Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obama seeks drug imports outside of health bill

From Reuters:
The pharmaceutical industry's powerful Washington lobbying group backs the healthcare reform legislation that is President Barack Obama's top legislative priority, but its important support for that effort could evaporate if drug imports are included.

White House adviser David Axelrod said the administration will pursue the issue, but not in the healthcare reform bill.

"Let me be clear. The president supports ... safe re-importation of drugs into this country," Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" program. "There's no reason why Americans should pay a premium for the pharmaceuticals that people in other countries pay less for."

The importation of drugs from other countries has been proposed for years as a way to lower prescription drug costs in the United States. The same prescription drugs sold in the United States often are sold at much lower prices in other countries, including Canada. ...more

Idaho pharmacist who tackled armed robber fired

From the Chicago Tribune:
A northern Idaho pharmacist who tackled a gun-toting robber and received a special award from the city of Coeur d'Alene has been fired for violating company policy.

Jerry Gunderson said he was dismissed from the Shopko pharmacy late last month because he resisted the robbery.

A Shopko spokeswoman at the company's corporate office in Green Bay, Wis., declined to comment.

On Nov. 18, Gunderson chased after the gunman who police say had just stolen six bottles of anti-anxiety prescription medicine, then tackled him near the entrance of the store.

Gunderson said he initially was only trying to get information for police. ...more

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Provinces unsure what to do with extra H1N1 vaccines

From the National Post:
As H1N1 flu clinics continue to close across the country and with decrease demand for the shot, governments and health officials are dealing with an unexpected surplus of vaccine -- although few provinces have determined what they will do with the millions of leftover doses.

The federal government has distributed a total of 24.6 million adjuvanted and unadjuvanted doses of vaccine to the provinces. Fewer than 13.8 million doses have been administered. Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, said the federal government and World Health Organization are talking about what to do with surplus vaccine doses. There is no national plan in place yet to deal with the extra vaccines, he said.

The federal government recently announced declines in demand for the vaccine and most of the provinces have noted a decrease in the severity and impact of the virus, including fewer positive tests for H1N1. The number of deaths and hospitalizations related to the flu are dropping across the country, said Dr. Butler-Jones. These numbers have declined steadily for weeks. ...more

Drug prescriptions unreliable: officials

From Viet Nam News:
Around 73 per cent of doctors’ prescriptions have not been properly checked, nor have patients been properly advised on drug prices and potential side-effects, health officials said yesterday during a conference held in Ha Noi.

According to the Ministry of Health’s Examination and Treatment Management Department’s deputy director Cao Hung Thai, the main reason for the situation was a serious shortage of pharmacists nationwide.

"Technically, pharmacists are in charge of consulting and guiding patients how to use medicine effectively, safely and properly at reasonable costs. They play an important role in medical treatment," Thai said.

However, many patients still purchase drugs without professional consultations as the number of pharmacists at hospitals and health clinics remains inadequate and their professional skills are limited. ...more

NHS faces 'potentially serious problems' from wrong prescriptions on the NHS

From the Telegraph (UK):
Junior doctors on average fill out five or six prescription forms during their whole time in medical school only to have to complete dozens on their first day on the wards.

The inadequate preparation helps contribute to almost one in 10 prescriptions containing errors that could harm patients, it was said.

Now the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) is calling on the doctors to take an exam called the National Prescribing Assessment before being qualified.

They also want a "prescribing simulator" to be introduced to the curriculum so that medics are better prepared when they start in hospitals.

Professor Simon Maxwell, chairman of the BPS, said: "Everybody thinks that the system should and can be overhauled.

"We would not accept this kind of error rate in other industries such as aviation. It is a recipe for problems." ...more

Pharmacy frustration

From the St. John's (NL) Telegram:
It's happened to Burin Peninsula resident Madeline Broydell and many others with chronic illnesses.

Here's how it usually plays out. Broydell is low on the medications she uses to control her diabetes and high blood pressure, but her doctor is out of town and is unavailable to write her a new prescription.

She pays a visit to Doug Stanley, a pharmacist at Burin Pharmacy, who's been filling her prescriptions for many years and knows her medical background almost as well as her doctor.

But Stanley throws up his hands. Without a written prescription from a medical doctor, he can't help Broydell.

He tells her to visit the emergency department at the local hospital in order to get a written prescription, a process that could take many hours and forces her to expose herself to an environment filled with sick, possibly contagious patients.

"It's very frustrating," Broydell said Friday from her home in Burin Bay Arm. "I've ran into this problem a couple of times. ...more

Prescription For Winning

From ESPN:
Recently, I headed up to Massachusetts to catch up with BMX racer turned pharmacist Johnny Pinsonnault. I really had no clue what to expect. Outside of BMX races I had never hung out with him, and the only time I spoke to him prior in regards to him sending me season one of Gossip Girl on DVD. But in the three days I visited Johnny, I learned quite a bit. For starters, he is a donut connoisseur. He also has awesome parents, and if he's going to do something, he's going to do it right, whether that's becoming a doctor, throwing down hot laps at every race or digging at the trails. If he has a goal, he'll do everything in his power to meet it. And when he's not killing it on his bike in 26-34 Expert or searching for donuts and junk food, his days are spent at the hospital distributing medicine. Even though Johnny wasn't in the the Action Sports Braniacs feature, he fits right in there. This is Johnny Pinsonnault. ...more

Turkish govt cancels all deals with pharmacists after strike

From World Bulletin:
Turkish government cancelled all deal with pharmacists days after nation-wide strike over drug prices.

Turkish Pharmacists Union (TEB) declared that Social Security Organization (SGK), which unilaterally cancelled the medicine provision contract, would be "responsible" for inaccessibility to medicine for people with social security after January 10.

Pharmacists across Turkey, responding to a call by TEB --the sole authority to sign collective medicine provision deals with government-- closed their pharmacies for one day on December 4, in protest of medicine price cuts, despite SGK's warning that it would cancel the deal. ...more

Pharmacist authorized to give injections

From the Williams Lake (BC) Tribune:
Georgina Chipman is the first pharmacist in Williams Lake authorized to give vaccine injections.

“I’m the only one so far,” says Chipman , a part-time pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart, who took part in a program put on by the B.C. Pharmacy Association and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

She says the course is brand-new, as it started in the summer for pharmacists to become authorized through the B.C. College of Pharmacists to give vaccine injections.

Chipman took the program this fall due to the H1N1 pandemic.

“They were trying to train more health professionals to be available to give injections, specifically for the flu shots,” she says, noting that she can give other vaccines as well. ...more

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'It's ruining people's lives': province looks at restricting Oxy

From the Sault (Ont.) Star:
First, it takes away the pain. Then it takes over your life.

Pharmacist Jon MacDonald has seen the astonishing rise in opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin over the last decade, and welcomes changes the provincial government wants to introduce to how they're prescribed and dispensed.

"If doctors are tracked, and know they're tracked, they'll prescribe a little more responsibly. And the same for pharmacists," said MacDonald, operator of the Medicine Shoppe on Second Line West, who until this year was regional spokesperson for the Ontario Pharmacists' Asoociation.

Ontario's Health Ministry wants to use a computer tracking system that would monitor how much of a drug is going out and send alerts if a prescription is received two days in a row.

MacDonald said it shouldn't be difficult, as anyone with a health card in Ontario is already entered into a database when they get prescriptions filled. The missing link right now is that nobody is actually monitoring what's going on, he said. ...more

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

US Senate rejects drug imports under health bill

From Reuters:
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday rejected two proposals to allow Americans to buy cheaper prescription medicines from other nations, preserving a deal between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry.

A bipartisan group of more than two dozen senators had sought to allow drug imports from Canada and other countries -- where drugs often sell at a much lower cost than in the United States. But they saw their proposal, which needed 60 votes to pass in the 100-member Senate, fall short by a vote of 51-48.

"We shouldn't be paying the highest prices in the world," Democrat Byron Dorgan said before the vote on his proposal.

Other senators backed a separate measure to allow imports that have been certified as safe by U.S. health officials. Also needing 60 votes, the proposal lost, 56-43.

The measures were offered as part of broad Democratic legislation to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system by expanding access to health insurance, tightening insurance industry regulations and controlling certain costs. ...more

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Use of stomach drugs by seniors soars

From the Globe and Mail:
The number of seniors taking acid-reducing drugs to treat gastrointestinal woes has soared by 60 per cent over the past five years, newly released data show.

More than one in five Canadians over the age of 65 were treated with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in 2007-08, up from one in eight in 2001-02, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

“Usage seems to be steadily increasing,” said Michael Gaucher, manager of pharmaceuticals at CIHI.

Part of the increase seems to be a switch from an earlier class of medication known as histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs), but there also seems to be an increase in acid-related conditions, he said.

PPIs and H2RAs are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), reflux esophagitis and peptic ulcer disease. They are also used to eradicate Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes ulcers, and to prevent and treat ulcers caused by routine use of medications such as painkillers. ...more

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pharmacies blamed for dirty needles

From the Ottawa Sun:
Ottawa’s pharmacists are frustrated that they have been blamed for the number of dirty needles being collected on the city’s streets.

The complaint, which will be tabled at City Hall Thursday, stems from a briefing note by the city’s former medical officer of health, Dr. David Salisbury, to Coun. Diane Holmes on March 12, which states “legitimate purchases from pharmacies ... represent a significant portion of the needles on the street.”

This year, the city has collected 149,347 more dirty needles than the clean ones it’s given out to drug users, raising questions as to where they are coming from.

Salisbury also speculated to the Sun last year the needle source could be a syringe black market or Hull needle distributors.

The Ottawa-Carleton Pharmacists’ Association claims there’s no proof behind Salisbury’s assertion that pharmacies are a source of the needles. ...more

H1N1 could boost antibiotic prescriptions, creating more drug resistance

From the Vancouver Sun:
Infectious disease experts worry the H1N1 virus will drive a surge in antibiotic prescribing, potentially leading to more drug-resistant organisms.

As Canada enters the normal peak season for flu, doctors are facing a perennial problem: how to distinguish flu from rare and grave bacterial infections such as meningitis and serious Group A streptococcal infections.

Early signs of meningitis include some of the same symptoms recommended in screening questions for H1N1, including fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea, two doctors writing in the British Medical Journal recently warned.

Bacterial infections need to be treated with antibiotics. Should doctors face what they term "diagnostic uncertainty," doctors will prescribe the antibiotics as well as an anti-viral medicine, such as Tamiflu, just in case.

While flu activity is falling, officials warned Tuesday that H1N1 is far from gone, and the number of visits to doctors nationwide for flu-like symptoms have been at levels not seen in 12 years. ...more

Prescription drug kiosks get OK in Ontario

From CBC News:
People in Ontario will soon be able to buy prescription drugs through an ATM-like self-serve machine now that Bill 179 has been passed in the Ontario legislature.

PCA Services Inc. of Oakville, Ont., plans to roll out hundreds of kiosks across the province in places like malls and grocery stores once regulations are in place, which the company hopes will be within three months.

The kiosks, which have been in use in a handful of Ontario hospitals for two years, will likely become as indispensable as bank machines and cellphones, particularly as governments look for ways to cut health-care costs, said Peter Suma, president of PCA Services, which developed the machine.

"It will be like a cellphone. It will free you from locational dependence," Suma said in an interview with CBC News.

He used an example of going to a grocery store late at night, only to find the pharmacy section is closed. In the future, a customer will just head over to a PharmaTrust machine, as they're called, feed the doctor's prescription through a slot and pick up the phone for a video conference with a pharmacist. ...more

Pharmacists are a vital, if under-used, part of healthcare

From the Los Angeles Times:
There's an old Jerry Seinfeld joke many pharmacists know all too well. It's the one in which he describes their "whole job" as taking pills from a big bottle and putting them in a little bottle.

"I think that's how a lot of people see us," says Jeff Goad, an associate professor at the USC School of Pharmacy, with both frustration and good humor.

But pharmacists' long years of training -- at least six and as many as eight -- prepare them for much more than repackaging pills. "In terms of the number of hours spent studying drug effectiveness, pharmacists are better trained than physicians," says Julie Donohue, an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gone are the days in which pharmacists wouldn't even tell patients what was in their medications, Goad says. Pharmacists now can help patients get the most good from their medications, manage side effects, avoid interactions, even save money.

Today, most, if not all, states have laws requiring pharmacists to give patients specific information. Pharmacists in California are required by state law to offer counseling to patients about every new or changed prescription they fill. Pharmacists and other public health experts call this an offer no one should refuse. "It's the last critical safety check," Goad says. ...more

Bill to help sale of HIV drugs gains support

From CBC News:
A federal private member's bill aims to cut through the red tape hampering generic drug companies from shipping cheap HIV/AIDS drugs to developing countries.

On Wednesday, MPs will review New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis's bill, designed to reform Canada's access to medicines law.

When Canada passed its access to medicines legislation five years ago with support from all parties, it was lauded as a world leader.

The intent of the access to medicines regime was to allow generic drug manufacturers to compete to supply less-expensive drugs to developing countries for diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Under the current legislation, generic drug makers must obtain a special licence each time they want to sell a drug to a country over a certain time, and pay royalties to the patent-holding drug companies on any such sales.

But the current law is not working, Wasylycia-Leis said. Since it was passed, the process has proved so complicated that only one order of HIV drugs was ever made and sold. It reached Rwanda last year. ...more

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

'It's about giving, not winning'

From the Ottawa Citizen:
When Jag Dattani first came to Canada 37 years ago, the then 31-year-old pharmacist had to take work as a stock boy to pay his bills while he earned his Canadian credentials.

On Monday, Dattani's rags to riches story will reach its pinnacle, when the 68-year-old native of Uganda is awarded the Outstanding Pharmacy Owner Award at this year's Commitment to Care and Service awards in Toronto.

While he's honoured to be receiving one of the highest pharmacy honours in Canada, the soft-spoken Dattani said his hard work has never been about seeking recognition.

"You just help people all the time," he said. "That's why I became a pharmacist. You don't look at those compliments or other things. That's not what it's all about. It's about giving."

Dattani has owned and operated the Bells Corners Pharmacy on Robertson Road in Nepean for the past 31 years. Although he sold the family business before announcing his retirement earlier this year, he said his relationship with customers was what kept him going over the past three decades. ...more

Pharmacy clinics are a health risk, claim GPs

From the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:
A joint venture between a pharmacy chain and nurse practitioners to open clinics that will provide treatment for such ailments as colds and flu has been attacked by the Australian Medical Association as a threat to public health.

But the Pharmacy Alliance Group and Revive Clinics say their service will alleviate the pressure on the health system and have accused doctors of trying to protect their turf.

The first Revive Clinic in NSW opened at a Richmond pharmacy last weekend, after the opening of clinics in Western Australia, Queensland and the ACT.

A deal between Revive Clinics and the Pharmacy Alliance Group, which manages more than 400 pharmacies, will increase the number of shops offering the service over the next three years, depending on the demand.

The clinics will be held in pharmacies carrying the healthetc brand. Managing director Tom Love hailed the move as positive for public health, noting that the clinics were opening in areas suffering a GP shortage. ...more

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Over-the counter eye drops raise drug resistance fears

From BBC News:
The move to sell antibiotic eye drops over the counter has led to a large rise in usage, prompting fears about drug resistance, a study says.

Oxford University found that two years after the change, 3.4m doses of chloramphenicol, a conjunctivitis drug, were being sold annually - a 50% rise.

Researchers said the trend was "concerning" as the problem often cleared up without the need for drugs.

But doctors said the move had improved patient access and freed up GP time.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency reclassified the eye drops in 2005, allowing pharmacists to hand them out without the need for a prescription. ...more

Foreign workers to get credentials quicker

From CBC News:
Certain groups of foreign-trained workers will know within a year of applying for certification whether their training will allow them to work in Canada, the federal government said Monday.

Beginning in December 2010, foreign-trained architects, engineers, financial auditors and accountants, pharmacists and registered nurses will be among the groups that fall under the new framework, Minister of Human Resources Diane Finley said in Toronto.

“It used to be that it could take two years after someone got here just to find out where and how to get their credentials evaluated,” said Finley.

"We recognize how important it is for newcomers to put their training and their knowledge to work here in Canada…. It's vital for them, and it's vital for their families and it's vital for our economy." ...more

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pharmacy privatization will cost 20 hospital jobs in Calgary

From the Calgary Herald:
About 20 pharmacy positions at three Calgary hospitals will be cut when the province's medical superboard privatizes outpatient pharmacies at the facilities next year.

Alberta Health Services confirmed Thursday it will ask an independent provider to take over most of its outpatient pharmacy services at Peter Lougheed Centre, Foothills and Alberta Children's Hospital-- services that are currently provided by superboard staff. The organization will introduce a similar system at the new south hospital when it opens in 2011. A new provider will be selected through a request for proposals process.

The decision is expected to reduce about 20 full-time pharmacy positions, although it is not yet clear how many layoffs will occur as some staff may find other jobs at the superboard or a position at the new stores.

But the move is meeting with criticism from the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, the union that represents pharmacists and other staff at the hospital drug stores. ...more

Seniors most likely hospitalized for adverse drug reactions: StatsCan

From the Edmonton Journal:
Canadians aged 80 and older fill five times as many drug prescriptions a year as the average person, according to new data from Statistics Canada, helping explain why drug side effects are the No. 1 reason they visit emergency rooms.

In 2005, pharmacists filled an average of 74 prescriptions for each person over the age of 80, compared with an average of 14 prescriptions per Canadian, said the Statistics Canada study.

Typically, seniors on multiple drugs see numerous specialists who prescribe various medications to treat a range of chronic ailments: high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer's, arthritis, heart disease and stroke.

Experts have long known that seniors are the major consumers of drugs, but the Statistics Canada study is the first to quantify it nationally.

A study published last year by the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that adverse drug reactions accounted for 12 per cent, or more than one in nine, of all emergency-room visits. ...more

Boots 'labels homeopathy as effective despite lack of evidence'

From the Times Online (UK):
The chief pharmacist at Boots today admitted the company markets homeopathic remedies as effective cures despite there being no medical evidence that they work.

Addressing the House of Commons parliamentary science watchdog, Paul Bennett said: “I have seen no evidence that these products are efficacious. It’s about consumer choice and a large number of our customers think they work.”

High street chemists were criticised by scientists and MPs at the meeting for putting business interests above patient care and the reputation of the medical profession.

However, Mr Bennett said that the responsibility to properly regulate the marketing of homeopathic products lay with the UK drug regulator, the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The comments were made at an evidence session of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, part of an ongoing inquiry into the regulation of homeopathic medicine. ...more

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Critics attack B.C. eye drug policy

From CBC News:
People in B.C. suffering from a degenerative eye condition are in a quandary over a provincial policy that allows doctors to profit by using a medication that's much cheaper than the approved drug.

In June, B.C. started to pay for treatments with Lucentis, a drug that can halt macular degeneration, a retinal condition affecting hundreds of thousands of Canadians over 45 years of age.

Lucentis — the only medication approved by Health Canada for treatment of macular degeneration — costs $1,575 for a vial that provides three doses.

Leanne Bernaerdt of Richmond said the doctor treating her 83-year-old mother decided to switch to another drug, Avastin, a drug that costs about $20 a dose but is intended for colon cancer patients. ...more

Pharmacists protest on a two-day Japanese strike

Pharmacists in Romania will go on a two-day Japanese strike, namely on Tuesday and Wednesday, to draw attention on the "dying state of the pharmaceutical system" and to appeal to the Government to find urgent solutions to stops pharmacies from going bankrupt.

During November 24-25, pharmacists will wear black arm-bands, Romanian College of Pharmacists announced. Pharmacies stopped receiving money for drugs five months ago. ...more

Monday, November 23, 2009

Doctors issue caution in using antivirals for H1N1

As public health officials urge more rapid use of antivirals for H1N1, some experts worry the drugs could become over-prescribed for what is a relatively mild illness in most people.

More than one million antiviral doses have been drawn from the federal stockpile in recent months, and the number of prescriptions filled by Canadian retail drugstores for Tamiflu and Relenza, the frontline drugs being used in the pandemic, nearly doubled between September and October.

As of Oct. 30, 151,688 prescriptions had been dispensed by retail pharmacists nationwide so far this year -- an increase of 73,291 prescriptions over September, according to prescription-drug-tracking firm IMS Health Canada.

Nationally, the number of visits to doctors for flu-like symptoms are at levels not seen in 12 years.

The World Health Organization is recommending that people in at-risk groups, including pregnant women, children under two and those with underlying conditions such as asthma, be treated with antivirals as soon as possible when they have flu symptoms, and that people without risk factors should also be treated if their symptoms worsen or persist. ...more

Shoppers targets growth in pharmacy-friendly provinces

From the Globe and Mail:
Children and youth on certain antipsychotic medications are more prone to getting diabetes and becoming fat, according to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

But the British Columbia doctors involved in the two-year study say parents shouldn't rush to take their children off the drugs and instead should consult their physicians on ways to monitor and beat the metabolic side-effects.

"On the one hand, the medication has significant and worrying side-effects," said study co-author Dr. Jana Davidson, medical director of child and adolescent mental health and addiction programs at BC Children's Hospital.

"On the other hand, in some of these cases the kids being on medication is what allows them to function in their lives and allows them to stay in their families."

About 6,000 youth in B.C. are on antipsychotic medications and prescription rates have been soaring in the past five years, according to the study.

Between 2002 and 2006, prescriptions of atypical or second-generation antipsychotics for B.C. youth rose by about 22 per cent, from one in 200 youth to one in 154. ...more

Children on antipsychotic drugs more prone to diabetes: Canadian study

From the Vancouver Sun:
Children and youth on certain antipsychotic medications are more prone to getting diabetes and becoming fat, according to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

But the British Columbia doctors involved in the two-year study say parents shouldn't rush to take their children off the drugs and instead should consult their physicians on ways to monitor and beat the metabolic side-effects.

"On the one hand, the medication has significant and worrying side-effects," said study co-author Dr. Jana Davidson, medical director of child and adolescent mental health and addiction programs at BC Children's Hospital.

"On the other hand, in some of these cases the kids being on medication is what allows them to function in their lives and allows them to stay in their families."

About 6,000 youth in B.C. are on antipsychotic medications and prescription rates have been soaring in the past five years, according to the study.

Between 2002 and 2006, prescriptions of atypical or second-generation antipsychotics for B.C. youth rose by about 22 per cent, from one in 200 youth to one in 154. ...more

Canada needs two vaccine suppliers, Ottawa admits

From the Globe and Mail:
Canada needs more than one vaccine manufacturer to deal with future flu pandemics and to avoid production delays that have affected the fight against the H1N1 virus, federal officials say.

"There is no debate. We all feel that when the time will come to renegotiate, we will go to tenders on a two-part contract to ensure maximum flexibility," said a senior official who has been working directly on the file.

While the Harper government has applauded GlaxoSmithKline Inc. for making more than 6 million doses so far at its facility in Ste-Foy, Que., a number of officials involved in the crisis said Canada deserves a second producer in the future.

Had that been the case this time, one manufacturer could have worked on the production of vaccines with the adjuvant additive, while the other one could have produced non-adjuvanted vaccines for pregnant women.

GSK was forced to make changes to its production line in mid-course, which caused delays in the delivery of vaccines to the provinces. ...more

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Studies mixed on value of 'immune boosters'

From CBC News:
The evidence is mixed on herbal products that claim to boost immunity this flu season, medical experts say.

Dozens of products are sold in stores and online, claiming to prevent flu by boosting the immune system. Some of the claims have sparked investigations by Canada's Competition Bureau.

Herbs such as ginseng and echinacea make the body produce more immune cells and enhance the way some cells work. But no one has been able to show conclusively whether that translates into stronger overall immunity to ward off infections.

"I think when someone says 'immune booster' you have this idea that you are going to get this dramatic effect," said Heather Boon, a pharmacy professor at the University of Toronto. ...more

Spray-on anesthetic prevents premature ejaculation in U.S. trials

From the Los Angeles Times:
The first U.S. trials of a spray-on anesthetic for the penis showed that it increased the time to ejaculation nearly five-fold, providing the first good solution for premature ejaculation, researchers reported today. The findings are very similar to those obtained in a European study released in April.

Premature ejaculation is generally defined as ejaculation that occurs within a minute after insertion of the penis into the vagina, causing distress to both parties. The condition is thought to affect as many as one in three U.S. men ages 18 to 59, about twice as many as those who suffer from erectile dysfunction. Some antidepressant-like drugs, such as dapoxetine, have been approved in a few countries to treat the condition, but the Food and Drug Administration rejected it because of long-term side effects. Some physicians prescribe anesthetic creams like EMLA cream for off-label use to delay ejaculation, but such creams require 45 minutes to work and the man must use a condom to prevent the anesthetic from numbing the woman.

Plethora Solutions of London and Sciele Pharma Inc. of Atlanta have developed a spray anesthetic, called PSD502 or Tempe, that contains lidocaine and prilocaine dispensed by a metered aerosol. It is applied five minutes before intercourse, and it selectively numbs the head of the penis. ...more

Friday, November 20, 2009

Canadians shouldn't buy drugs on the Internet: RCMP

From the Vancouver Sun:
Canadians ordering prescription medication online are being warned that they may be illegally receiving counterfeit products manufactured overseas by criminal organizations.

And the products claiming health benefits are full of other chemicals that could make them sick, the RCMP and Canada Border Service Agency said at a joint news conference, part of an INTERPOL and World Health Organization initiative in 26 countries called Operation Pangea II.

"The people selling these products are often organized crime groups operating internationally," RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound said, adding it is better for people to steer clear altogether from Internet purchases of prescription drugs even when websites claim to be Canadian.

He said the RCMP is working with its international policing partners to catch those responsible at the source. ...more

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New drug boosts women's sex drive

From CBC News:
Researchers are hailing a new drug called flibanserin as a possible remedy for sexual dysfunction in women.

Originally created to treat women suffering from depression, the pill was later found to increase the number of sexual encounters and overall sexual satisfaction among women who have hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

HSDD is a controversial dysfunction that not everyone in the medical field agrees exists. Those diagnosed with it, however, are said to experience "diminished feelings of sexual interest or desire that causes marked distress."

Over 1,000 pre-menopausal women from across the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe were included in the clinical trial funded by German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim.

The study found women who took 100 milligrams of flibanserin each day experienced an increased libido after four weeks. ...more

Hooked: Canada's painkiller problem

From the Globe and Mail:
Janey Nagle wasn't looking for kicks when she began courting a drug habit. The Percocets her doctor prescribed were the only thing that could take away the excruciating pain that lingered a decade after a car accident threw her into a windshield with such force that her face left an imprint in the glass.

For the first two years, the painkillers did the trick. The Perth, Ont., mother of four was able to work and look after her family. But after a while she couldn't get through the day without the pills' euphoric effect, and that demanded higher and higher doses.

Fearful her doctor would cut her off, Ms. Nagle looked elsewhere. She spent hundreds of dollars a day on prescription drugs bought off the street, primarily from friends and acquaintances. She photocopied her prescriptions and filled each one repeatedly at pharmacies around Perth, Kingston and Smiths Falls.

“It was a horrible, panicked feeling every morning when I woke up,” says Ms. Nagle, now 43. She remembers the daily dilemma: “How am I going to get them? Where am I going to get the money?”

This went on for years before she was caught at a drugstore and charged with forgery.

Like Ms. Nagle, Canada has fallen quietly into the grip of a pill problem in the past decade. Medications designed to treat pain and anxiety are creating legions of accidental addicts from coast to coast. In Regina, it's morphine; in Toronto, OxyContin and Percocet; in Edmonton, OxyContin, various benzodiazepines and the whole Tylenol gamut. ...more

Pharmacists remixing adult doses so kids can receive Tamiflu

From the Globe and Mail:
A worldwide shortage of children's Tamiflu to treat H1N1 infections has the federal government dipping into its national emergency stockpile and pharmacists preparing doses the old-fashioned way – with a mortar and pestle.

Meanwhile, the Canadian spokeswoman for Hoffman-La Roche, the Swiss maker of the antiviral drug, said the order for more of the children's liquid doses won't be ready for another month or so – likely after the pandemic virus has passed its peak.

“We're actively working to bring more product into the country,” Laura Pagnotta said yesterday. “We can't provide a specific date but we are definitely in the queue. And we do anticipate having additional [supplies] available in the next month or so.”

The second wave of the H1N1 virus has not only led to more hospitalizations and additional deaths, it has resulted in more Canadians walking into pharmacies with prescriptions for antiviral medication. In the last week of October, more than 28,000 prescriptions were written for Tamiflu, the highest number since the virus first appeared in April, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada. ...more

90,000 H1N1 inquires daily: OPA

From Metro Toronto:
Ontario residents are flocking to their pharmacists with questions and concerns about the H1N1 flu virus.

The Ontario Pharmacists’ Association said yesterday the 3,000 pharmacies in the province are getting about 90,000 inquiries per day, or about 30 per pharmacy, about swine flu.

“Most of them are related to the vaccine itself, but also I think... people are a little bit unsure about what is true flu and then what is simple influenza and a cold,” said association chairman Dean Miller.

The association conducted a random survey of pharmacists around the province and found over the past several weeks there has been an influx of patients concerned about swine flu as public awareness about the virus has gone up. ...more

Online gangs cashing in on swine flu

Criminal gangs are making millions of dollars out of the H1N1 flu pandemic by selling fake flu drugs over the internet, a web security firm said on Monday.

Sophos, a British security software firm said it had intercepted hundreds of millions of fake pharmaceutical spam adverts and websites this year, many of them trying to sell counterfeit antiviral drugs like Tamiflu to worried customers.

Tamiflu, an antiviral marketed by Switzerland's Roche Holding and known generically as oseltamivir, is the frontline drug recommended by the World Health Organization to treat and slow the progression of flu symptoms. GlaxoSmithKline makes another antiviral for flu, known as Relenza.

Sophos said many of the gangs behind the sites were based in Russia and the top five countries buying fake Tamiflu and other medicines on the internet were the United States, Germany, Britain, Canada and France. ...more

Monday, November 09, 2009

New drug therapies and promising studies offer hope for MS patients

From the Vancouver Sun:
Early diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can change the lives of people living with this chronic disease of the central nervous system.

“Today, there is a huge urgency to make the diagnosis because we know that early and aggressive treatment can alter the course of the disease,” says MS specialist and University of Alberta assistant clinical professor Dr. Brad Stewart. “Back 15 or 20 years, diagnosis was less urgent because we had nothing to offer the patient.”

Then, says Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, the director of the multiple sclerosis clinic of the University of Manitoba Health Sciences Centre, “treatment largely focused on acute management of relapses — those times when people presented with sudden worsening of symptoms like vision loss, limb weakness or numbness. We tried to help them manage some of the chronic symptoms like fatigue and difficulty in walking.

“We didn’t have medication that we thought could alter the long-term course of the disease.”

In 1995, the first drug treatment that could modify the disease was approved. Shortly afterwards, three more drugs of the Interferon type were added. In 2006, a fifth drug was approved. ...more

Pharmacist performs simple blood test

From the Windsor Star:
AWindsor pharmacist is making it easier for people who take blood thinning medication to have their blood tested and drug dosage adjusted -- all in about 15 minutes.

There are thousands of people in the community who take warfarin, a widely prescribed anticoagulant drug better known under the brand name Coumadin. Warfarin is used to treat patients with various types of blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, some heart conditions and other ailments. Those who take warfarin and other types of anticoagulants must have their blood regularly monitored to avoid serious complications, such as bleeding, because the medications alter the normal function of the body's blood clotting system.

Typically, patients must have their blood drawn in a lab, wait up to several days to get the results and then see their doctor for any necessary medication adjustments.

But Peter Dumo at the Novacare pharmacy on Walker Road can now do all that in just one appointment, thanks to a small device called CoaguChek XS, which looks and works much like a blood glucose meter. ...more

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

One supplier bad planning: critics

From the Winnipeg Sun:
Critics assailed the federal government yesterday for going to only one company for the H1N1 vaccine, saying it should have had a plan to avoid the bottlenecks Canadians are encountering at flu-shot clinics.

"Getting 50 million doses from one company is like trying to fill 50 million cups of water from the same tap," said NDP health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

The attacks came as Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, confirmed that drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline is shipping extra vaccine antigen out of the country because it cannot fill vials for the Canadian market any faster than its current pace.

The vaccine antigen is stored in bulk, then passed through a "fill line" into vials for quality control and distribution. But the antigen is being produced faster than the vials can be filled at GSK's plant in Ste-Foy, Que. So the excess is being exported. ...more

Unbelievable happens

From the Edmonton Journal:
Something oddly momentous, perhaps even portentous, happened in Alberta politics this week.

Health Minister Ron Liepert held a news conference to make an announcement about health-care reform--and nobody screamed for his head. No protests, no outraged opposition, no angry health care professionals.

In fact, he's being cautiously praised by his usual critics.

It's as if the world has suddenly been turned on its head: rivers are running backward; the sun is rising in the west; the Edmonton Eskimos are in the Grey Cup.

What Liepert did was unveil the second phase of his pharmaceutical strategy--which is being received much more warmly than his first phase last year that forced higher-income seniors to pay more for their drugs.

The second phase will drastically reduce the cost of generic drugs paid by Albertans and will pay pharmacists extra money for additional professional work they do above their usual role of filling prescriptions. ...more

Pharmacist cuts could disadvantage rural Albertans

From the Drumheller (AB) Mail:
The most accessible health care professional, the one that Albertans have said they are most satisfied with, are facing cutbacks that will reduce services to patients.

Paul Ainscough, pharmacist and owner of Riverside Value Drug Mart says heath care cuts will affect Drumheller residents.

“The total reduction in health costs comes directly from the pharmacists," said Ainscough. "In 1992 when Klein had his cutbacks, the pharmacists took a big cut then, and we have never recovered from that. It is going to get to the point that rural pharmacies will not survive."

Alan Hodgins, CEO of Value Drug Mart Associates Ltd., an organization of 57 independently owned and operated community pharmacies, primarily operating in rural Alberta, believes that Phase Two of the Alberta Pharmaceutical Strategy (APS) will cause most community pharmacies to cut services to their patients. ...more

MDs press Ontario to fund rare-disease therapy

From the Globe and Mail:
The specialist physicians who treat patients suffering from a deadly heart and lung disease are pleading with provincial officials to allow them to continue "pushing the envelope" with under-studied treatments that can drastically help their sickest patients.

Some patients diagnosed with fatal pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) see their life expectancies more than double - from three years to seven or 10 in some cases - when doctors treat them with drug combinations.

While the often expensive drugs are all approved for use in Canada, the effects of combining them have not been well studied. Because of that, Ontario recently decided to cut off support for PAH patients who require more than one drug - even in cases where patients were not asking for coverage of more than one medication.

The decision remains illogical to most patients and their doctors, who were not given a detailed explanation. The province responded to queries about the criteria used to make the funding decision by repeatedly citing "a lack of evidence with respect to combination therapy." ...more

Pharmacist testifies he refused to fill drug order for Anna Nicole Smith

This is a bit old but I thought it was an interesting pharmacist-related article.

From the Los Angeles Times:
A Valley Village pharmacist testified today that he refused to fill a drug order for Anna Nicole Smith the year before her fatal overdose because the quantities of medication requested by her psychiatrist amounted to “pharmaceutical suicide.”

“If she got ahold of these medications, it could have fatal consequences,” pharmacist Ira Freeman told a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge hearing evidence against the psychiatrist, another doctor and Smith’s boyfriend.

Freeman recounted being stunned by the handwritten list of a half-dozen painkillers, muscle relaxants and sedatives faxed to his store Sept. 15, 2006 – just four days after Smith’s son had died.

Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, a psychiatrist who had flown to the Bahamas to treat the model, signed the list and Smith’s Studio City internist, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, forwarded it to the pharmacy, he said.

“This is crazy. This is pharmaceutical suicide,” he recalled telling Kapoor in a phone conversation. He said he was so concerned that he tracked down Smith’s boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, in the Bahamas and arranged through him for Eroshevich to consult by phone with a respected toxicologist. ...more

Province mulling drug plan changes

From the London (Ont.) Free Press:
Major changes to the Ontario drug benefit system -- based in part on a secret, $750,000 sole-sourced consultant contract -- that the government hopes will increase taxpayers' "value for money" are coming soon.

But the Health Ministry insists the changes are targeting "very unacceptable practices" in the professional allowance system of payments between generic drug companies and pharmacies and not the seniors and welfare recipients who use the plan.

"In Canada, we are paying dramatically higher prices for generic drugs than most other countries," said Helen Stevenson, assistant deputy minister and executive officer of Ontario Public Drug Programs.

She added that legislation passed two years ago that was meant to address the issue is being skirted.

"The decision was taken that we need to do some further reform. We are still paying inflated prices for generics and we understand why -- it's because of these allowances."

Stevenson would not say what the changes being contemplated involve since no final decision on the policy options has been made, nor would she discuss the recommendations made in the McKinsey and Co. report that informed the process. Health officials asked the firm to do the report before Premier Dalton McGuinty banned untendered consulting contracts in June. ...more

Pharmacy team reunited

From the London (Ont.) Free Press:
When Paul Rutherford set out about a year ago to prove that yes, you can come home again (in a business sort of way), the first item on his list was to round up the usual prospects.

Those would be two pharmacists and a pharmacy assistant whom Rutherford knew and had worked with at a long-gone Big V pharmacy, establishing strong community and professional ties in northeast London.

"I'm the guy who pulled them all together," Rutherford says of the team he assembled to crew a new Pharmasave store at Highbury Ave. and Huron St..

"In the research stage, we knew we had a great location, but I made sure I had my people on board before I signed the lease" on 3,000 square feet of space in a plaza on the northwest corner of the intersection, Rutherford says.

At the same time, major changes in Ontario regulations -- partly prompted by a shortage in diabetes specialists -- is thrusting more of the diabetes treatment load onto family doctors working closely with pharmacy technicians. This also played a major role in the decision of Rutherford's old workmates to jump aboard his new pharmacy bandwagon. ...more

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Flu keeps pharmacists hopping

From the Lethbridge (AB) Herald:
Drug stores in the city are having trouble keeping hand sanitizer, masks and other flu-related supplies on the shelves as customers react to the H1N1 outbreak.

What’s more, pharmacists said Wednesday, they’re being flooded with calls from people seeking information on everything from symptoms of the flu to whether or not they should be vaccinated.

“We’ve been open for three hours this morning and we’ve already had at least 10 calls,” said Doug Bennett, pharmacist at Shopper’s Drug Mart in West Lethbridge.

“People want to know if we’re going to be getting the vaccine here. They’re wondering if they have the flu and they’re wondering if they should get vaccinated. They’re asking when they should be going to the doctor, but most of the time I think they’re deciding to go anyway.”
Shopper’s has seen hand sanitizer disappear as soon as it’s stocked, a situation mirrored everywhere.

“It started weeks ago,” said Igor Shaskin, owner of Stafford Pharmacy and Home Health Care on 9 Street North. ...more

Pediatric Tamiflu not easy to come by, parents find

From the Ottawa Citizen:
Some doctors are prescribing a liquid form of Tamiflu, an anti-viral drug, to treat the youngest victims of the H1N1 pandemic. But a shortage of a syrup used to make the children's formula has forced some Ottawa parents to hunt from pharmacy to pharmacy.

The drug can make the flu milder and go away more quickly and may cut the risk of potentially life-threatening complications if taken within 48 hours.

Thomas Hayes, chair of an emergency-planning committee for area hospitals and nursing homes, said Thursday there is no shortage of Tamiflu in capsule form in Ottawa drugstores or hospitals. Capsules are for adults and older children.

"The province has a supply of Tamiflu stockpiled for a pandemic and other anti-virals as well," says Hayes. Supplies are currently on their way to pharmacies.

But the ready-made liquid form of the medicine used for young children has become hard to come by. And now, there is a shortage of a syrup called Ora-Sweet used by pharmacists to mix an alternative formula from adult capsules. ...more

Thursday, October 29, 2009

OxyContin violence escalates

From the Calgary Sun:
Digging in dumpsters to find used painkiller patches to chew on, drinking cough syrup and vomiting it into a bowl to pass to a fellow addict, holding up a pharmacy.

These are the desperate measures taken to feed drug addictions -- dangerous and, at times, deadly.

Calgary has seen an alarming spike in drugstore robberies with OxyContin the pill of choice -- another example of extreme steps fuelled by the need for narcotics.

Forty-three pharmacies have been hit so far this year, up from 17 last year and police are now looking for a culprit behind some half-dozen cases citywide over the last two weeks.

"It's either a crime of opportunity or a crime of need," police spokesman Kevin Brookwell says.

"Thank goodness, up until this point, no one has been hurt." ...more

Doctors question ethics of needles for children

From the National Post:
With Canada on the brink of one of its largest-ever vaccination drives, a group of academics and doctors is urging health-care workers to make flu and other shots less painful for children, suggesting it is actually "unethical " for them to ignore the sting of injections.

Many doctors and parents believe a needle is nothing to fret about, with the hurt lasting only a moment and leaving no long-term effects, the researchers acknowledge in a series of medical-journal papers just published.

Using one of several possible pain-reduction techniques, however, could help avert needle phobias that affect as much as 10% of the population, last years and undermine vaccination campaigns, they argue.

Those methods -- from anesthetic cream applied to the skin to simply giving babies sugar water -- are seldom employed now, the panel says in the journal Clinical Therapeutics. ...more

Coutu Plans Doubling Generic Drug Sales, CEO Says

From Bloomberg:
Jean Coutu Group Inc., Canada’s second-largest pharmacy chain, plans to at least double generic drug sales in the next five years as the company attracts new customers and patents expire on widely prescribed medicines, Chief Executive Officer Francois J. Coutu said.

“For us, it’s clear that generics are an area that will grow quickly,” Coutu said in an Oct. 27 interview at company headquarters in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil. It depends on the speed with which patented drug formulations become available for copying, often as cheaper versions, “but we think doubling or even tripling revenue in the next few years is a realistic target,” he said.

Jean Coutu, which has 364 franchised stores in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick, expanded into the generics business in 2007, when it acquired closely held Canadian manufacturer Pro-Doc Ltd. for an undisclosed amount. Pro-Doc had revenue of C$22.7 million ($22.1 million) in its fiscal second quarter, a fourfold increase from the same period a year earlier. Jean Coutu’s revenue for the quarter totaled C$608.7 million. ...more

Antipsychotic drugs linked to childhood obesity

From CBC News:
More than a third of children and teenagers taking certain antipsychotic drugs became overweight or obese in the first three months of treatment, a new U.S. study has found.

A newer class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotic medications can be lifesaving for young people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe aggression associated with autism, according to an editorial accompanying the study in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the widespread use of the drugs should be reconsidered, given the risk of weight gain and the long-term risk of cardiovascular and metabolic problems, wrote Dr. Christopher Varley and Dr. Jon McClellan of Seattle Children's Hospital.

For the study, the researchers looked at 205 children and teens aged four to 19 with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and disruptive or aggressive behaviour spectrum disorders. ...more

The road to roll-out

From CBC News:
It's normally a complicated and lengthy process to get new drugs approved in Canada. After years of research and development, a drug company is required to conduct extensive clinical trials to back up its claims that the drug will work the way the company says it's supposed to, before it can submit it for approval.

Once the data's in, the company has to assemble the appropriate paperwork — the New Drug Submission — and ship it off to Health Canada's Therapeutic Products Directorate branch. If everything's in order, and Health Canada's satisfied that the drug's benefits will far outweigh its risks, it takes an average of 18 months for approval to come through.

It helps if the drug has already been approved in the United States.

That's the story for virtually all drugs — including vaccines. Yet it took only a few months for Health Canada to give the go ahead to Arepranix H1N1. That's the vaccine GlaxoSmithKline has developed exclusively in the Canadian fight against the swine flu pandemic. ...more

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Drugmakers strike back at generics

From the National Post:
When the blockbuster heart pill Norvasc lost its patent protection earlier this year, generic manufacturers couldn't wait to get into the lucrative market for Canada's third top-selling prescription drug, predicting they could save patients $180-million a year with their cheaper copies.

But the Saskatchewan government has just awarded its first contract for a generic version of the medicine to a "generic" branch of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that makes Norvasc itself, feeding concerns that such tendering systems will become the norm and inadvertently leave Canadians paying much more for prescription drugs.

Pfizer lost a drawn-out court battle recently to try to keep its patent-protection in force longer and delay any generic competition for another year.

Like other brand-name companies, though, the world's largest pharma firm sometimes enters the generic market when its drugs go off patent, and its GenMed division offered Saskatchewan's drug plan the lowest price among the eight competitors that started selling copies of Norvasc when the patent expired last week....more

Catholic, a chemist but he won't sell the pill

From the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:
A pharmacist has stopped selling contraceptives because of his strong religious beliefs.

Trevor Dal Broi is telling women using oral contraceptive pills for birth control to take their scripts to another chemist.

He removed condoms from his East Griffith Pharmacy several weeks ago and has banned the sale of emergency contraception morning-after pills.

These pills have been available without a prescription for between $20 and $30 since 2004.

Mr Dal Broi is handing out a leaflet to women with scripts for the contraceptive pill saying that he accepts the official teaching of the Catholic Church against the use of artificial contraception and has a moral objection to dispensing them. ...more

Jean Coutu second-quarter revenue up 7.3 per cent, chain earns $14.9 million

From the Canadian Press:
Growing second-quarter sales at Jean Coutu's (TSX:PJC.A) generic drug manufacturing subsidiary helped the Quebec pharmacy giant offset on its books the final impact from losses generated by a big investment in the U.S.-based Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) chain.

Drugmaking division Pro-Doc reported gross sales of $22.7 million in the quarter, up from $5.2 million a year earlier. Jean Coutu's pharmacists, who are free to order from any generic manufacturer, rely on Pro Doc to supply about 60 per cent of its needs for a lineup of some 300 drugs.

Jean Coutu has finally written off its 28 per cent stake in Rite Aid, as losses exceeded the carrying value of the investment. During the quarter, its share of the U.S. chain's losses amounted to $24.3 million compared with $73.1 million a year earlier.

Overall, Jean Coutu earned $14.9 million, or seven cents per share, in the period ended Aug. 29. That compared with a loss of $39.1 million or 16 cents a year earlier.

"We are very satisfied with our second-quarter results," CEO Francois Coutu said during a conference call. ...more

Pharmacists relish evolving role in industry

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
A passion for science combined with a desire to work with people equals the perfect prescription for a successful career as a pharmacist.

It's a profession in high demand in B.C. as well in the rest of the world, and with pharmacists taking on additional roles to provide health-care services in the province, it's becoming an even more interesting career option.

Beginning this fall, B.C. pharmacists will be able to administer injections to patients -- including the H1N1 flu vaccine, which will reduce the pressure on doctors' offices and make it more convenient for people to protect themselves from the virus.

Earlier this year, the province also gave pharmacists the authority to renew and alter prescriptions without first sending patients to their doctor's office. ...more

Calgary residents swarm seasonal flu clinics

From the Calgary Herald:
Thousands of Calgarians packed flu shot clinics as Alberta launched a massive influenza immunization campaign Tuesday, braving winter driving conditions and long lineups for a vaccine against seasonal strains of the virus.

Alberta Health Services said 2,950 people were inoculated against the seasonal flu at four sites in the city by Tuesday afternoon, nearly double the number that turned out on the first day of last year's program.

The clinics for seasonal influenza are the first phase of government's two-part flu plan, which also includes a separate vaccine for H1N1 influenza that is expected to be available in November.

"I'm thrilled by the lineups," said Dr. Judy MacDonald, deputy medical officer of health with the provincial superboard. "People want to do the best they can to protect themselves." ...more

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Smoking cessation drug's link to depression countered

From CBC News:
A newer smoking cessation drug is not linked to an increased risk of self-harm or depression, a British study suggests.

Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have warned that people taking varenicline — sold in Canada as Champix and in the U.S. as Chantix — have experienced unusual feelings of agitation, depressed mood, hostility, changes in behaviour or impulsive or disturbing thoughts, such as ideas of self-harm or of harming others.

The smoking cessation product is effective. British researchers writing in Friday's issue of the British Medical Journal looked for more evidence of adverse neuropsychiatric effects related to the drug. ...more

Labelling deadline may keep natural health products off shelves

From CBC News:
Hundreds of natural health products could disappear from store shelves next spring because of a Health Canada backlog in approving licences, warns the Canadian Health Food Association.

"We're at a critical stage," said Carl Carter, director of regulatory affairs and policy development for the CHFA.

"The biggest concern we have at this point is the standards of evidence Health Canada has been requesting for products' efficacy," he told CBC News.

Firms that make and sell natural health products are not opposed to being regulated. In fact, they welcome the Health Canada stamp of approval, said Carter. However, he said the "pendulum has swung too far" in terms of proving that a drug works. ...more

Court upholds $2M award to Wal-Mart pharmacist

From the Associated Press:
A former pharmacist at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed she was fired after asking to be paid the same as her male colleagues is entitled to $2 million in damages awarded by a jury, the state's highest court ruled Monday.

Cynthia Haddad was fired in 2004 after working more than 10 years for Wal-Mart, seven of them at a store in Pittsfield.

Wal-Mart claimed she was fired because she left the pharmacy unattended and allowed a technician to use her computer security code to issue prescriptions during her absence.

Haddad, however, claimed in a discrimination lawsuit that she was fired because she complained about being paid less than her male counterparts, including a bonus given to pharmacy managers. The company paid the bonus, then fired her two weeks later.

In 2007, a jury found that the company discriminated against Haddad, and awarded her $1 million in compensatory damages and another $1 million in punitive damages. A judge later revoked the $1 million award for punitive damages, finding there was an insufficient basis for the jury's decision. ...more

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Letting pharmacists prescribe drugs like letting flight attendant fly plane: OMA

From the Canadian Press:
The Liberal government is putting patient safety at risk by letting non-physicians do some of the work doctors currently perform, the Family and General Practice section of the Ontario Medical Association warned Wednesday.

The family doctors' lobby is fighting back against provincial government plans to let nurse practitioners lead local health clinics and to allow pharmacists to prescribe some drugs.

"Having these roles filled by non-medical personnel is like having a member of a flight crew fly an airplane," said OMA section chair Dr. David Bridgeo.

"How many people would be comfortable with having someone with less education, training and experience replacing pilots?" ...more

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alberta reports drug-resistant case of H1N1

From the Calgary Herald:
Alberta’s first drug-resistant case of the H1N1 virus is concerning, but not unexpected and won’t change how the province rolls out its vaccination campaign this fall.

“It’s always a concern that there’s resistance,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services. “One isolated case is probably not that significant, but it does then mean we have to do some investigation around this case just to make sure that it is isolated.”

The adult female patient infected with H1N1 did not have to be hospitalized but was being treated with oseltamivir, also called Tamiflu, which is the most commonly used treatment of influenza in the world. Most people who get the H1N1 flu virus will only have a mild form of the illness and not need any medication, but people who have more severe cases, or who have other health problems that put them at risk for infection, are typically given Tamiflu to treat or prevent an infection. ...more

Canadian drug maker facing ban on U.S. exports

From the Globe and Mail:
Canada's largest drug manufacturer is facing a ban on some of its exports to the United States after an inspection of its factory revealed what the United States Food and Drug Administration considers “significant deviation” from its manufacturing guidelines.

The FDA has issued an Import Alert for Toronto-based Apotex Inc., which produced 300 generic drugs that fill 85 million prescriptions each year worldwide.

It only affects products destined for the U.S.

“We are actively working with the FDA to resolve the identified concerns as quickly as possible, and are optimistic that there will be a prompt resolution,” Apotex said in a statement.

In a June 25 warning letter, the FDA said inspections of the company's Etobicoke facility showed several deviations from U.S. manufacturing codes. The agency alleged Apotex didn't thoroughly investigate the failure of batches. ...more

Plan needed to fix 'patchwork' cancer drug coverage across Canada: report

From the Canadian Press:
A patchwork system of coverage for cancer drugs across the country means patients are being denied equal access to life-saving treatments, says a report by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The report, released Monday, says patients in some provinces will have cancer drugs covered under comprehensive insurance plans, while those in other jurisdictions must pay some or all of the cost from their own pockets.

And with most newer cancer drugs carrying price tags that can run into thousands of dollars, the burden of paying for life-saving treatments can mean financial disaster for some Canadians, the society says.

"It is increasingly becoming the fact that your ability to get the drugs you need is dependent upon where you live and how much money you have," said Dan Demers, director of national public issues for the Canadian Cancer Society.

"In our minds, that's not universal health care."

The society is calling on Ottawa to take the lead in developing a catastrophic drug program, in consultation with the provinces and territories, the insurance industry and patient groups. ...more

Anti-diabetes drug effective against cancer: study

From CTV News:
A new study is providing even more evidence that a widely-used anti-diabetes drug may also be effective in fighting breast cancer.

The new study from Harvard Medical School found that combining metformin, sold as Glucophage, with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, reduced breast cancer tumours faster than doxorubicin alone, when tested on mice.

What's more, the drug combo also prolonged remission in the mice longer than chemotherapy alone.

The researchers, writing in the journal Cancer Research, say the metformin combo seems to work by targeting the cancer's stem cells and may improve breast cancer outcomes in people.

Evidence is growing that part of the reason why many cancers recur is that current treatments do not target a cancer's stem cells, which can resist chemotherapy and regenerate the various cell types in a tumour. So some researchers have been investigating therapies that selectively target cancer stem cells. ...more

Calgary pharmacist guilty of trafficking painkillers

From the Calgary Herald:
A Calgary pharmacist sold thousands of painkiller pills, first to pay off a gambling debt and then after he was threatened by the buyer.

Bassam(Sam)Soufan, 36, was sentenced to an 18-month conditional sentence Wednesday to be served in the community for trafficking 16,000 OxyContin pills between February and October 2007.

OxyContin, a brand name of the drug oxycodone, is a time-release painkiller that has a similar effect to heroin, but is much cheaper.

Court heard Soufan met and befriended Ahman Hammoud at a casino in January 2007, when he incurred significant losses.

Hammoud lent Soufan $2,000 and was told he could repay the loan by providing him with OxyContin from the Scenic Acres IDA Pharmacy, where Soufan worked as manager.

Soufan initially provided 100 pills to Hammoud and was told he must keep doing it. Hammoud, a lawyer who has since been disbarred for unrelated activities and has left Canada, then supplied the drug to bikers, court heard. Calgary pharmacist guilty of trafficking painkillers

More P.E.I. girls will get HPV vaccine

From CBC News:
Prince Edward Island is expanding a controversial immunization program this year to protect more school-aged girls from a sexually transmitted disease — and cervical cancer.

For the last two years, Grade 6 girls have received the vaccine for genital human papillomavirus (HPV), a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease. This fall, the vaccine will be offered to Grade 9 girls to catch them before they enter high school.

"We know that HPV causes cervical cancer, or is linked to high risk of cervical cancer, and higher rates of genital warts," said Dr. Heather Morrison, chief health officer.

"Certainly we would like to get young girls before they go into high school and may start some sexual activity." ...more

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Drug combo helps Bell palsy patients recover

From CTV News:
Doctors have long been puzzled about how to help patients whose faces have become paralyzed by Bell's palsy. Now, a new Canadian study suggests a combination of drugs works best on the mysterious condition.

Bell palsy typically weakens or paralyzes a central facial nerve on one side of the face, leaving patients suddenly unable to either open or close their eye, or to work their mouth properly. While it's a relatively rare condition, many Canadians have heard of it because it's what caused the droop in former prime minister Jean Chretien's face.

It's not clear what causes Bell palsy, but what is known is that a central facial nerve becomes swollen. When it begins to press on the bone, paralysis results.

Ruth Heathcote came down with the condition one night in April, 2004. She tells CTV she thought at first she was having a stroke. ...more

Pharmacists to join swine flu fight

From CBC News:
The New Brunswick Pharmaceutical Society says it will soon have new rules in place allowing its members to vaccinate people against swine flu despite a series of internal delays.

The provincial government plans to offer the swine flu vaccine to every New Brunswick resident this fall.

Last year, the Liberal government passed a law that gave pharmacists the authority to renew prescriptions and give needles. These steps would open the door for pharmacists to join in public health efforts such as the swine flu vaccination program.

But the pharmaceutical society, the profession's self-regulating body, still hasn't approved its own rules governing how its members will actually meet these requirements. This delay means pharmacists still cannot actually give needles or renews prescriptions.

"Hindsight's a wonderful thing. It should have been in place for last year, I suppose. But we can only do so much with the resources that are available," said Gary Meek, the society's assistant registrar. ...more

Canada shuns drugs without prescriptions

Canadians' upper lips are among the stiffest in the world when it comes to enduring minor health woes, according to a new global study.

Comparing more than 25,000 consumers in 50 markets, researchers found Canadians were twice as likely to say they never take over-the-counter drugs -- 10% versus 5% worldwide -- while fully two-thirds of us (66%) claim to tough out our ailments, waiting to see if they improve naturally before resorting to medication.

Analysts for market research firm Nielsen, which conducted the Global Online Consumer Survey, described us as "minimalists" when it comes to self-medication, reporting that "Canadians seem to have a higher tolerance for ailments than the rest of the world."

The recession has only made us more stalwart. One in four Canadians cite the economy for anticipated changes in drug use, with 26% of that group expecting to use OTC medications less frequently, 13% intending to take less than the recommended dosages, 10% planning to purchase in smaller quantities, and 4% saying they'll cut out non-prescription meds altogether. ...more

New diabetes drugs added to Saskatchewan's drug formulary

From the Regina Leader Post:
The Canadian Diabetes Association is applauding the Ministry of Health for adding a new long-acting insulin analog to its drug formulary.

Since January, the Saskatchewan Drug Plan has added three insulin products to the formulary. Effective Jan. 1, insulin glargine (brand name Lantus) was added under the exception drug status (EDS) program. EDS can be approved for patients who meet certain medical criteria. Physicians or pharmacists can submit requests for EDS approval on behalf of their patients. Insulin detemir (brand name Levemir) was added as an EDS medication effective July 1. Insulin glulisine (brand name Apidra) was added as an EDS medication in April.

In addition, the EDS criteria were revised effective July 1 for the rapid acting insulin products currently listed as EDS medications: insulin aspart (brand name NovoRapid), insulin glulisine (brand name Apidra) and insulin lispro (brand name Humalog). ...more

Canada will get vaccine by October: health chief

From the Globe and Mail:
Canada will have a pandemic vaccine by early next month, and could speed up delivery to Canadians if the swine-flu virus turns more severe in the fall, the country's chief public-health officer says.

David Butler-Jones's comments run contrary to the federal government's insistence that Canadians should not expect to be immunized until mid-November, and follow a rash of criticism that Canada is lagging behind other countries in vaccine delivery.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal took a swipe at Ottawa this week, accusing it of delaying the rollout of the H1N1 vaccine. The governments of Australia, the United States and several European countries are planning to immunize their citizens with a vaccine starting in October.

But Health Canada's decision to fortify vaccine with adjuvants – chemical boosters that can increase production – will mire the vaccine in a time-consuming regulatory process, the CMAJ said in an editorial. ...more

First Nations need own health system: task force

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
First Nations could soon form their own health regions, own their own pharmacies and control their own health information and research, say members of a new task force.

On Friday afternoon, members of the Medicine Chest Task Force and various First Nations chiefs from across the province gathered at the First Nations University of Canada's Saskatoon campus to announce a series of partnerships with the university and others.

"We're building capacity in First Nations country. We have inherent rights and we're taking responsibility for ourselves," said Red Pheasant First Nation Chief Sheldon Wuttunee. ...more

Apotex faces U.S. ban on drug imports - analyst

From Reuters:
Apotex Inc faces a ban on products entering the United States after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned the Canadian drugmaker about a number of manufacturing breaches at a Toronto factory, according to an industry analyst.

The action, which affects new product, follows a June 25 warning letter and a late 2008 inspection of the Etobicoke facility, which cited a number of deviations from U.S. manufacturing codes.

Neither the privately held generic drugmaker, which is a significant supplier to the U.S. market, nor the FDA immediately responded to requests for comment. ...more

Caution on mix of cholesterol-lowering meds

From CBC News:
Combining a prescription cholesterol-lowering medication with omega-3 supplements may not be the best approach, a new review suggests.

Statins are medications that prevent the liver from producing cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of heart attacks. Every year, Canadian doctors write more than 12 million prescriptions for statins, making them the most-prescribed drugs in the country. Omega-3's are heart-healthy oils that some evidence suggests help reduce the risk of coronary disease.

In the Nov. 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Mukul Sharma, medical director of the Regional Stroke Centre at the Ottawa Hospital, and his team reviewed five different cholesterol-lowering medications that can be combined as well as omega-3 supplements sold over the counter. They concluded there is little evidence to support mixing them. ...more

Monday, August 31, 2009

New drug 'spectacular' at preventing strokes: study

From the Montreal Gazette:
For the first time since the blood thinner warfarin was introduced more than half a century ago, Canadian researchers are reporting that a new drug is safer and more effective at reducing the risk of stroke in high-risk patients.

An estimated 250,000 Canadians suffer from atrial fibrillation, or AF, a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disorder that causes the heart to quiver and beat chaotically. Blood can pool in the upper chambers of the heart, allowing clots to form and travel up to the arteries that feed the brain, creating a stroke. AF patients are at five times greater risk of developing stroke, and twice as likely to die from one, than patients without the condition.

The disorder affects about three per cent of the population over age 45, and about six per cent over age 65, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Warfarin has been the drug of choice for reducing stroke risk in atrial fibrillation for more than 20 years. But it increases the risk of major bleeding, sometimes into the brain. About half the patients who might benefit can't take it, "and when they do try and take it, they often end up having to stop it for a variety of reasons," says Dr. Stuart Connolly, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton. ...more

500 pharmacists training to give jabs for swine flu

From the Herald (Ireland):
Around 500 pharmacists have now signed up to a training programme which would enable them to administer the swine flu vaccine.

The Health Service Executive has not yet indicated whether pharmacists will be involved in the planned flu vaccination programme.

However, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) said it believed that "it would be prudent to allow as wide a range of health professionals as possible to address the challenges that face us this winter."

A spokesperson said that the IPU would hope that pharmacists would be included in the plan for administration of the swine flu vaccine to the public in the coming months.

"In Portugal, 40pc of all seasonal flu vaccines are administered by pharmacists. In the US, pharmacists have been involved in vaccinations since the mid-1990s," she said. ...more

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pharmacists tapped for injections

From the Edmonton Journal:
Pharmacists and paramedics could be called on to help inject the H1N1 vaccine this fall alongside nurses and doctors as part of a provincial plan to protect as many Albertans as possible from the new flu strain.

"This is one potential," said John Tuckwell, spokesman for Alberta Health and Wellness. "The immunization is the best defence against the virus and so our goal is to get as many Albertans vaccinated as quickly as possible."

Pharmacists were given additional responsibilities in April 2007, allowing them to refill prescriptions, change drug therapies or administer injections without direct physician instruction as long as they take training courses and successfully apply for certification. About 300 pharmacists out of a total of just under 4,000 in Alberta are authorized to give injection drugs, the Alberta College of Pharmacists says. ...more

Steady Drop in Hip Fractures

From the New York Times:
Rates of hip fractures, an often devastating consequence of osteoporosis, have been steadily falling for two decades in Canada, a new study finds. And a similar trend occurred in the United States, researchers found. But it is not clear why.
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Drugs that slow the rate of bone loss may be part of the reason, but they cannot be the entire explanation, osteoporosis researchers say. And although experts can point to other possible factors — like fall prevention efforts and a heavier population — the declining rates remain a medical mystery.

The new study, published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed Canadian hospitalization data. From 1985 through 2005, the researchers report, hip fracture rates, adjusted for the age of the population, fell by 32 percent in women and by 25 percent in men. ...more

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Manitoba's aboriginals, pregnant women and homeless get priority for flu drug

From the Canadian Press:
The province that experienced an acute outbreak of swine flu on its northern reserves is making it easier for aboriginals and other vulnerable patients to get free antiviral drugs in a bid to lessen the impact of the virus come fall.

Manitoba has set out who can get Tamiflu more quickly under its pharmacare program. The groups include aboriginals, those with underlying medical conditions, pregnant women, smokers and the obese. The homeless and those with immune deficiencies, including cancer patients, will also get priority.

The changes, which will make it easier for doctors to prescribe Tamiflu quickly, were set out in a regulation that takes effect Aug. 18. People who don't meet the medical criteria can still buy a prescription for Tamiflu but it may not be covered by the province.

Under the old system, doctors had to justify each prescription which involved phone calls, faxes and paperwork.

Provincial Health Minister Theresa Oswald said her government wants to make sure that those who need the antivirals get them quickly. ...more

Pharmacists urged back to work

From the Irish Times:
The Irish Pharmacy Union this evening urged pharmacists to resume normal services immediately “in the interests of patient safety.”

In a statement this evening, the IPU said they were urging members to return to work “in order to prevent a recurrence of the chaotic scenes of yesterday and last week, and in light of commitments made by the Minister in recent statements.”

The union’s executive is holding an emergency meeting in Dublin this evening to discuss the ongoing dispute.

IPU president Liz Hoctor said some of the issues at stake had not been resolved and warned that further disruption to services was almost inevitable if they were not. ...more

Monday, August 10, 2009

New online drug listing service may eliminate print catalogues

From the New Brunswick Business Journal:
Tired of receiving a plethora of different drug catalogues at his Saint John pharmacies, Peter Hebert knew there was a more organized and innovative way to get drug information out to pharmacists.

So in 1991, the now-retired pharmacist approached his salesman brother Tony for help and together they created Moncton-based drug catalogue company, Total Pricing Systems Inc.

This fall the Heberts will launch the mobile version of their online catalogue, PPS Pharma, which healthcare workers can access using any smart phone in any wireless network.

The first cellphone-friendly drug listing service in Canada, it will further eliminate the unwanted stacks of print catalogues Peter grew so tired of nearly 20 years ago.

"We believe what we've developed is very innovative," says Tony, the company's president. "We're trying to be the electronic connection to the drug industry." ...more

Chinese dispensaries puzzled by legal revision

Purveyors of Chinese herbal medicines--and their long-time mail-order customers-- are up in arms over a revised law that took effect June 1 banning sale of such medicines through the mail or online.

Advocates say the revised Pharmaceutical Affairs Law must be amended to allow the continued mail-order sales of Chinese herbal medicines.

Classified in the same category as drugs that carry a medium risk of side effects, medicines such as Chinese remedies, common cold medicines and analgesic fever reducers must now be sold over the counter by pharmacists or other specialists.

Like before the revision, buyers don't need a prescription.

In general, the only mail order or online sales of OTC drugs now permitted are items that have few side effects, such as vitamins and elixirs for stomach upsets. ...more

Many U.S. teens share medications

From CBC News:
Many U.S. teens have lent or borrowed prescription medications such as antibiotics and acne medication, a survey suggests.

When researchers interviewed 529 people aged 12 to 17 in 11 U.S cities or suburbs, they found one in five reported they had borrowed or lent a prescription.

A third of the teens who took a borrowed prescription did not tell their doctor, the team said in this week's online issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"Other researchers have studied people selling prescription drugs, but we looked at people with good intentions, trying, for instance, to help a friend who lacked money or transportation for a doctor's visit," co-author Chris Mayhorn, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, said in a release from the Center for the Advancement of Health.

Increased antibiotic resistance is also possible, since neither the lender nor the borrower was likely to take the full course of the drugs, the researchers noted. ...more

Canada dismisses warning about flu drug

From the Globe and Mail:
Canadian health authorities will not change their practice of prescribing the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to treat cases of pandemic H1N1 flu in children, despite a new study that raises questions about the drug’s effectiveness.

Researchers at the University of Oxford cautioned about the broad use of anti-viral drugs to treat children 12 years of age and younger suffering from seasonal flu. They found anti-viral drugs have little or no effect on asthma flare-ups, ear infections or bacterial infections in children. Tamiflu was also linked to increased vomiting.

The authors questioned whether children would face the same risks when being treated with anti-virals for the pandemic H1N1 flu virus.

But the Public Health Agency of Canada assured parents Monday that Tamiflu has a strong safety profile, and has recommended doctors prescribe it for infection prevention and to treat cases of H1N1 in infants under one year. ...more