Sunday, July 27, 2008

Drug store buries plastic

From the Barrie (Ont.) Examiner:
Sandy Frape's pharmacy is going green on Monday, but her customers might not notice the change. That is, until they ask for a bag to carry home their purchases.

"Starting on Monday, we're turfing all our plastic bags for new biodegradable ones," said Frape, store manager of Pharmasave on Blake Street. "It's a going green thing and it's really big in the United States right now. In Canada, it hasn't quite caught on yet."

Frape's store is one of three in Barrie switching to the more environmentally- friendly bags and all 400 Pharmasave locations across the country are making the change.

"We're the first Canadian-owned pharmacy to be doing this," Frape said. "These bags look just like the plastic ones, but they will break down in landfill much faster." ...more

Important information regarding ratio-Metformin 500mg lot 638812

From Health Canada:
ratiopharm, following discussions with Health Canada, would like to inform you that there is a possibility that bottles of ratio-Metformin 500mg lot 638812 may contain stray tablets of ratio-Lovastatin 40mg. This situation arises from a product complaint. ...more

Pharmacy Guild urges looser rules on repeat prescriptions - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
The Pharmacy Guild is recommending changes which would allow patients to buy repeat prescriptions from chemists for certain drugs for up to two years, without permission from their doctor.

The change is being proposed by the Pharmacy Guild to cut the number of unnecessary visits people pay their GPs.

Under the plan, there would need to be a record of a patient being prescribed the drug previously, before it could be dispensed again.

Guild president Kos Sclavos says the system would cover a range of common drugs.

"Simple products like the contraceptive pill, once a doctor has initiated therapy," he said. ...more

Thursday, July 24, 2008

McKesson move for Uniprix could affect Shoppers more that Jean Coutu

From the Financial Post:
The newspaper La Presse has cited rumours that McKesson Corp., a distributor to Canadian and U.S. pharmacies, is buying Uniprix Inc., a banner group for 400 independent pharmacies in Quebec. Should McKesson buy Uniprix, says BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst David Hartley in a note to clients, it may have a bigger impact on Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. than The Jean Coutu Group Inc., given it could remove potential independent acquisition opportunities for an aggressively expanding Shoppers network of stores.

Mr. Hartley believes that McKesson - which recently bought Proxim, a 250-store banner group - may be motivated to buy the Uniprix banner in an effort to protect against losing distribution business to an expanding Shoppers and Jean Coutu Group. Quebec is a highly coveted market given the high number of scrips (prescriptions) dispensed versus the rest of the country, he says - approximately 90,000 per drug store annually, on average, versus approximately 40,000. ...more

Monday, July 21, 2008

Antibiotic ignorance leads to drug-resistant superbugs: Report

From the Vancouver Sun:
People who self-medicate with leftover antibiotics are helping to spread drug-resistant superbugs, according to a report based on a survey that found widespread ignorance about antibiotic use among Canadians.

"A large proportion of the general public is uninformed about antibiotics, and are therefore susceptible to misinformation," says a June report by Les Etudes de Marche Createc, which conducted the survey for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

It found almost one in three Canadians either wrongly believed antibiotics are effective against colds or didn't know if they are. Only 44 per cent knew antibiotics kill bacteria but not viruses.

Close to half incorrectly thought recent use of an antibiotic protects against re-infection or didn't know whether it does. In fact, recent antibiotic use increases the risk of infection by resistant bacteria. ...more

Nasal bed-wetting drug may cause side-effects

From CTV News:
Health Canada is warning consumers that the nasal form of the drug desmopressin should not be used to treat bed-wetting because of the risk of potentially fatal side-effects.

Desmopressin can cause water retention that could lead to a low blood sodium level, also known as hyponatremia. Although rare, hyponatremia can lead to seizures and even death, Health Canada said Friday in an advisory.

The warning, issued in conjunction with manufacturer Ferring Pharmaceuticals, said bed-wetting must not be treated with any nasal form of desmopressin, including DDAVP Spray or DDAVP Rhinyle Solution. The condition must be treated only with desmopressin taken by mouth (DDAVP Melt).

"If you or your child is currently taking a nasal form of desmopressin ... for bed-wetting, you should talk to your doctor to see if you need to continue on desmopressin treatment," Health Canada said. "If continued treatment is necessary, you should be changed over to an oral form." ...more

Pharmacists urged to 'tell the truth' about homeopathic remedies

From the Guardian (UK):
Britain's leading pharmacists' organisation is being urged to crack down on high street chemists that sell homeopathic remedies, amid accusations that they are in breach of their own ethical guidelines.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has been asked to take action following allegations that pharmacists are failing to give customers proper information about the shortcomings of homeopathic treatments before they buy them.

In an open letter to the society, Edzard Ernst, the country's only professor of complementary medicine, criticises high street pharmacists for selling homeopathic remedies without informing customers that they contain no biologically active agents and are no more effective than sugar pills.

The ethical code states that pharmacists who sell homeopathic remedies, herbal medicines or other complementary therapies, "must assist patients in making informed decisions" by providing them with "necessary and relevant information".

According to the letter, "customers are frequently misinformed ... by promotional material available in UK pharmacies and verbal advice given by pharmacists. Thus pharmacists breach their own mandatory ethical code on a daily basis." ...more

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Morning-after pill expected to soon be available over the counter

From the Grand Falls-Windsor (NL) Advertiser:
When the province's health minister signs off on legislation for the morning-after pill, Newfoundlanders will join the ranks of countries with some of the easiest access to emergency contraception.

Known as Plan B, the drug was only available at first with a doctor's prescription.

Ottawa allowed the pill to be sold without a prescription as of 2005, but a consumer could only obtain it after talking first to a pharmacist.

Sandra Carey, a pharmacist in Grand Falls-Windsor and president of the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA), said the executive of her group agreed the drug, called Plan B (Levon-orgestrel) by its manufacturer, is safe.

"The executive of my group had the option to accept or reject the recommendation from the recommendations that have come down from NDSAC (National Drug Scheduling Advisory Committee), and they have decided to accept it," she said. ...more

Roche to suspend HIV research, seeing no advances

From the National Post:
Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG will suspend its HIV research because none of its pending medicines represent significant improvement over existing drugs, a company spokeswoman said on Friday.

"Research scientists currently working in HIV will be reassigned to other activities," Linda Dyson, a spokeswoman in Roche's U.S. office in New Jersey, said in an e-mail.

Dyson confirmed an e-mail sent on Wednesday to some activists informing them of the decision. In that e-mail, the company said it "decided to refocus our resources within virology on diseases in which we can deliver substantial improvements over existing medications." ...more

Health Canada asking makers of some antibiotics to put tendon warning on label

From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada announced Thursday that it will ask makers of a class of antibiotics to include a prominent warning on the label that the drugs can lead to tendon ruptures.

The announcement follows on the heels of a similar policy decision from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That agency revealed Tuesday that it was asking manufacturers of fluoroquinolone drugs to put a "black box" warning - the FDA's most stringent safety labelling requirement - on their products.

In an emailed response to questions posed Tuesday, Health Canada said it will ask manufacturers of fluoroquinolones to include a "box warning" on the product monographs alerting people who take the drugs of the fact they may be at higher risk of tendon ruptures.

Drugs in the fluoroquinolone class include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin, norfloxacin, ofloxacin, gemifloxacin and moxifloxacin. ..more

DDAVP Spray (desmopressin acetate nasal spray) and DDAVP Rhinyle (desmopressin acetate nasal solution)

From Health Canada:

Ferring Pharmaceuticals, in cooperation with Health Canada, wishes to inform Canadians about new safety information regarding desmopressin when it is used nasally for the treatment of bedwetting (also called Primary Nocturnal Enuresis or PNE). Because of increased risk of serious side effect with all nasal formulations, they are no longer indicated for use in patients with bedwetting.

Desmopressin can cause water retention that could lead to a low blood sodium level (hyponatremia). Hyponatremia is rare but serious and if unrecognized, can lead to seizures and even death.
For Health Professionals
For the Public

Friday, July 18, 2008

Recall of Sandoz Timolol Ophthalmic Solution 0.25% and Sandoz Timolol Ophthalmic Solution 0.5% due to potential health risk

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is warning consumers not to use the prescription drug Sandoz Timolol Ophthalmic Solution in 0.25% and 0.5% strengths, because some bottles may contain more of the active ingredient (timolol maleate) than indicated on the label, exposing patients to an increased risk of adverse events.

Sandoz Timolol Ophthalmic Solution 0.25% and 0.5% are eye drops taken for treatment of increased intraocular pressure (high fluid pressure inside the eye) and glaucoma.

Potential adverse events may include red eye, eye irritation, inflammation of the eyelids and/or cornea, drooping of the upper eyelid, double vision, dizziness, headache, abnormally slow heartbeat, abnormally low blood pressure, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and cardiac failure.

Patients taking either Sandoz Timolol Ophthalmic Solution 0.25% or 0.5% eye drops should discontinue use and consult their health care practitioner immediately to ensure that treatment of the original condition (intraocular pressure) is not interrupted. Consumers should return the product to their pharmacist for safe disposal. ...mote

Pharmacist-turned-entrepreneur has the right medicine

From the Arizona Republic:
The Apothecary Shops was on financial thin ice three years ago. The specialty pharmacy had opened too many retail stores, was losing money, and its chief supplier threatened to cut it off.

At the time, founder and CEO John D. Musil realized that he couldn't accomplish every strategic and operational task on his own. He needed help.

"It was kind of the slap in the face," said Musil, a pharmacist turned businessman. "It was a point where you need to figure out what you're going to do or you're going to go broke."

Musil hired a trio of executives to oversee the company's pharmacy operations, sales and finances, and he took on the role of chief strategist for the small Phoenix company that he founded a dozen years ago.

The strategy has paid off. The privately-owned company expects to increase revenue 30 percent this year to about $83 million. It has nearly tripled its sales over the past six years, and the company was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the nation's 5,000 fastest-growing private companies. ...more

Postal union stages Day of Action

From the Timmins (Ont.) Daily Press:
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers held a day of action on Friday to express its dissatisfaction over services being mailed out to a popular drug store.

More and more of the work is getting shipped to Shoppers Drug Mart stores, said Donald Lafleur, national vice president of the union.

The gathering was held outside the Canada Post office in the heart of downtown, with a barbecue for those passing by.

"We're here to raise awareness about the government moving the public postal service into the private realm," Lafleur said.

"The concern we have is the services will deteriorate."

He said postal workers receive a level of training unmatched by staff in the drug stores, who he believes are underpaid and won't receive a pension or benefits. ...more

Shoppers Drug Mart Rises After Profit Beats Estimates

From Bloomberg:
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., Canada's biggest drugstore chain, rose the most in six years in Toronto trading after second-quarter profit climbed more than analysts estimated on higher sales of medicine and store-brand products.

Net income increased 14 percent to C$128.3 million ($127.8 million), or 59 cents a share, for the 17th straight gain in quarterly profit. Revenue in the three months that ended June 14 rose 9.4 percent, Shoppers Drug Mart said today in a statement.

The chain boosted sales of generic drugs and introduced more profitable merchandise such as a new Nativa organic food line and higher-priced cosmetics. Chief Executive Officer Jurgen Schreiber, 46, added more store-brand lines to gain market share since taking the helm last year. ...more

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Drug helps anorexia patients gain weight, feel happy

From CTV News:
A drug used to treat schizophrenia may be a new tool to help patients with anorexia gain weight and control their obsessive thoughts about food.

New Canadian research has found that when anorexia patients take olanzapine, they gain weight, feel calmer and do not have the obsessive thoughts about weight and food that characterize the debilitating condition.

The research was led by Dr. Hany Bissada, a psychiatrist at and director of The Ottawa Hospital Regional Centre for the Treatment of Eating Disorders. The study included 34 women with anorexia who were enrolled in the centre's day program for anorexia treatment. ..more

Uneven enforcement of ban on drug ads creates double standard: medical journal

From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada's uneven enforcement of its ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising may strengthen the hand of media companies fighting in court to have it overturned, the Canadian Medical Association Journal said Monday in an editorial.

Signed by editor-in-chief Dr. Paul Hebert, the editorial said the current situation amounts to a double standard, with Canadian media outlets barred from selling drug ads, even though Canadians watching American TV networks or reading American magazines are being "bombarded" with drug advertisements.

"We get contamination from the U.S. We get direct-to-consumer advertising, because we get it from them," Hebert said in an interview.

"So I guess my question is: Why is that allowed to happen?"

CanWest Global Communications is challenging the direct-to-consumer advertising ban, saying it violates the right to free expression enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Health Canada spokesman Alastair Sinclair said the federal department is defending the case and preparing its response, but noted it would "not be appropriate for Health Canada to comment further on a matter before the courts."

The United States and New Zealand are the only jurisdictions in the world that allow drug companies to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers. Where they are permitted to advertise, drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get consumers to ask for their brand of cholesterol-lowering medication or their version of acid reflux pills. ...more

Doctors hopeful easier blood thinners are nearing

From the Associated Press:
A trio of experimental drugs has doctors hopeful that for the first time in decades, millions of people at risk of lethal blood clots may soon get easier treatment.

The first goal is a pill option for people who now need daily blood-thinning shots for weeks after knee or hip replacement surgery.

But the ultimate goal is an alternative to that old standby warfarin, also called Coumadin, the nation's most troublesome lifesaver because of side effects and restrictions its 2 million users face.

Now in late-stage testing in thousands of Americans are three pills that work to prevent blood clots in ways that promise to be less burdensome. One of the trio, Boehringer Ingelheim's Pradaxa, just began selling in Europe.

The drug research comes as Medicare is considering withholding payment from hospitals when at-risk patients develop clots in their veins, usually the legs — a common preventable cause of hospital deaths. The National Quality Forum has estimated that only about a third of patients who need protective blood thinners while hospitalized get them.

Known medically as a "deep vein thrombosis" or DVT, such a clot can kill quickly if it moves up to the lungs. There aren't good counts, but recent estimates suggest that about 900,000 people a year suffer a vein clot, and nearly 300,000 die. Being immobile for long periods, such as during hospitalizations or even long airplane flights, can trigger a clot. Vice President Cheney suffered one after a long trip last year. NBC correspondent David Bloom died of one in 2003 after spending days in a cramped military vehicle while covering the invasion of Iraq. ...more

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reported malfunctions with Twinject auto-injector pose potential health risks

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is advising Canadians of reported malfunctions with the Twinject 0.3 milligram (mg) auto-injector and the Twinject 0.15 mg auto-injector that may pose serious health risks to users.

Twinject is a pre-filled, single-use automatic injector containing an epinephrine solution that is used for the emergency treatment of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. The product is available in two dosing strengths, 0.3 mg and 0.15 mg. The injector is designed to administer one automatic injection, followed by a second dose by manual injection if necessary.

Since Twinject was first marketed in Canada on August 1, 2005, Health Canada has received 30 reports of malfunctions associated with the use of either the 0.3 mg or the 0.15 mg dosage strength. Most cases were reported to be life threatening and required either emergency room visitation or hospitalization. Twenty eight patients recovered without any major complications, and the outcome of the other two patients remains unknown. ...more

Ratio-Morphine Tablets Recalled in Canada due to Risk of Accidental Overdose

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is warning consumers not to use the prescription drug ratio-Morphine SR in 15 milligram (mg), 30 mg, and 60 mg formats. Some tablets may contain more morphine than the label indicates, exposing patients to the potential risk of accidental overdose. Oversized tablets that are noticeably thicker than the regular tablets, and which may contain more morphine than the strength indicated, have been found on the Canadian market. Ratio-Morphine SR tablets are taken orally for the relief of severe pain.

Symptoms of an overdose include abnormal breathing, dizziness, confusion or extreme drowsiness, cold or clammy skin, and abnormally low blood pressure and heart rate. A severe overdose may result in coma, cardiac arrest and death.

The Canadian distributor, ratiopharm, has initiated a recall of the affected lots after two separate complaints were received by the U.S. manufacturer, KV Pharmaceutical.

Health Canada advises consumers currently using ratio-Morphine SR at the 15 mg, 30 mg or 60 mg strength not to take these products and to contact their treating physician immediately to obtain a suitable alternative product for their medical condition. Consumers should return the product to their pharmacist for safe disposal. ...more

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Some kids should be on cholesterol drugs: study

From CTV News:
Children eight years of age or older should be treated with cholesterol medication if they are found to have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or so-called bad cholesterol, a new report says.

The new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is a drastic step toward preventing cardiovascular disease among at-risk children, including those with high cholesterol.

CTV medical consultant Dr. Marla Shapiro said the recommendation to medicate kids with cholesterol drugs should not come as a surprise, given the dramatic rise in obesity among children.

"We're at the point where a large, respected pediatric society, which happens to be the American Pediatric Society, is taking a stand and really saying that with the rising epidemic of obesity, we know that in youth and young children this will translate into premature heart disease and stroke in the years to come," Shapiro told CTV Newsnet. ...more

Jean Coutu Group Rises; Retailer Expects Sales Growth

From Bloomberg:
Jean Coutu Group Inc., the Canadian pharmacy chain that became Rite Aid Corp.'s biggest shareholder in 2007, rose 2 percent in Toronto trading after the retailer said sales growth should improve later this year.

Jean Coutu said today the first-quarter net loss widened to C$20.2 million ($19.8 million), or 8 cents a share, in the three months through May 31, mostly from its 30 percent Rite Aid stake that must be reported under Canadian accounting rules. The U.S. chain posted four straight quarters without profit.

The company sees earnings growth coming from new outlets in Quebec and the Rite Aid stake as the third-largest U.S. drugstore chain finishes integrating Eckerd and Brooks stores obtained from Jean Coutu. Sales gains from renovated sites will kick in later this year, Chief Executive Officer Francois Coutu said today.

``They're very well positioned for growth here,'' Airan Friedman, an analyst with Accountability Research Corp., said in a telephone interview. ``It's a defensive name, and it's where you want to be in the economic climate that we're in.'' ...more

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ontario to cover cost of expensive cancer treatment

From the Toronto Sun:
Ontario will spend an additional $50 million to cover three of the most expensive cancer drugs over the next three years, Health Minister David Caplan announced Wednesday.

The province is earmarking $30 million to fund Avastin for colorectal cancer and $20 million to pay for both Sprycel, used to treat leukemia, and Alimta, for lung cancer, Caplan said.

But it’s not clear whether everyone who requests the drugs will be able to get the medication.

About 3,000 patients are looking for Avastin, which costs $40,000 for one treatment, according to Cancer Care Ontario. That could add as much as $120 million to the province’s drug budget.

Many cancer patients say they’ve been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars for drugs that were recommended by their doctors but not covered under the provincial health insurance plan. Some sought donations and organized fundraisers to help defray the huge cost of the potentially life-saving treatment. ..more

Lilly Loses Appeal to Limit Damages in Canadian Suit

From Bloomberg:
Eli Lilly & Co. lost an appeal to limit potential damages in a lawsuit filed by Canadian patients who claimed they developed diabetes after using its Zyprexa schizophrenia drug.

An Ontario appeal court today affirmed a lower court's decision that plaintiffs in a class-action, or group, suit may try to recover money the Indianapolis-based company made from sales rather than get damages. The plaintiffs sought C$900 million in damages in their initial claim.

Lilly, the world's biggest maker of psychiatric medicines, is accused of failing to warn the Zyprexa schizophrenia treatment may cause diabetes. Opting to go after a company's sales is unprecedented in court, said Toronto class-action lawyer Paul Bates, who isn't involved in the Zyprexa suit. ...more

Children's suicide attempts raise concerns about ADHD medication

From the Globe and Mail:
New questions are being raised about the safety of a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder amid reports that more than 40 Canadian children have attempted suicide after taking it.

The issue highlights a long-brewing debate over the decision to prescribe powerful drugs to treat complex psychiatric problems among children.

"It does raise some concerns," said Roger McIntyre, head of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at Toronto's University Health Network.

"Childhood psychiatric disorders, I think, are an area [that] in and of itself remain a controversial topic."

Health Canada said it received 189 reports of adverse reactions associated with atomoxetine, sold under the name Strattera, from the time it was put on the market in February, 2005, to the end of last year.

The reports included 55 suicide attempts - 41 of which were among children aged 6 to 17, and 12 that were adults between 18 and 45. Ages were unavailable in two reports, according to information published by Health Canada in its quarterly publication on adverse drug reactions. ...more

Shoppers' move into specialty pharmacy market

From the Financial Post:
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp.'s decision to move into the specialty pharmacy market this week was well received by analysts.

The acquisition of Calea HealthAccess, which distributes and administers drugs to patients with complex medical conditions such as cancer and HIV, provides Shoppers with better knowledge of a fast-growing specialty pharmacy segment," Scotia Capital analyst Ryan Balgopal said in a note to clients. With growth rates in the mid-teens, entering the sector "is complementary to [Shoppers'] existing businesses and allows it to leverage its scale." Mr. Balgopal reiterated his rating of sector outperform on the shares and his one year price target of $67.50.

While the acquisition is not material from a financial reporting perspective, Shoppers' entry into the $3-billion a year specialty pharmacy business in Canada seems to follow a trend occurring among U.S. counterparts such as CVS and Walgreens, said Desjardins Securities analyst Keith Howlett. "Both drug retailers and wholesalers in the U.S. appear to want to move to a new business paradigm with higher margins, based upon services which make more healthcare more efficient for patients and players," he wrote in a note to clients. He reiterated his buy recommendation and his $60 price target on the shares. "In a sea of retailing despair, Shoppers is one of a select few that will grow earnings per share in the second quarter of 2008." ...more

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sex and the Stampede

From the Vancouver Sun:
Sex and Stetsons -- it's enough to get some partygoers at the Calgary Stampede saying yee-haw.

The annual summer festival is renowned for getting folks in the saddle, so to speak.

Just ask Darcy Chalifoux, who said he has seen "some porta-potties rocking" over the years.

There's a lot more than roping going on at the Calgary Stampede. Many of the spectators are hot to trot, too.

"Things get a little wonky," said the sales and marketing director for the Wildhorse Saloon, a Stampede party tent.

"It's a part of people having fun."

But just how promiscuous are Stampede revellers? With the wanton behaviour of participants now a part of the folklore of Stampede parties, it's sometimes difficult to separate fact from the urban myth.

Calgary Health Region officials say their STD clinic is busier with visits the week following Stampede, and there's a slight increase in the number of people picking up the morning-after pill -- also known as Plan B -- at the sexual and reproductive health clinics. ...more

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

B.C. court clears path for cancer survivors to sue over hormone replacement

From the Canadian Press:
An international maker of a hormone replacement drug has lost its bid to block a B.C. lawsuit, clearing the way for a possible class-action suit on behalf of breast cancer survivors.

Hundreds of B.C. women who claim they got breast cancer after taking the drugs Premarin and Premplus have contacted the law firm involvined in the B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit.

David Klein, the lawyer for the women, said it means if the company is found at fault, the international firm would be held accountable in a Canadian court.

"Now we can put the case back on track toward getting it certified as a class action," he said.

Officially, the lawsuit has one plaintiff so far. Dianna Stanway is the representative plaintiff in the court action that first must be certified by the court as a class action, allowing the other women to join. ...more