Canadian vaccine providers on December 11, 2007 not to use these lots of the MMR-II vaccine sold by Merck Frosst Canada. At that time, Health Canada requested that Merck Frosst Canada provide a written report on any manufacturing or safety problems associated with Lot 1529U and its bulk components to complement other ongoing investigative efforts. ...more

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

CanaRx president says Canadian drugs shortage unlikely

From the Windsor (Ont.) Star:
Fears of a prescription drug shortage in Canada are rising now that it's all but certain the next U.S. president will allow Americans to import cheaper Canadian drugs.

But a Windsorite whose company sells prescription drugs to Americans, and inspired a Simpsons episode for it, says the fears are all hype.

"Making it easier to import international medications would not have a significant impact to Canada at all, or its supply," said Tony Howard, president of CanaRx. "What the three candidates are doing will not jeopardize Canada's supply at all."

It's illegal in the U.S. for Americans to import prescription drugs from other countries, and President George Bush has opposed changing that.

But all three major U.S. presidential candidates -- Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain -- have said they'd allow it. ...more

Pharmacists attempt to raise drug literacy levels

From the Regina Leader Post:
Saskatchewan pharmacists are doing their part to help residents who have low health literacy skills understand what medications they are on and when and how they should be taking those drugs.

A new study by the Canadian Public Health Association concluded many Canadians don't have the literacy skills needed to respond to daily health information demands.

"We've recognized this as an issue for many years now and have tried to do our very best to educate our clients and patients about the medications that they are taking and their conditions,'' said pharmacist Chris Perentes, who owns and operates Lorne Drugs in Regina.

"From time to time, even in our retail practices, we see that sort of thing happening where a pharmacist or somebody on discharge at the hospital assumes that the patient knows or should know what they are doing but the person doesn't. You should never assume that. ...more

Earth-friendly drug disposal

From the Vancouver Sun:
Most people instinctively know that it isn't a good idea to flush their expired or unused medications down the drain, says pharmacist Wendy Mays.

But many aren't sure of what is the best way to clear the unused and expired medications out of their homes, she says. The safe and environmentally friendly way to ensure old or unused medications are disposed of properly is to take them in to a community pharmacy that participates in the Medications Return Program.

"Not a lot of people are aware of the program," says Wendy, a pharmacist and owner of two Pharmasave stores, one in West Vancouver and one in Ladner. "I find when people actually do find out about it they're delighted to have found the service."

More than 90 per cent of British Columbia's pharmacies take part in the Medications Return Program. They collect unused and expired medicines from their pharmacy patients, and hand them over to an organization that uses an environmentally friendly incineration process to dispose of them safely. ...more

Pharmacare to cover 120 more generic drugs

From the Winnipeg Free Press:
The Manitoba government will add 120 new generic drugs to be covered under Manitoba's Pharmacare Program , Health Minister Theresa Oswald said Thursday.

The decision, effective March 19, means the province will save about $4 million a year as these generic drugs will replace more costly prescription medication. The province already covers more than 1,950 drugs under the Pharmacare system. For a complete list of approved drugs go to

Pharmacare assists patients with the cost of prescription drugs by covering all bills for them after an income-based deductible.

In a release Oswald said the generic drug cost savings are substantial. For example, generic blood pressure medication Ramipril costs about half as much as prescription drug Altace; Altace costs about $33.60 a month while Ramipril only $19.95.

Tory health critic Kelvin Goertzen said the province could save even more money be creating a speedier approval process for generic drugs -- drugs already approved by Health Canada. ...more

Discovery could lead to 'tighter tummy' drug

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
British scientists have discovered proteins that allow the gut to expand to make way for food, a finding that could lead to a drug for "tighter tummies" and a chemical alternative to stomach-shrinking surgery.

The human stomach can relax and expand to 25-times its normal "resting" volume, which explains why "we can pack in our Christmas dinner or our Thanksgiving dinner, or whatever festival we choose to think of," says Brian King, a senior lecturer in physiology at University College London.

King has identified receptors for proteins that relax the muscles of the gut. His team is testing different chemicals that would block these receptors and prevent the stomach from expanding, so that people would eat less and feel fuller, faster. ...more

Monday, March 03, 2008

U.S. election raises issue of drug supply in Canada

From the National Post:
All three major candidates for U.S. president are promising to make it legal for Americans to import cheaper Canadian drugs, raising concerns about a southern outflow of medicine that could threaten the pharmaceutical supply here.

With the next president already on side, observers say long-delayed U.S. legislation to open up the cross-border prescription drug trade is now much closer to reality.

Internet pharmacies on this side of the border say legalization -- if it happens -- would certainly give their businesses a boost after a downturn in the past few years, but deny Canadians would see any impact.

But others argue that legalized importation in the United States could result in shortages here of drugs and pharmacists, who might abandon Canadian customers to cater to the U.S. market, and delay introduction of new products in this country. ...more

Langley pharmacist offers special care to diabetic patients

From the Vancouver Sun:
Newly diagnosed diabetic patients can find themselves adrift in a sea of information, and overwhelmed with the new regimen they have to follow in order to enjoy a good quality of life.

They're faced with critical health issues. They must learn how to control and monitor their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They also have to deal with a number of secondary health priorities, like eye, kidney and foot disease. It can be a struggle, and because diabetes is a complicated and progressive disease, many patients need expert help to reach their target health goals.

Constant mentorship is what some pharmacists can offer. "It's like having a diabetes coach," says Shakeel Bhatti, a pharmacist who specializes in diabetic care. ...more

Canadian researchers find gene that may block HIV

From CTV News:
Researchers at the University of Alberta have made a breakthrough with the discovery of a gene that might block the spread of HIV and the onset of AIDS.

The hope is that the discovery could lead to a vaccine that would combat the deadly virus.

Lead researcher Steven Barr said the gene, known as TRIM22, has a natural anti-viral defence function and has the ability to block HIV.

Though the research is admittedly in its infancy, Barr said the goal now is to study how the gene works in hopes to mimic its ability to combat the virus.

"It's exciting because it's a natural defence against HIV. So if we can harness this without the toxic effect of drugs it's going to be beneficial for HIV patients in the future," Barr told CTV's Canada AM on Friday. ...more

Heart attack patients who skip medication at high risk, study says

From CBC News:
Thirty per cent of heart attack patients who neglect to fill any of the prescribed medications for their condition may be dying within a year, a new Canadian study estimates.

According to researchers at Ontario's Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, a failure to adhere to medications that protect the heart, such as aspirin, beta blockers, statins or ACE inhibitors, could have deadly effects.

The study found that heart attack patients who did not fill any of their prescriptions had an 80 per cent higher chance of dying in the year following their heart attacks versus those who filled all of their prescriptions.

Those patients who filled some of their prescriptions but not others had a 40 per cent higher chance of dying in their first year versus those who filled all of them. ...more

Bone drugs iffy

From the Toronto Sun:
Can drugs that strengthen your bones actually hurt them?

That question has been asked recently by many women upon reading reports that osteoporosis drugs (prescribed to strengthen thinning bones) can trigger osteonecrosis (destruction of bone, in particular the jaw).

Some women who take this class of drugs, called bisphosphonates or BFs, also report stiffness and pain.

BFs are used by millions world-wide. As our population ages, it's likely that even more people will take them to prevent osteoporosis -- a condition that plagues 1.4 million Canadians.

Use has increased as well since women discovered they could no longer rely on estrogen (now linked to breast cancer) to keep bones strong. ...more

Anti-depressant work puts Windsor prof in spotlight

From the Windsor (Ont.) Star:
Being suddenly in the spotlight, for co-authoring a report that shockingly asserts that anti-depressants don't help people much more than placebos, has admittedly been exciting for University of Windsor psychologist Alan Scoboria.

"I woke up, saw it in the newspapers and thought this is going to be interesting," the assistant psychology professor said in an interview on Saturday. "It's been a flattering first time where I've had this type of interest."

Scoboria co-authored a report with University of Connecticut professor Irving Kirsch, which shook up the mental health field last Tuesday by asserting "happy pills" swallowed by millions every day, are virtually no better than placebos at treating depression. ...more

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bush urges new rules on online sales of addictive prescription drugs

From the Los Angeles Times:
President Bush called on Congress on Saturday to pass legislation restricting online sales of powerfully addictive prescription drugs, citing a growing number of overdoses.

Bush referred to San Diego teenager Ryan Haight as he unveiled the 2008 national drug control strategy in his weekly radio address. Haight overdosed on painkillers he bought over the Internet, prompting Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to introduce the bill that Bush championed Saturday.

The president said his national drug policy had reduced youth drug consumption by 24% since 2001. That progress has been counterbalanced by the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.

"Unfortunately, many young Americans do not understand how dangerous abusing medication can be," Bush said. "In recent years, the number of Americans who have died from prescription drug overdoses has increased." ...more

Hundreds of pharmacies to shut for day

From the Independent (Ireland):
Hundreds of pharmacies around the country will shut down on Wednesday in what will effectively be a one-day work stoppage, the Sunday Independent has learned.

All 1,600 pharmacists who are members of the Irish Pharmacy Union have been called to a mass meeting in Dublin to discuss the HSE decision to implement a controversial new payment system for pharmacies as of yesterday.

Because medicines can only be dispensed in the presence of a qualified pharmacist, it is likely that many chemists around the country will be unable to fill prescriptions and will close their doors.

It means patients who have urgent prescriptions may have to travel long distances.

The "uni-flu" stoppage follows the HSE plans to reduce the margin paid to pharmaceutical wholesalers in a move aimed at saving €1.1bn. ...more