Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Drug patch stolen from senior's arm

I would suspect that the patch in question contained fentanyl. I'm pretty sure it's the only narcotic transdermal patch on the market. It's kind of scary, but I'm also surprised that this hasn't happened before (that I can recall).

From UPI:
Canadian police in the northern Ontario city of Thunder Bay were investigating the theft of a prescription patch from a man's arm in a nursing home.

The Chronicle Herald reported the theft happened around 11 a.m. Sunday, when a woman entered the unidentified 65-year-old man's room at Roseview Manor and ripped off the patch.

Neither the facility nor police would say what medication
was in the patch, the newspaper said. ...more

Some anti-acid meds may reduce Plavix efficacy

From CTV News:
Patients who are prescribed popular blood-thinning drug to prevent a heart attack while at the same time take certain anti-acid medications may actually boost their risk of having a heart attack, a new study suggests.

Canadian researchers have found that heart attack patients who take the blood-thinning drug clopidogrel (Plavix) have a 40 per cent greater risk of suffering another heart attack if they are also taking one of a number of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs).

PPIs block the production of stomach acid and are used to treat conditions such as ulcers and acid reflux disease.

The PPIs linked to the increased heart attack risk are: omeprazole (Losec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and rabeprazole (Pariet).

The researchers, who hail from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Toronto, say that they did not find an increased heart attack risk among patients taking the PPI pantoprazole (Pantoloc). They also did not find an increased risk among patients taking anti-acid medications known as H2 receptor antagonists, such as Pepcid or Zantac. ...more

Canadian supplier drops out of Illinois governor's drug-import plan

From Metro News:
The Canadian supplier of low-cost drugs to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's drug-import program has dropped out, saying state officials are just paying lip service to its promotion.

Pegasus Health Services Ltd. of Calgary says it has filled its last prescription for I-SaveRx - a lower-cost prescription drug program that Blagojevich has trumpeted as an effort to help people.

But U.S. law prohibits imports of foreign drugs and the creation of the program is among the impeachment charges against Blagojevich.

The Illinois governor is boycotting the state senate's trial over his ouster.

Company official Lewis Jorgenson says the program cost Pegasus hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Illinois and the four other states that joined showed no follow-through.

He would not specify how much the company - the only vendor for I-SaveRx - has lost, but says the last prescription was filled Dec. 31.

"It looks good in the press, that they're starting the I-Save program, but they just talk about it, there's no action, so it's just a waste of everybody's time," Jorgenson told The Associated Press on Monday. ...more

Two in Cochrane arrested, charged for pharmacy robbery spree

From the Calgary Herald:
Police have captured two Cochrane residents after they allegedly went on a robbery spree in the pursuit of OxyContin, a highly addictive painkiller.

Robert Gauthier, 33, has been charged with eight counts of robbery, eight counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of being in possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace.

Dawn Farkas, 26, has been charged with 11 counts of robbery and 10 counts of being in possession of a controlled substance.

Police say the pair may have been involved in 11 pharmacy robberies between Oct. 17, 2008 and Friday Jan. 23, 2009. Last week, authorities released photographs of the two people allegedly robbing the stores and say that brought them numerous tips, which help in the suspects' capture, officials said.

Both Farkas and Gauthier turned themselves in to police Sunday. ...more

Drug for sale despite Health Canada warning

From CBC News:
A drug currently available in some Canadian stores — said to induce the same kind of "high" as the street drug ecstasy — may pose serious health risks, Health Canada says.

Nevertheless, the department says, it has seen a steady increase in shipments of the drugs to the country — which are manufactured in the United States by Stargate International and sold and distributed by Purepillz, a Canadian retailer.

Four products — Peaq, Freq, PureRush and PureSpun — are promoted on the Purepillz website as "social tonics," Health Canada said.

The pills, which contain some of the same amphetamines found in ecstasy, induce "kind of like a body high — nice and mellow," said Carry Dobson, of Calgary. "Your sensation of touch is heightened. So, you know, it feels pretty good."

However, the pills can "lead to dehydration, increased blood pressure, possibly seizures," warned Dr. Wende Wood of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

In July, Health Canada issued this warning: "Health Canada advises Canadians not to purchase these products from the Internet or any other source" and "is taking enforcement action" to make sure the companies stop selling them. ...more

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pfizer buys Wyeth for $68-billion

From the Globe and Mail:
Pfizer Inc. is buying rival drug maker Wyeth in a $68-billion (U.S.) deal that will increase its revenue by 50 per cent, solidify its No. 1 rank in the troubled industry and transform it from a pure pharmaceutical company into a diversified health care giant.

At the same time, Pfizer announced cost cuts that include slashing more than 8,000 jobs as it prepares for an expected revenue crash when its cholesterol drug Lipitor — the world's top-selling medicine and source of one-quarter of Pfizer's revenue — loses patent protection in November, 2011.

There was no immediate word on whether the cuts would impact the company's Canadian operations, which employ more than 1,400 staff at facilities in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

The cash-and-stock deal, expected to close at the end of the third quarter or in the fourth quarter, comes as Pfizer's profit takes a brutal hit from a $2.3-billion legal settlement over allegations it marketed certain products for indications that have not been approved. The New York-based company is also cutting 10 per cent of its work force of 81,900, slashing its dividend, and reducing the number of manufacturing sites from 46 to 41. Those closures, and reducing its facilities square footage by about 15 per cent, will cost about $6-billion before taxes, of which $1.5-billion has been incurred, Pfizer said.

After the deal closes Pfizer expects to cut more jobs. The company said it expects eventually to cut the companies' combined work force by 15 per cent, a figure that the Pfizer cuts announced Monday. ...more

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kids' cholesterol pills worry MDs

From the Vancouver Sun:
Canada's top medical journal is warning doctors about giving cholesterol pills to children, saying there is scant direct evidence statins are safe for children and that doctors risk committing kids to "decades of therapy."

Millions of Canadian adults take the cholesterol reducers to lower their risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics says the drugs should be considered for children as young as eight who have high concentrations of LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol.

But a leading editorial in this week's Canadian Medical Association Journal says statins haven't been widely tested in children, most studies involved kids whose high cholesterol is due to an inherited blood disorder -- not obesity -- and that only one study followed children for more than a year. ...more

Saturday, January 24, 2009

B.C. genetics researchers work to predict drug reactions in children

From CBC News:
A new research project in British Columbia aims to develop a tool to allow drug doses for children to be tailored to their individual genetic makeup in order to help prevent potentially life-threatening drug reactions.

According to Health Canada, more than half of newly approved therapeutic health products prompt serious reactions that are discovered only after the product reaches the market. Three-quarters of medications have never been tested in children.

Dana Tent recalled how her son's hearing was damaged after he reacted to the cancer medication cisplatin. ...more

Sask. pharmacists to assist smokers

From the Regina Leader Post:
Saskatchewan pharmacists have made a “PACT” to help smokers kick the habit of tobacco use.

The Partnership to Assist with Cessation of Tobacco (PACT) was launched by the Pharmacists’ Association of Saskatchewan (PAS) in Regina on Thursday. Smokers who are interested in quitting will now have access to free counselling services from 200 Saskatchewan pharmacists trained in the PACT program.

PAS chairman Harold Just said the pharmacists are trained to help people assess their specific needs for beating the addiction.

“Research shows that professional counselling can double or even triple an individual’s chance of success,” said Just. “We believe that store-front counselling in place will help many people be successful in quitting tobacco.”

Janice Burgess, director of professional practice for PAS, was involved in training pharmacists in 19 workshops around the province. She said the first half of the four-hour workshop was a review of tobacco use trends, nicotine and its effect on the body and pharmaceutical therapy to beat the addiction. ...more

“Virtual Patient” helps train pharmacists of the future

From the Innovations Report (Germany):
Students in the Staffordshire-based university’s School of Pharmacy interact with the computer-generated characters to gain experience in effective communication and decision-making.

Learners talk with the “patient” via voice recognition technology or by typing questions into a standard computer interface and the “patient” responds verbally or with a range of non-verbal gestures to indicate emotions such as pain, stress or anxiety. At the end of the session the “patient” gives feedback to the trainee about their performance.

The Virtual Patient can be used to explore a number of different conditions, including dyspepsia and hypertension. When ethnicity, age or gender are relevant to the treatment of the patient, the case can be designed to demonstrate to the learner how such factors are clinically significant.

The Keele team are now working on a £50,000 project for Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, developing a new set of four avatars for their new undergraduate pharmacy programme.

They have also developed a “virtual doctor” to help with the training of pharmaceutical sales representatives. The system can be used in a classroom setting or for distance learning via the internet. ...more

Chemists to provide obesity pill

From BBC News:
The obesity pill, orlistat, has been licensed to be sold over-the-counter at chemists in the EU.

The pill, which works by blocking the absorption of fat in the body, will be available at a lower dose than doctors generally prescribe.

It is aimed at adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28 or more.

One expert said it may help some people with weight loss but they would have to take a conscious decision to eat less fatty foods.

The Royal College of GPs said everyone who wanted the pill should go to their GP for advice because some of them would have treatable causes for their obesity - and all of them would have risk factors for other illnesses which would need to be discussed.

GlaxoSmithKline, who make the pill known commercially as alli, say their clinical trials show that adding orlistat to a reduced calorie, lower fat diet, can help people lose 50% more weight than dieting alone.

But if they persist in eating fat, they will experience some nasty side effects such as diarrhoea and gas problems. ...more

Survey reveals poor relations between pharmacists & clients

From the Taiwan News:
More than 40% of citizens don't talk to the pharmacist when they visit pharmacy and buy drugs, said a survey jointly conducted by Common Health Magazine and the Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs, Department of Health.

The survey covered a total number of 3,554 pharmacies islandwide. Researchers interviewed 1,294 citizens who are over 40 and found out 32% of them don't make sure the person who sells them drugs is a licensed pharmacist.

In addition to that, more than 85% of elder people go to pharmacies on their own, and nearly half of them don't ask questions at all. Buying drugs has become an act that is simple as buying a drink. ...more

MDs give OK to hormone therapy

With unprecedented numbers of Canadian women about to enter menopause, Canadian doctors are telling women it's safe to go back on hormones.

An expert panel convened by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada has concluded that no treatment is as effective as hormone therapy for hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

The group says an "extensive" review of new data -- along with a re-analysis of a massive study that led women to abandon hormones in droves seven years ago -- shows hormones are a safe option for moderate to severe symptoms, if started early and used over the short term.

A woman holds her HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) patches. Canadian doctors are telling women it's safe to go back on hormones.

The group is recommending using the lowest effective dose. And while there is no fixed timeline, they suggest taking it for "four to five years is a good starting point," said Dr. Robert Reid, lead author of the updated guidelines and chairman of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Queen's University.

"A lot of women were told point-blank, 'Stop your hormones. Suck it up.' And they're in my office with terrible hot flashes and irritability and depression and other mood things, and they're saying, 'My doctor won't prescribe (hormones) for me,' " Dr. Reid said. "What we're trying to do is ensure people who have symptoms that may benefit aren't afraid to put (hormones) on the list of options." ...more

Hey dude, check out the flower-power tower

From the Globe and Mail:
You can see it on the ski slopes - the dazzling grids of colour splashed all over this season's snowboarder jackets, and the lusciously oversized flowers on the latest skis. Even the psychedelic video projection in the Museum of Modern Art's atrium (big, bright, wild shapes flowing over the walls and the bodies of New Yorkers) is a much-needed love-in. And Barack Obama has been inaugurated as 44th president of the United States - of things old and true.

It's flower power all over again. And the love is touching architecture.

Just when we had grown weary of green-tinted glass infecting our cities like the winter flu, a building comes along that replaces the deadening curtain wall with a contemporary tapestry alive with lushly painted flowers and medicinal herbs. University of Waterloo's School of Pharmacy by Hariri Pontarini Architects is irreverent, gutsy and imperfect. Most compelling is the way a seven-storey building can communicate, even in the winter-weary downtown of Kitchener, Ont., that maybe, yes, strawberry fields are forever.

The building is part of the university's health-sciences campus, a potent mix of academic research and family medicine, designed to trigger the revitalization of an early-20th-century warehouse district. The city of Kitchener has donated $30-million to the building, as well as the land: an eight-acre (about 31/4-hectare) site at the corner of King and Victoria streets. A centre for family medicine - with offices and 27 examining rooms, also designed by HP Architects - is under construction next door to the $53-million pharmacy school. The two buildings will be connected by an atrium. Public space, designed by Claude Cormier, will feature a grassy courtyard with honey-locust trees, and a streetscape lined by that hearty hybrid, the accolade elm. ...more

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crime spree targeting Calgary-area pharmacies

From the Calgary Herald:
Two robbers after a highly-addictive painkiller have held up at least 10 Calgary-area pharmacies, and police are concerned they're getting more violent.

In each case, the man and woman responsible have taken oxycodone, a powerful prescription drug that has become a commodity on the illegal drug market.

Oxycodone -- sold under the commercial name OxyContin-- can be fatal if misused, but police are also concerned the couple suspected of committing the robberies poses a threat to the public as they become increasingly desperate for the drug and more aggressive toward their victims. ...more

Thursday, January 22, 2009

B.C. plan requiring people to switch to cheaper drugs costs more, study says

From the Canadian Press:
British Columbia's drug coverage plan has cost the province more money than it was supposed to save while worsening patients' health because of a policy that forces them to take cheaper medication for conditions such as acid reflux, says a new study.

Dr. James Gray, a gastroenterologist who co-authored the study, said Thursday the plan that came into effect in 2003 is a failed experiment that put unrealized cost savings ahead of patients' quality of life.

But Health Minister George Abbott disputed the study, saying its methodology is flawed and that other research suggests the government's policy is a success.

Gray said patients who were taking one of four drugs were forced to switch to a fifth medication that was cheaper, even if they were responding well to the original drug, in an effort to save $42 million to the health-care system.

The province's PharmaCare plan would otherwise not have paid for the drugs, he said.

However, patients whose symptoms were not controlled by the substitute drug experienced problems ranging from heartburn, abdominal pain and gastrointestinal bleeding that led to increased doctors' visits and in some cases hospitalization for a cost of $43.5 million, Gray said. ...more

Pharmacists seek expanded role

From the London (Ont.) Free Press:
Expanding the role of pharmacists to include prescribing medications for some ailments will give Ontarians a more efficient system and better access to care, says the head of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association.

"There would be reduced pressure on the health-care system," said Tina Perlman, a London pharmacist and president of the association.

That recommendation and others were made last fall to the province by an advisory council. Health-care professionals are waiting to see if the government will move on the advice. While the pharmacists' association has embraced a larger role for its members, doctors' groups have been skeptical and the president of the Ontario Medical Association says he's puzzled by the recommendations.

Perlman emphasized the pharmacists would continue to work closely with doctors. And the ailments pharmacists would provide prescriptions for would be minor problems such as athlete's foot, yeast infections, acne, migraines and cold sores.

"If a patient needs to be accessed for a minor ailment and that is something a pharmacist can do, it eliminates them from going to a doctor's office or going and sitting in an emergency department. ...more

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pharmacy to open soon

From the Interlake (MB) Spectator:
Non-Insured Health Benefits patients in the Peguis and Fisher area will have to wait a little longer to use the temporary pharmacy service arranged between Health Canada and Winnipeg's Four Rivers Pharmacy.

Paul Spendlove, media relations officer for Health Canada, says the temporary pharmacy will be located at the Peguis Mall as of Monday.

“Interim arrangements have been in place with Four Rivers Pharmacy since Jan. 1,” said Spendlove. “This interim measure will be in place pending a permanent solution, which is being developed by the First Nation community. Health Canada has worked to ensure minimal disruption of pharmacy services.”

Daren Jorgenson, founder of Four Rivers Pharmacy, says the pharmacy will open once access to the province’s drug information network database is received.

“It provides information about drug interactions and if someone’s double doctoring their medication,” said Jorgenson. “We need it and it’s out of my control as to when we’ll get it. We’ll probably have it by the 18th, but it’s day to day, so we’ll have to wait and see.” ...more

Monday, January 19, 2009

McKesson Canada makes bid for Quebec's Uniprix pharmacy group

From the Canadian Press:
Health-care logistics firm McKesson Canada has bid to purchase pharmacy chain Uniprix Inc. in a defensive move to preserve its distribution network in Quebec, industry analysts said Monday.

Financial details of the offer were not disclosed. Under the deal that had been rumoured last July, McKesson would acquire Uniprix's shares and member-pharmacists in the co-operative style chain would remain owners of their pharmacies.

The deal continues the recent growth in Quebec by McKesson Corp. (NYSE:MCK), a San Francisco-based pharmacy products distributor.

Last summer, McKesson bought a 270-outlet Quebec chain that operates under the Proxim and ProxiMeds banners.

"McKesson Canada is enthusiastic about the prospect of this transaction, which will strengthen our long-standing business relationship with the Uniprix Group for the distribution of pharmaceutical products, over-the-counter medications, and consumer products," McKesson president Domenic Pilla said in a statement. ...more

Pharmacists uneasy about sick notes

In the first year that pharmacists have been able to write medical certificates, only a few pharmacists have been willing to provide them, according to the Pharmacy Guild.

As reported in 6minutes in 2008, guidelines from the pharmacy professional bodies were jointly released on medical certificates early last year but a spokesman for the Guild said that there had not been a big take up.

The exact number of pharmacists who have so far issued documentation for employees’ sick and carer’s leave is not known, but he believed that numbers were was low, he said. ...more

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Group wants cigarettes removed from pharmacies

From the Regina Leader Post:
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada say pharmacies that sell cigarettes are profiting from death and disease.

The Ottawa-based advocacy group is calling on the governments of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to introduce legislation to ban the sales of tobacco in pharmacies, just as Alberta did on Jan. 1.

Selling tobacco is not consistent with the role of a health-care provider, said Dr. Charles Els, the Alberta director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

“A pharmacy is a place of health, it’s a place where we go to get health advice, to get the best advice on medication and disease conditions ... The bottom line is that it’s completely incongruent with the role of a pharmacist to be profiting from death and disease related to tobacco,” Els said. “We believe that if tobacco continues to be sold in pharmacies, it conveys the message that tobacco is just another consumer product. It lends a false legitimacy and a false sense of safety to tobacco.”

The Ministry of Health understands the concerns regarding the ethical responsibilities of selling a product that causes health problems, said Saskatchewan Health spokeswoman Joan Petrie. ...more

Drug pairing boosts heart risk

From the Toronto Star:
Heart patients on a popular combination of high blood pressure drugs have an increased risk of heart attacks and other ailments from the coupled medications and should see their doctor as soon as possible, new guidelines from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation say.

Taking a cue from a massive study released last year, the foundation's recommendations should all but eliminate the practice of prescribing so-called ACE inhibitors and ARBs together, organization officials said.

"When you put the two drugs together, you don't get a synergy of effect; all you do is get the side effects of both adding up," said Dr. Sheldon Tobe, a foundation spokesperson.

"So there's a doubling up of the side effects as opposed to a doubling up of the benefits," he said.

The study looked at nearly 26,000 patients and tested the effectiveness of the two drugs separately and together.

It determined that the treatment combo produced only minimal improvements in blood pressure, Tobe said. The risks, however, of heart attacks and kidney disease increased. ...more

Judge Finds Consultant on Canadian Drug Sales in Contempt

From the Billings (MT) Gazette:
A state district judge today found Billings businessman Tom Kennedy in contempt of court for helping people buy low-cost drugs from Canadian pharmacies and fined him $4,000.

District Judge Kathy Seeley of Helena said Kennedy could avoid arrest by paying the civil fine and halting his business, known as Canadian Connection.

After a two-hour hearing on the case this morning, she said Kennedy "blatantly failed to follow" a 2004 court order that said he was violating state law by helping unregistered pharmacies sell drugs in the state.

Kennedy said after the hearing that he would close his business. ...more

Province bans drug store cigarette sales

From the Airdrie (AB) Echo:
The Government of Alberta has made its next move to curb smoking in the province, banning tobacco sales anywhere that sells pharmaceuticals.

Effective last Thursday, any pharmacies and grocery stores that carry pharmaceuticals are banned from selling tobacco except in gas stations, mall kiosks or separate enclosed spaces.

At the local Super Drug Mart, store manager Steve Martin is packing up what tobacco products he has on hand, and is sending them back to the various vendors.

The new rules will most likely hinder the stores total sales, but Martin says it’s a step forward for pharmacies.

“Being a health store I think it’s a good thing,” Martin said. “It makes conflicts in what we are trying to promote. It will be tough for sales though.” ...more

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Herbal menopause remedies ineffective

From the Globe and Mail:
There is little evidence to show herbal remedies purported to relieve symptoms of menopause actually work, according to a new study.

A growing number of women have turned to black cohosh, evening primrose oil and other natural remedies in recent years to treat hot flashes, irritability and other related problems. Evidence that hormone replacement therapy is associated with a risk of heart disease, stroke and other cardio-vascular problems also may have increased the number of women looking for alternatives to prescription treatments for menopausal symptoms.

But evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of these remedies is often under-researched, weak or even "non-existent," according to a new report.

The report appears in this month's edition Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, published by the British Medical Journal.

"A lot of treatments have become established with time in terms of people trying them out. But if you were looking for cast-iron evidence for lots of treatments you wouldn't be able to find it," said Ike Iheanacho, editor of the bulletin. ...more

Feds pour $32 million into drug monitoring

The federal government unveiled details Wednesday and announced more funding for its plan to better monitor the safety of drugs once they are on the market.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the government is spending $32 million over the next five years to support the new Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network, and will devote $10 million every year afterwards to the initiative that was first announced in July.

Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a federal agency, will put the finishing touches on the new network in the coming months. That will involve creating a virtual network to link researchers, setting up an office at the CIHR and hiring a committee that will help determine a research agenda based on priorities identified by decision-makers. ...more

Botox chemical may spread, Health Canada confirms

From CBC News:
The toxin in Botox products may spread to distant parts of the body, with potentially fatal consequences, Health Canada said Tuesday in announcing new labelling information for the drugs.

Last February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the toxin had spread, both in products the agency approved and those that were not. Health Canada has been reviewing the safety of Botox and Botox Cosmetic.

No medically confirmed cases of the toxin having spread have been reported in Canada. ...more

AR pharmacy offers bone density scan

From Nova News Now (NS):
A new bone scanner is making it easy for Valley residents to get a heads-up on their thigh-bones.

Hutchins Pharmasave in Annapolis Royal has purchased an ultra-sound scanner that measures bone density. Weekly clinics are now being scheduled to give folks a chance to see how their bones are shaping up, and if needed, take steps to reverse the early stages of osteopenia, or low bone mass.

Krista and Danny McClair, owners of Hutchins Pharmasave, decided to buy the scanner after hosting several bone screening clinics last year. This is the only pharmacy in Atlantic Canada to offer this service, and it’s the only bone scanner in Kings and Annapolis counties. ...more

State seeks to shut down broker of Canadian drugs

I guess there are still a few of these affiliate storefronts still open...

From the Missoulian (MT):
Tom Kennedy, whose Billings business helps Montanans buy lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, acknowledges that he's been ignoring a 2004 court order that says he's breaking state law and should halt his business.

But it's taken until this week for the state Board of Pharmacy to bring Kennedy before a state judge, asking that he be found in contempt of court and fined.

Kennedy, who runs a business called Canadian Connection, remains defiant, saying the 2004 court order against him is incorrect and that the state board is simply trying to shut down legitimate competition.

“They don't want anybody else selling Montana consumers drugs except them,” he said. “They're impeding the ability of Montana citizens to buy basically the same drugs for greatly reduced prices.”

Kennedy, who's representing himself in court, is scheduled to appear Thursday before state District Judge Kathy Seeley of Helena.

The Board of Pharmacy will argue that it's been determined by a judge that Kennedy's business is breaking the law. The only remaining questions are whether he should be found in civil contempt and fined, said Mike Fanning, the state attorney representing the board. ...more

New Safety Information Regarding Botox and Botox Cosmetic Products

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is informing Canadians and Canadian health care professionals that the labelling information of BOTOX ® and BOTOX Cosmetic ® will now include the risk of the toxin spreading to other distant parts of the body. Possible symptoms of “distant toxin spread,” which can be fatal, include muscle weakness, swallowing difficulties, pneumonia, speech disorders and breathing problems.

This update comes in light of Health Canada's recent safety review of distant toxin spread from Botox and Botox Cosmetic products. Health Canada has worked with the manufacturer, Allergan, to revise the labelling of these products on the Canadian market. It is important to note that there are no medically confirmed cases of distant toxin spread related to Botox or Botox Cosmetic in Canada.

Health Canada would also like to advise Canadians using Botox and Botox Cosmetic products to seek immediate medical care if swallowing, speech or breathing disorders arise. Canadians with a history of underlying neurological disorders, swallowing difficulties and/or breathing problems should use these products with extreme caution. Botox and Botox Cosmetic products should only be used under specialist supervision in those patients and should only be used if the benefit of treatment is considered to outweigh the risk. ...more

Important Changes to the Dose Conversion Guidelines for Fentanyl Transdermal Systems

From Health Canada:

The manufacturers of Fentanyl Transdermal Systems, in collaboration with Health Canada, are advising Canadians that important changes have been made to the dosage guidelines which are used to determine what dosage of Fentanyl Transdermal Systems is appropriate for each individual patient, and that this important safety information has been sent to all Canadian health care professionals and hospitals.
For Health Professionals
For the Public

Health Canada Reminds Canadians of Important Safety Information For the Smoking-Cessation Aid Champix

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is reminding Canadians who are taking, or considering taking, the smoking-cessation aid Champix of important safety information for this product. Health Canada is also informing Canadians that it is in the process of further strengthening the labelling for the drug with respect to the risk of serious psychiatric adverse effects.

While Champix (the brand name for varenicline tartrate) can be an effective tool for quitting smoking when used as part of a support program, there have been reports in some patients of unusual feelings of agitation, depressed mood, hostility, changes in behaviour, or impulsive or disturbing thoughts such as thoughts of self-harm or harm to others. It is unclear at this time whether Champix is the cause of these psychiatric symptoms. ...more

Pharmacists now allowed to renew prescriptions

From Surrey (BC) Now:
Patients who run out of routine medications can now ask their pharmacist to renew their prescriptions without always having to get a new prescription from their doctor.

The change came into effect on January 1.

Health Minister George Abbott said the ministry wants to make it easier for people with chronic illnesses to manage their conditions.

"This change is inspired by what British Columbians told us during the Conversation on Health - that people wanted improved access to health services and greater choice about where they receive those services."

Under the Health Professions (Regulatory Reform) Amendment Act, pharmacists are now permitted to renew most routine prescription medications for up to six months without the patient requiring a new doctor's prescription. Patients with long-term but stable conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, who have been on the same medication for at least six months and are running out of their drugs, qualify to have their pharmacist renew their prescription. ...more

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Safeway to offer free antibiotics in mid-Atlantic stores

I'm pretty sure the Canadian Safeway pharmacies are not following suit, but I still thought this was an interesting story.

From the Baltimore (MD) Business Journal:
Safeway Inc. said Monday that it will offer free prescription antibiotics at its pharmacies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and Virginia, through March 31.

Under the program, customers of Safeway (NYSE: SWY) can bring in a prescription for selected antibiotics and receive a 14-day supply of generic medication at no cost. Amoxicillin, used to treat bacterial infections, the blood pressure medication atenolol and penicillin are among the free generic drugs offered. ...more

Natural sleep aid linked to nightmares

From the Globe and Mail:
Valerian, a herbal sleep aid commonly used by those who want an alternative to prescription sedatives, has been linked to serious side effects, according to Health Canada, raising questions about the safety of some natural health products.

Health Canada said it has received more than 30 reports of adverse reactions, including hallucinations and nightmares, linked to valerian from 2003 to 2008. The department also warned in a quarterly adverse-reaction newsletter that some medical studies have found an association between valerian and hallucinations, delirium and cardiac complications.

Health Canada also said it had received more than 50 reports of adverse reactions involving echinacea, ginkgo and St. John's wort in the same time period, including agitation, dizziness, rash and pain.

An increasing number of Canadians are using vitamins, supplements and other natural health products on a regular basis.

The industry's retail sales are expected to reach more than $2.75-billion by 2010, according to the Canadian Health Food Association.

But the rapid growth has many members of the medical community concerned. That's because data used to demonstrate that natural health products work are often limited and sometimes weak. More troubling to some is the fact that many consumers have come to rely on daily vitamins and supplements without realizing such products can have serious side effects or interactions with food or drugs. ...more

Flu shot mismatched on B virus

From the Toronto Star:
It appears there may be a partial flu shot mismatch again this year, with early data from Canada, the United States and Britain suggesting the vaccine component meant to protect against influenza B is not a match for the flu B viruses causing the most disease.

Predicting which family of influenza B viruses will dominate in a coming year – and therefore should be covered by the flu shot – is a challenge that has defied the experts in five of the last seven flu seasons, at least so far as disease patterns in North America are concerned.

The ongoing problem has prompted exploration of the idea that flu shots should be reformulated to add a second B component to a vaccine that currently protects against one family of B viruses and the two influenza A subtypes, H3N2 and H1N1.

Scientists from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control are working on a cost-benefit analysis of just such a move and are to meet Monday to begin going over the pros and cons. They plan to present their findings sometime next month to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates vaccines in the United States.

"Historically it's obviously been difficult to predict which one's coming next," Dr. Joseph Bresee, the CDC's chief of influenza surveillance and prevention, says of the flu B viruses. ...more

Champix side effects prompt 818 complaints

From the Globe and Mail:
Health Canada has received more than 800 reports of side effects - including more than 500 reports of psychiatric problems - linked to the controversial smoking-cessation drug Champix in less than two years on the market.

But although evidence is growing that the medication is linked to aggression, depression and suicidal tendencies, some tobacco-control experts and non-profit groups in Canada still encourage its use, often without mention of the possibility of psychiatric problems.

In its online guide to quitting smoking, forexample, the Canadian Lung Association includes a section that lists Champix first as an effective option to "reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms."

The association says the "pros" of Champix include the fact it is in pill form and is easy to use, as well as the fact it is not addictive because it doesn't contain nicotine. The guide lists only minor side effects, such as nausea, strange dreams and constipation, as "cons" to taking Champix, even though Health Canada has issued two warnings in recent months about links between the drug and serious psychiatric side effects.

The smoking and tobacco section of the website indicates that Pfizer Canada, which sells Champix, provided funding to the association in the form of a restricted educational grant, which means that Pfizer isn't involved in how the money is spent. ...more

Avoid antipsychotic drugs for elderly, experts urge, after death risk study

From CBC News:
Doctors should try not to prescribe antipsychotic drugs for elderly people with Alzheimer's, geriatricians said following new research that concluded taking people taking the medications had double the risk of dying during the course of the study.

Anti-psychotic medications are sometimes given to control symptoms of dementia in elderly patients, such as wandering and aggressiveness. Generally, the drugs work by subduing the patients, making them easier to manage in facilities such as nursing homes.

In the study appearing in Friday's issue of the medical journal Lancet Neurology, researchers followed 165 patients in Britain aged 67 to 100 with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease from 2001 to 2004.

Half of the participants continued taking their antipsychotic medications, including Risperdal (risperidone), Thorazine (chlorpromazine) and Stelazine (trifluoperazine). The other half got placebos. ...more

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fighting the flu

From CBC News:
Over the course of a normal flu season, one in ten adults and one in three children will catch influenza — the flu.

Health Canada says between 4,000 and 8,000 Canadians — mostly seniors — will die from pneumonia related to flu and many others may die from other serious complications of flu.

Still, flu awareness campaigns are helping Canadians stay healthier. Flu drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza are easily available, although they can have their own dangers: 10 Canadians have died after taking Tamiflu, while at least 84 more have reported adverse reactions to the drug. On Nov. 29, 2006, Health Canada issued an advisory about reports of hallucinations and abnormal behaviour — including reports of self-harm — in patients taking Tamiflu. ...more

Jean Coutu posts huge loss from ailing Rite Aid

From CBC News:
The Jean Coutu Group Inc. posted a huge third-quarter loss after writing down the value of its investment in a distressed U.S. drug store, the Canadian pharmacy chain said Thursday.

Quebec-based Jean Coutu lost $399.2 million for the three months ended Nov. 28 versus a profit of $9.5 million for a comparable period one year earlier.

Those results translated into a loss of $1.66 a share for the latest three-month period versus a four cent gain for the same time in 2007. ...more

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grocery and pharmacy retailers stable amid uncertain retail environment: analysts

From the Truro (NS) Daily News:
Companies that sell food, drugs and other consumer staples are best positioned to prosper in an uncertain retail environment that appears headed for a decline, industry observers say.

Keith Howlett of Desjardins Securities says leading grocery and pharmacy chains offer better earnings visibility at time when consumers remain cautious about spending.

Among the beneficiaries are grocery chains Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU.A) and Loblaw (TSX:L), along with pharmacy leaders Jean Coutu Group (TSX:PJC) and Shoppers Drug Mart (TSX:SC).

While Wal-Mart didn’t separate its Canadian results, it said Thursday that food and consumables were among the categories that performed well as same-store sales growth disappointed analysts.

Jean Coutu reported Thursday that its prescription sales remained strong during the third quarter although sales of non-prescription goods lagged expectations at 1.6 per cent growth. Chief executive Francois Coutu, however, noted consumers were increasingly seeking value through purchases of promotional items, which tend to be lower-priced. ...more

Class-action suit filed over heart drug

From the Calgary Herald:
A Calgary law firm has launched a class-action suit against pharmaceutical giant Bayer Inc. for its drug Trasylol, alleging it causes kidney failure, stroke and other serious health problems.

Docken and Company said Thursday it filed the action on behalf of patients who received the medication during heart surgery, including Calgarian Bob Zerebecki.

The lawsuit alleges Zerebecki, now 62, suffered a serious stroke just hours after the 2006 surgery where doctors gave him Trasylol, leaving the former calculus and physics teacher unable to work. "It's caused a lot of pain and suffering for a lot of families," said lawyer Andrew Bone. ...more

Friday, January 09, 2009

Quit-smoking aid may cause depression: Health Canada

From the Vancouver Sun:
Canadians who have made New Year’s resolutions to quite smoking should be careful about what types of smoking-cessation aids they choose, as Health Canada warned consumers Tuesday about the depressive side-effects from a certain product.

Health Canada issued a reminder to Canadians who are taking, or considering taking, the smoking-cessation aid called Champix, saying the drug has a risk of “serious psychiatric adverse effects.”

The federal health agency says it is still in the process of creating stronger wording on product labels to warn consumers of the risks.

“While Champix can be an effective tool for quitting smoking when used as part of a support program, there have been reports in some patients of unusual feelings of agitation, depressed mood, hostility, changes in behaviour, or impulsive or disturbing thoughts such as thoughts of self-harm or harm to others,” the agency said in a news release Tuesday.

It is unclear at this time whether Champix is the cause of these psychiatric symptoms, said Health Canada.

Health Canada suggest those taking the drug should be aware of any unusual thoughts, especially those related to depression, aggression or self-harm. ...more

Monday, January 05, 2009

Health Canada Endorsed Important Safety Information Piperacillin/Tazobactam for Injection from Pharmaceutical Partners of Canada Inc.

From Health Canada:
PPC (Pharmaceutical Partners of Canada Inc.), in consultation with Health Canada is recalling Lot 7101490 of Piperacillin/Tazobactam for Injection, 4.5 g/vial (DIN 02305615) due to the finding of the presence of foreign particulate matter in some vials from this lot. ...more

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Pharmacist freed on bail

This isn't exactly a positive pharmacist story, but I will try to follow it over the next while. However, with a publication ban in place, it's hard to know how much we will really be able to find out.

From the London (Ont.) Free Press:
London pharmacist charged with illegally selling pain medication was released on bail yesterday.

Gregory Melville, 44, was released on $5,000 no-deposit bail, with his wife acting as surety.

A publication ban was imposed on evidence in the case. ...more

Retired druggist fears biological attack, urges stockpiling antibiotic

From the East Volusia (FL) News:
With a massive biological attack predicted in the next five years, retired Ormond Beach pharmacist Gerald Murphy is concerned people are throwing their best hope for survival into the garbage.

Last month, a high-powered commission created by Congress and chaired by retired Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida found "it is more likely than not" that a weapon of mass destruction --such as deadly anthrax bacteria -- will be used somewhere in the world.

That finding in the report titled "World at Risk," combined with its emphasis that the nation is not doing enough to prepare, sent Murphy into action. He's doing all he can to get the word out that a 30-day supply of a common and inexpensive antibiotic -- Cipro -- should be a staple in every household like Band-Aids and gauze pads.

"If I go on a ship, shouldn't I take a life preserver with me?" said Murphy, 79, who retired from his beachside shop, The Apothecary, 13 years ago.

Murphy is well-known for his work during the last 15 years trying to change Florida's pharmacy rules so pharmacists aren't required to automatically label a prescription as expired after a year. ...more

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Widespread off-label drug prescription raises safety concerns

From the Ottawa Citizen:
When she looks back, Susan Dudley says that never in her life had she imagined one day wanting to harm herself.

In 2002, the registered nurse was working, raising three children and leading what she describes as a perfectly normal life when her doctor prescribed a new drug for nerve pain in her leg.

About seven weeks later, Dudley knew something was wrong. She was feeling sad and depressed, and thinking "really bad thoughts." Then one day she woke up, and all she wanted was to go to the kitchen, break a glass and cut her arms.

Soon, Dudley was thinking of ways to harm herself the way other people might think about things to add to their grocery lists.

She searched online. She thought about standing in front of a truck on a highway. She thought about poisoning herself with carbon monoxide in her car, and even drove to the hardware store. Standing in the aisle, looking at the tubes and pipes, she wondered, "How do people do this?"

Dudley had no idea that the drug she was taking for nerve pain, gabapentin, had been approved in Canada only for epilepsy, and not for pain. Nor could she know that six years later - this past month - the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would announce it will require the makers of gabapentin and other anti-epileptics to warn that their use increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour. ...more

London pharmacist charged with drug trafficking

From the London (Ont.) Free Press:
A London pharmacist has been charged with trafficking oxycodone after his pharmacy was raided this week, police reported today.

Greg Melville, the owner of Forest City Pharmacy at the corner of Wharncliffe and Belmont roads, was charged with four counts of trafficking in oxycodone and two counts of possession of proceeds of crime, one of three people charges after searches of two homes and the pharmacy in London.

That a pharmacist would be charges is unusual, said London Const. Amy Phillipo. “We don’t come across this very often. It’s a rare occurence,” she said.

Abusers of oxycodone crush the tablets to break the time-release coating and then ingest the resulting powder orally, intra-nasally or by injection.

It’s not the first serious allegation against the 44-year-old Mellville — earlier this year, in March, he was accused of professional misconduct in a matter not yet resolved by The Ontario College of Pharmacists. ...more

Regina pharmacist to volunteer in Gambia

From the Regina Leader Post:
The number of pharmacists at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul, Gambia, will double when Regina’s Jennifer Dyck arrives.

“There’s currently only one pharmacist for this hospital, which is the main teaching and referral centre for the whole country,” Dyck said. “Part of the problem is that companies from North America and Europe often come and recruit people from these countries so it depletes their trained workers.”

The 28-year-old pharmacist is taking a four-month leave from her job at the Regina General Hospital in February to volunteer at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital (RVTH). While there she’ll continue the work she began on the two previous trips she took to West Africa with the Christian Volunteer Movement, a non-denominational Christian organization.

For two weeks in November 2006, she and two Alberta pharmacists sorted through a mountain of donated drugs in the hospital’s storeroom.

“Sometimes tourists drop off their partially used medications, some come from physician clinics either in Europe or North America, some come from larger aid organizations and drug companies or they could be from groups that regularly provide medical aid to developing countries,” Dyck said. ...more