Monday, February 23, 2009

Hospira Healthcare Corporation Recalls Two Lots of Desferrioxamine Mesilate for Injection, BP (500 mg and 2g format)

From Health Canada:
Health Canada is advising consumers of a recall of Desferrioxamine Mesilate for Injection (500 mg and 2g format) by Hospira Healthcare Corporation. Certain lots of this product are being recalled because of the potential for very small particles to form after preparation for intravenous administration.

Health Canada is working with the company on the recall of the affected Canadian products from the market. The following specific lots are being recalled:

Lot number: U072231AA in 500mg format
Lot number: U102237AA in 2g format

Suspension of marketing of Raptiva (efalizumab) in Canada

From Health Canada:
This Communication is to inform you about the Health Canada recommendation for EMD Serono Canada Inc. to suspend the commercialization of RAPTIVA in Canada.

EMD Serono Canada Inc., in consultation with Health Canada, has urgent new safety information concerning RAPTIVA (efalizumab).

RAPTIVA is an immunomodulating, humanized monoclonal antibody which was authorized in Canada in 2005 for the treatment of moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis in adult patients (18 years or older) who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy.
For Health Professionals
For the Public

Updated Safety Information regarding Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) associated with TYSABRI® (natalizumab)

From Health Canada:
Biogen Idec Canada Inc., in consultation with Health Canada, would like to inform you that previously communicated safety information regarding post-marketing reports of PML in patients receiving TYSABRI® (natalizumab) monotherapy is now included in the Canadian Product Monograph. PML is a known risk of TYSABRI therapy.

TYSABRI is a humanized monoclonal antibody and is currently authorized as monotherapy (i.e. single disease-modifying agent) for the treatment of patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) to reduce the frequency of clinical exacerbations, to decrease the number and volume of active brain lesions identified on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and to delay the progression of physical disability.
For health care professionals
For the public

Pharmacists put their strike on hold

It's a bit late, but here's an update on the Egyptian pharmacist strike...

From the Los Angeles Times:
In a sudden move on Tuesday evening, Egyptian pharmacists decided to suspend their strike during negotiations with the government aimed at reaching a compromise on a new taxation law.

“We received strong promises from top officials that the problem will be solved,” Mahmoud Abdel Maqsoud, secretary-general of the pharmacists’ syndicates told The Times on his way to the Finance Ministry to start a new round of talks. “We don’t mean to torture patients; we deal with a very sensitive commodity so our moves should be well calculated.”

All private pharmacies have abided by their union’s decision to halt the strike, Abdel Maqsoud added. ...more

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Drug maker suspends sale of psoriasis drug

From the Toronto Star:
The distributor of a psoriasis drug that is the subject of safety concerns has agreed to suspend sales of it in Canada.

Health Canada recommended that EMD Serono Canada Inc. stop the marketing of Raptiva, the brand name for the drug efalizumab.

Raptiva was authorized in October 2005 for treatment of moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis in patients 18 years of age and older.

But use of the drug has been linked to cases of a condition called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy or PML, a severe and sometimes fatal neurological disease.

And other serious infections have been seen in people who have taken the drug for three years or more, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, encephalitis, meningitis and sepsis, a bloodstream infection. ...more

E-cigarettes mimic smoking, but are they safe?

From CTV News:
What if you could get your daily nicotine fix without also inhaling the hazardous chemicals found in conventional cigarettes?

Chinese manufacturers have solved that problem by creating an electronic cigarette, which delivers nicotine in a cigarette-like package but without the tobacco and chemical additives that are linked to cancer and other health problems.

But while these products are slowly growing in popularity around the world, including Canada, they are not approved for use as smoking-cessation aids such as nicotine gums and patches, and it is still unclear if the amount of nicotine they deliver is safe.

"I think that things that help people to quit are very good, like approved products that help people to quit," Prof. Kelli-an Lawrance, a tobacco researcher at Brock University's Community Health Sciences department, told

"I think that these particular devices are being marketed with the intention of keeping people smoking...They're not smoking them to try to quit. And so I think that that's a really big issue." ...more

Man charged with painkiller fraud, theft

From United Press International:
Police in Calgary, Alberta, have charged a pharmacy worker with fraud and theft related to 15,000 missing painkiller tablets.

Constable Dan Allen told the Calgary Sun the investigation showed customers' drug plan information was used to forge prescriptions for OxyContin painkiller pills from a Shoppers Drug Mart franchise where the suspect worked as a pharmacy technician.

"He would, in one case, find perhaps a couple who have two policies: one under perhaps the male, and one under the female, and he would then bill a portion to one of the clients and a portion to the other client, which would then raise no flags for the store," Allen told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. ...more

Family celebrates victory as new drugs approved on P.E.I.

From CBC News:
Eighteen new drugs, many of them for fighting cancer, will be added to P.E.I.'s drug formulary on March 1, the government announced Thursday — a move that will save many families thousands of dollars.

Health Minister Doug Currie estimates this announcement will have an immediate positive impact on 1,200 Islanders.

"When you hear stories about families tapping into their lifetime savings, when you're talking to families who are taking second mortgages on their house, you know as a minister that you have to act," said Currie.

About 33 per cent of Islanders live without private health insurance. It's those people who are most likely to be helped by this announcement. While drugs not on the approved list might be prescribed, there is no chance of the cost being covered by the government.

Once a drug is on the list, it is possible for some people without insurance to have costs covered. ...more

Sask. residents spending more on erectile dysfunction drugs

From the Regina Leader Post:
Spending on prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction (ED) has been rising rapidly in Saskatchewan, a report authored by researchers at the University of British Columbia suggests.

The Canadian Rx Atlas, published in December, breaks down Canada’s $19 billion in prescription drug spending and identifies consumer trends in the field.

According to the report, national per capita retail spending on ED drugs grew at an average rate of 39.6 per cent per year between 1998 and 2007. Saskatchewan’s annual growth rate of 45.5 per cent was second only to Quebec.

Canadians spent a reported $154 million on ED drugs in 2007, compared to a mere $4.7 million in 1998. Saskatchewan residents accounted for approximately $3.6 million of that total, or $3.50 per capita.

While he was unable to answer exactly why men in Saskatchewan are reaching for their Viagra or Cialis faster than other Canadians, Dr. J. Steven Richardson, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Saskatchewan, says it may have something to do with demographics. ...more

Egyptian pharmacists strike against tax law

From the International Herald Tribune:
Pharmacists in privately owned drugstores in Egypt went on strike Monday to protest efforts by authorities to enforce a new tax law, their union said.

The law, adopted in 2005, requires pharmacists to use a new bookkeeping method that includes all merchandise sold in drugstores — not just medicines — in their tax returns. Pharmacies in Egypt sell common toiletries and hair care products as well as pharmaceuticals.

Pharmacists argue that medicines are not a profit-making enterprise and that they should have a lower taxation, different from other goods.

Mohammad Abdel Gawad of the Pharmacists Union said the strike was called after efforts to get a tax exemption failed. He said many of the 45,000 privately owned pharmacies were expected to take part in the open-ended protest. Egyptian pharmacists strike against tax law -

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Edmonton wellness company ordered to offer refunds on cancer drugs

From the Calgary Herald:
An Edmonton-based wellness company that made unsubstantiated claims that some of its products could cure cancer has agreed to post a correction online and offer full refunds to its customers after a federal investigation by the Competition Bureau.

Bioenergy Wellness Inc., which did business as Energyworks Wellness Center, was making unproven claims on two websites that its products — papimi, magnapulse and far infrared sauna — were effective in preventing or treating cancer.

Papimi is a medical device that delivers radiation-free magnetic pulses to body tissue and claims to stimulate health and repair diseased tissue. Magnapulse operates on a similar philosophy.

Infrared saunas produce sun-like heat without harmful ultraviolet rays that penetrate the body and allegedly detoxify the body through sweat.

“Cancer is a serious disease and we’re not going to let them make those claims,” said Tagreed Boules, senior competition law officer for the Competition Bureau. ...more

Rare brain infection linked to MS drug

From CBC News:
There are reports of a rare brain infection among people taking the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, Health Canada warns.

The brain infection, called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, usually happens in people with weakened immune systems.

Since Tysabri first came on markets several years ago, five people around the world who were taking the drug developed PML and one case resulted in death, Health Canada said Wednesday.

The drug has been approved for use in Canada since 2006 for the treatment of the relapsing-remitting form of MS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

In this type of MS, patients alternate between periods when they experience symptoms and when they don't. ...more

B.C. leads in use of erectile dysfunction medication

From the Vancouver Sun:
B.C. residents spend 25-per-cent less per capita on medicine than the rest of Canada -- except when it comes to prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction.

We spend the most on those.

A new University of B.C. report on prescription-drug spending does not explain whether the greater use of drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra is due to a higher proportion of men in B.C. with impotence.

Experts interviewed Tuesday said they thought it might have to do with cultural factors. For example, such drugs are used "recreationally" in the homosexual community.

"We know they are used in the gay community as performance-enhancing drugs, so that's a theory to explain the higher spending here, but I have no data to back that up," said Alan Cassels, a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria.

Commenting on the findings in the Canadian Rx Atlas by the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, Cassels said B.C. doctors "tend to be more conservative when prescribing drugs, but maybe not when it comes to Viagra." ...more

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Naturopaths to be allowed to prescribe medication

I'm not sure I follow this story. I thought the point of going to a naturopath was because you would want to avoid traditional pharmaceuticals.

From the Vancouver Sun:
Naturopathic doctors in B.C. could soon be allowed to prescribe medications if the provincial government goes ahead with plans to change its health profession regulations.

The changes would make B.C. the first province in Canada to grant naturopathic doctors the authority to prescribe drugs such as antibiotics, painkillers and anti-depressants.

But the move is being met with concern from the B.C. Medical Association, which argues patient safety will be put at risk if the changes are allowed.

In a letter written last month to the province’s medical doctors, association president Bill Mackie expressed the group’s concerns.

“The BCMA is significantly concerned with the expansion of scope proposed for naturopaths that includes the ability to order lab tests and prescribe Schedule I and II medications,” he wrote. ...more

HIV drug could raise heart attack risk

From the Irish Times:
A widely used anti-HIV drug could raise heart attack risk by encouraging blood clots to form, according to a new study by Irish scientists that was unveiled at a major international conference in Canada last week.

The Dublin-based researchers showed that patients on the anti-viral drug Abacavir have stickier blood platelets – which can clump to form clots – than patients who are not taking that drug as part of their therapy.

HIV infection itself is thought to increase heart attack risk, but last year a Danish-led study of more than 30,000 HIV-infected patients found that Abacavir appeared to almost double that risk, said Dr Paddy Mallon, consultant in infectious diseases at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital and a lecturer in medicine at University College Dublin. ...more

Glaucoma drug offers new way to grow eyelashes

From CTV News:
Women who long for lush lashes have had to rely on messy mascara and fussy false lashes. Now, doctors have stumbled on a new treatment from an unexpected source: a glaucoma drug.

The drug is called Lumigan. For glaucoma patients, the medication reduces pressure inside the eye. But it also appears to make lashes thicker by increasing the growth cycle of hair follicles and slowing down how fast they fall out.

The drug seems to offer this unexpected side effect because it's made with prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that flourish during a woman's pregnancy and can make her hair thicker.

Now, Vancouver husband wife team Drs. Jean & Alastair Carruthers, an ophthalmologist and a dermatologist, are studying the medication. They say that in their tests, they found that people grew lashes that were about 50 per cent longer and twice as thick. The lashes were also 18 per cent darker - all of this without the need for mascara. ...more

Five Filipino pharmacists dismissed

From Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday:
As the mixing of chemotherapy drugs resumed yesterday at the National Radiotherapy Centre, St James, five Filipino pharmacists were out of work after they were advised by the Health Ministry that their services were “no longer required”.

The termination of contract came after an “industrial relations problem” involving pharmacists at the NRC which resulted in intravenous chemotherapy being halted for scores of persons with cancer.

However, Newsday learnt that the persons whose contracts were terminated did not work at the NRC.

As he left the graduation ceremony for Registered Nurses, Midwives, and Nursing Assistants at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, Health Minister Jerry Narace said, “The matter is being resolved, and there are people treating with the pharmacists. A solution has been worked out,” Narace said to reporters. ...more

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pharmacists struggling to deal with prescription drug fraud in B.C.: study

B.C.'s pharmacists are not prepared to detect or deal with prescription drug fraud, according to a new study conducted by the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford.

The study found that even if there's something obviously wrong with a prescription slip, many pharmacists are worried about what would happen if they confronted a patient, according to co-author Dr. Irwin Cohen, the research director of the university's centre for social responsibility.

"It is a very personal individual decision when someone comes with a fraudulent prescription or if someone comes with clear signs of abuse," said Cohen.

"It's certainly not pandemic yet," Cohen added. "But pharmacists are telling us they are ill equipped to deal with the problem. We also can't discount the fact that some people are using fraudulent prescriptions to obtain powerful and dangerous medications to sell for profit." ...more

Test kit highlights possible rise in prescription drug use among kids

From the Vancouver Sun:
As if it isn't enough for parents to worry about whether their teenager is using marijuana, cocaine or crystal meth, a new drug-testing kit presents parents with the option of testing their children for prescription drug use, too.

With a quick snip or a clump of hair, parents can find out within days whether a child has dipped into the family medicine cabinet, has tried cocaine in the past three months, uses crystal meth on the weekends, or is taking painkillers on a daily basis.

"Prescription drugs are so accessible to kids. They're in the medicine cabinet, so they don't really think it's dangerous for them," said Zeynep Ilgaz, president and co-founder of Confirm BioSciences, the California-based maker of the home drug-testing kits.

"Kids think it's a safe way to get high because they're not illegal."

Ilgaz said prescription drug abuse, particularly of OxyContin and Vicodin, is on the rise in the United States.

There are few Canadian statistics on the number of people who abuse prescription drugs, but the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse says available evidence suggests Canadians are among the heaviest consumers of psychotropic medication in the world. And a recent study found indications that non-medicinal use of prescription opioids is increasingly replacing heroin. ...more

N.D. House defeats bill that would have changed pharmacy ownership

From the Jamestown (ND) Sun:
North Dakota pharmacists and defenders of the state’s small towns came out on top Friday in the biggest battle of the 2009 Legislature.

The House soundly defeated a proposed repeal of the state’s 40-year-old law that requires pharmacies in the state be majority-owned by a pharmacist. House Bill 1440 went down on a 57-35 vote after an hour-long debate that at times got emotional.

“Trust the people of North Dakota,” said Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, who favored repeal and more choice for North Dakotans in where to shop for prescriptions.

“Let the people decide. Nobody’s forcing anyone to do anything different,” he said. ...more

Shoppers Drug Mart profit jumps, sees strong '09

From Reuters:
Shoppers Drug Mart (SC.TO) reported a 14.4 percent jump in quarterly profit on Thursday, helped by strong pharmacy and front-of-store sales, and said it saw sales rising through 2009, despite the slowing economy.

Canada's biggest pharmacy chain said it earned C$173.1 million ($138.8 million), or 80 Canadian cents a share, in its fourth quarter, up from C$151.3 million, or 70 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue grew 14.7 percent to C$2.5 billion.

Analysts had expected average earnings per share of 75 Canadian cents, before items, and revenue of C$2.495 billion, according to Reuters Estimates. ...more

Too early to get excited about premature ejaculation drug

From the Globe and Mail:
For years, men who suffer from erectile dysfunction have been able to use Viagra or similar medications to provide some lift to their sex life. But there has never been a specific drug to help men who peak too soon.

Now, a major pharmaceutical company, Janssen-Ortho Inc., has filed an application with Health Canada to market in this country a new drug designed to treat premature ejaculation.

"This is a really common problem," said Gerald Brock, a professor at the University of Western Ontario who has been involved with company-sponsored trials of the drug.

The condition, which can cause great emotional distress for men and their partners, is believed to affect up to one-third of males, Dr. Brock said. Basically, they lack sexual control and reach orgasm in less than two minutes.

Scientists have long suspected that serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain, plays a role in the disorder. In fact, patients are sometimes treated with a class of antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which affect serotonin levels. ...more

New heart drug offers hope

From the Hamilton Spectator:
Hamilton doctors can calm a heart beating dangerously fast with a new drug expected to drastically improve the chances of surviving a common heart condition.

The drug Dronedarone cuts by 25 per cent the number of cardiac deaths and hospitalizations from atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormal heart rhythm afflicting about one per cent of the population.

The ATHENA study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine holds the hope of a treatment with far fewer side effects and better results.

“This study was spectacularly positive,” said Dr. Stuart Connolly, principal investigator of the ATHENA study and head of cardiology at Hamilton Health Sciences. “This is a very important finding.”

The drug is not yet available, but is expected to be approved in Canada in the next year or so. ...more

Aging men may be under-prescribed bone-saving drugs, osteoporosis study finds

From the Canadian Press:
A new study suggests aging men and their doctors may not be paying enough attention to bone health.

The report from the Canadian Institutes for Health Information says older men in Canada are substantially less likely to be taking bisphosphonate drugs than are women.

Bisphosphonates are drugs used to counter the effects of osteoporosis and to prevent fractures.

While one in five senior women were using these medications in 2006-2007, only one out of every 30 senior men had been given a prescription for one of the drugs.

It is true that osteoporosis affects women more often than men; in fact, women are twice as likely to develop the bone-weakening disease.

But the report found the gap in prescribing rates between men and women is much bigger than the difference in disease incidence. ...more

Mannville pharmacy closes doors after 40 years

From the Vermilion (AB) Standard:
Stu Nickerson was reading the newspaper one day when he spotted an advertisement - Pharmacy for Sale in Mannville, Alberta. The year was 1969.

“I had been managing a pharmacy in Grimshaw, Alberta for three years and I thought I could probably do it on my own. So we packed up and moved here in February on the coldest day I have ever experienced,” said Stu.

Now 40 years later Stu says it is time to hang up the pharmacy coat and take some time to travel with his wife Jean.

“We will continue to live in Mannville but would really love to travel and see the rest of this province and the country. We have done lots of traveling outside of Canada so now it is time to explore a bit of home,” said Stu.

In the 40 years as a pharmacist Stu says there have been many changes with the biggest being the modernization of computer technology in pharmacy services. ...more

Influenza patient reports pharmacist to ministry

Another unusual Swaziland pharmacy story...

From the Swazi Observer:
A man who was sick with flu has reported a Mbabane pharmacist to the ministry of health, claiming he was sold medication that did not cure the illness.

Bheki Dlamini, who hails from Nkoyoyo had a verbal showdown with the pharmacist on Friday as he complained of an unsatisfactory service.

So heated was the argument that the pharmacists told Dlamini to swallow all 20 tablets at once to get healed. ...more

St James chemo patients blanked

From the Trinidad Express:
Chemotherapy patients at the St James Radiotherapy Clinic have been turned away because the pharmacists are not mixing the drugs.

According to the patients, who requested anonymity, clinic officials told them that the pharmacists had not been paid and as a direct result, they refused to do any work.

The patients, however, found this excuse to be ridiculous and called on Health Minister Jerry Narace to intervene.

"The doctors are seeing people, the nurses are seeing people, but yet no one can get therapy," one patient angrily said. ...more

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Massive study casts doubt on health benefits of multivitamins

Multivitamins don’t protect women against heart attack, stroke, cancer or an early death, according to a massive study involving tens of thousands of women.

Millions of women take multivitamins, often in the hope the popular supplements will prevent cancer and other diseases.

But the largest study ever conducted in post-menopausal women has found “convincing evidence” that multivitamin use has “little or no influence” on the risk of common cancers, cardiovascular disease or dying from any cause in post-menopausal women.

The research involved 161,808 American women, age 50 to 79, who are part of the ongoing Women’s Health Initiative, the largest study of women’s health. A total of 41.5 per cent of the women used multivitamins. The most popular was a multivitamin with minerals.

The women were enrolled in the trial between 1993 and 1998. After an average eight years of followup, researchers found no evidence multivitamins either increased or decreased the risk of cancers of the breast (invasive), colon/rectum, endometrium, ovary, kidney, bladder, stomach or lung.

They also found no significant effect on the risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clots in the veins. ...more

Changing habits may not lower blood pressure

From Reuters:
People who say they are making lifestyle changes in addition to taking medication to reduce high blood pressure may actually be less likely to have their blood pressure under control than people relying on drugs alone, new research from Canada shows.

"Whether we like it or not, the only thing which we can definitely offer which really works is drug treatment," Dr. George J. Fodor of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Ontario told Reuters Health. "I don't like it and most people don't like it, but this is the simple truth."

Exercise, weight loss and other lifestyle modifications are widely recommended as the first line of treatment for people recently diagnosed with hypertension. While clinical trials have shown that these measures are effective, there is less information on how readily people make these changes in real life, and how effective they are outside the clinical trial setting. ...more

J&J Ejaculation Pill, World’s First, Wins Approvals

From Bloomberg:
Johnson & Johnson won approval in Sweden and Finland for the first prescription pill to treat premature ejaculation, three years after U.S. regulators rejected the drug, the company said.

The drugmaker expects to win clearance for dapoxetine, to be sold as Priligy, in five more European nations and has applied for approval in Canada, Australia, Mexico, Turkey and six other countries, said Greg Panico, a spokesman for New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J, today in a telephone interview. The pill, taken a few hours before intercourse, should be in European drugstores by April, he said.

“There’s a globally significant market” for premature ejaculation treatments, Panico said. He declined to estimate sales.

Dapoxetine may generate $575 million a year by 2011 for the company, said Michael Weinstein, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst in New York, in an Oct. 29 note to clients. It’s one of several drugs J&J is developing to replace revenue it expects to lose to generic competition to top-selling medications such as the antipsychotic Risperdal, he said. ...more

Cancer patients need access to records, report says

From CTV News:
Cancer patients in Canada - especially those who live in remote areas - need to be given access to their electronic health records to ensure they get the best treatment, say the authors of a new report card on cancer in Canada.

The Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada says in its annual report card that patients are not getting enough access to their own medical records.

The CACC conducted a survey of oncology clinics located more than two hours from a regional cancer centre, and found that most aren't using electronic health records to record vital information. Of 11 clinics surveyed across the country, only seven had access to an integrated health record system.

Of those seven, only three allowed clinic staff to make notes on the records.

Such limitations compromise patient care, the authors insist, because oncologists who devised the treatment plans are not able to follow whether treatment is being given properly, or what complications the patient encountered. ...more

Let pharmacists prescribe: advisory council

From the Sault (ON) Star:
Pharmacists will play a larger role in the delivery of health care, including being able to write some prescriptions and adapt existing ones, if the provincial government accepts several proposals before it.

With guidance from the Ontario Pharmacists' Association and Ontario College of Pharmacists, the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council released a report last month recommending changes to the scope of practice for a number of medical professions.

"The idea is for a more collaborative health care system, so it's not just doctors doing everything but everybody working together," said Tina Perlman, chair of the OPA board of directors.

Perlman, a Sault Ste. Marie native who now works as a community pharmacist in London, was here Monday to host the annual district meeting. She said pharmacists are keen to better use the skills they graduate with after a minimum six years of study.

According to the report, Canadian pharmacy programs turn out graduates "who would be equally competent in the skill of prescribing drugs and managing drugs" as medical students. The difference is those medical students then go on to hone their skills in residency and practice. ...more

Monday, February 09, 2009

Health store steroid dealer pleads guilty

From the North Shore (BC) News:
The owner of a North Vancouver health and supplement store charged with selling steroids to kids has pled guilty to one count of drug trafficking.

Joao Melo, 28, appeared in North Vancouver provincial court Thursday to enter the plea. His co-accused, Sylvie Tran, 26, was not present.

Melo and Tran were arrested last October for selling the steroid derivative Methyl-1-Testosterone or M1T at their business, SVN Canada on Lower Lonsdale. The arrests concluded a one-year undercover investigation by the North Vancouver RCMP.

According to federal Crown prosecutor Jay Straith, the maximum penalty for trafficking the drug is a three-year jail sentence.

An anabolic steroid, M1T is listed as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act. It is not approved for sale anywhere in Canada. Although the drug does help create muscle bulk, over time it can cause extremely serious side effects including liver disorders, hardening of the arteries and lung problems. ...more

Albertans paying more for generic drugs, U of C study says

From the Calgary Herald:
Albertans are paying "very high prices" for generic drugs when compared with prices seen in other countries - a result of provincial policies, a new report from the University of Calgary said.

The research paper, written by U of C professor Aidan Hollis, said current policies across Canadian provinces - not just in Alberta - do a poor job of ensuring low drug prices. Among Hollis's concerns include insurance rules that discourage patients from looking for lower-priced drugs and the lack of incentives for drug companies to introduce other generic drugs to the market to challenge what's already available.

"Thanks to the expected arrival of generic versions of several blockbuster drugs, it appears that generic drugs will be one of the fastest-growing elements of health expenditures in Canada over the next few years," Hollis said in the paper. "Thus, given both the importance of generic drug expenditures and the extensive revision of drug procurement policies in other provinces, the time seems ripe for a review of Alberta’s policies."

The report estimated that 51 per cent of the prescriptions filled in Alberta are generic drugs - at a total cost of $400 million in 2007. In a comparison of the lowest prices available for generic drugs, the report found that consumers in Ontario paid only about 82 per cent of what Albertans paid for a comparable drug. ...more

Green tea blocks cancer drug benefits

From the Globe and Mail:
Many consider it a miracle beverage that can help shed pounds, reduce the risk of heart disease and even ward off some types of cancer.

But new research suggests that green tea may also have a dark side - by blocking the effects of a cancer drug.

Components of green tea seem to bind to the cancer drug bortezomib, also known by brand name Velcade, and stop it from reaching its target in cancer cells, according to a study published online yesterday in the journal Blood.

Velcade is primarily used to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

Health Canada approved the drug in 2005 for use in patients who have already received at least one prior therapy or a stem-cell transplant, or are not suitable for transplant.

"We expected the opposite. We expected that [green tea] would help the drug," said Axel Schönthal, professor in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and senior author of the study. ...more

A battle over mail-order drugs

From the Boston Globe:
Medco's Willingboro plant may be the largest pharmacy in the world. It is the size of six football fields, and it can fill more prescriptions in a day than an average corner drugstore does in a year.

Robotic arms instead of human hands pour pills into bottles and label them. Infrared scanners rather than human eyes check and recheck each bottle. The machines are 23 times more accurate than the average pharmacist, Medco says, thanks to technology so advanced that computers consult the weather forecast along the shipping routes of heat-sensitive drugs and insert a cooling gel pack if needed.

Actual pharmacists, some of whom handle only specific diseases such as diabetes or cancer, check each patient's record, flag potentially harmful drug interactions, and determine whether there may be a cheaper alternative.

Mail-service pharmacies pitched themselves to Barack Obama's team as one tool for beating back rising health costs and improving healthcare quality.

In a country that spends a larger share of its economy on healthcare than any other in dustrialized nation, and where the chronically ill account for 75 percent of all health spending, owners of mail-service pharmacies say Medicare could save billions if more people bought their regular medications from mail-service pharmacies, exploiting their scale, efficiency, and specialized expertise. ...more

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Big drugstore operators take aim at N. Dakota law

From the Associated Press:
North Dakotans packed an auditorium on the state Capitol grounds Tuesday to debate a state law requiring pharmacies to have pharmacists as their majority owners. The law is under heavy fire from large retailers who say that if it's repealed, they can offer $4 prescriptions and lower drug costs.

North Dakota, where you can't get a prescription filled at a Walgreens, is the only state with such a law, state officials say.

The National Conference of State Legislatures found at least one other state requiring a percentage of pharmacist ownership but none as restrictive as North Dakota.

Republican state Rep. Jon Nelson of Rugby, a sponsor of a bill to repeal the ownership restriction, said it would give people better choices in buying prescription drugs and would help those who are uninsured and underinsured.

Nine-year-old Jakob Olson of Bismarck was one of the first to speak for the repeal. He said he has gone through seven surgeries, and has asthma and allergies, and said his parents have referred to the legislation as the "Jakob Bill." ...more

Chief Pharmacist Thuli assaulted me

I couldn't resist posting this. It must be interesting working in the government offices in Swaziland.

From the Times of Swaziland:
Thuli Sibiya, the Chief Pharmacist in the Ministry of Health, left some employees agape when she allegedly floored her subordinate with punches.

Sibiya is alleged to have reduced Busisiwe Shongwe, employed as a cleaner in the same ministry, to a punch bag on Tuesday at around 9am.

The unfortunate scenario unfolded inside the ministry’s storeroom.

Shongwe, in an interview yesterday, confirmed to have been physically abused allegedly by the pharmacist in full view of her colleagues and a ‘stranger’.

"My only sin was to politely greet her (sawubona sisi Thuli)," a choking Shongwe alleged as she fought back tears. She said the pleasant remark was met with a deafening silence.

The traumatised cleaner claimed Sibiya went ballistic and responded with a hail of punches targeted at her face.

Shongwe claimed that Sibiya belittled her by reducing her into a punch bag in front of her colleagues including a lawyer who all watched helplessly. ...more

Doctor-pharmacist turf war erupts

From the East Valley (AZ) Tribune:
A turf war of sorts is brewing at the Capitol between doctors and pharmacists over who is qualified to decide when people need vaccinations.

The Arizona Pharmacy Alliance wants to allow its members to administer certain shots without the customers first getting a prescription from a doctor. Mindy Rasmussen, the organization’s director, said that change in law will help ensure that Arizonans get the immunizations they need.

But the move is getting a fight from the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians. Laura Hahn, that group’s executive director, said she fears the proposal would needlessly endanger patient health.

The pharmacists have won the first round: The House Committee on Health and Human Services approved HB 2164 without dissent. It has the added benefit of being backed by the Arizona Retailers Association, many of whose members operate pharmacies.

But even Rasmussen acknowledged that the bill faces an uncertain future unless the objections from the doctors can be overcome. ...more

Pharmacist guilty of misconduct by supplying pills to rogue doctor

From the New Zealand Herald:
An Auckland pharmacist's actions in dispensing 773 prescriptions for the pseudoephedrine-based drug Sudomyl - a total of 46,380 60mg tablets - have been found to be professional misconduct.

So far known only as Mr Y, the pharmacist filled prescriptions from "rogue doctor" Rhys Cullen over five months to March 31, 2007, the Health Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal says.

Pseudoephedrine is a precursor chemical for manufacturing illicit street drugs known as meth or "P".

The tribunal suspended Dr Cullen from practice on March 29, 2007, and subsequently had his registration as a doctor cancelled. He was fined $15,000.

The tribunal said in a professional conduct committee decision released yesterday that Dr Cullen's practice delivered bundles of prescriptions for Sudomyl and paid for them in cash. ...more

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Common antidepressants cut adult suicide risk: study

From Reuters:
Common antidepressants suspected of raising suicide risk among children reduce the risk for adults, Italian scientists reported on Monday.

The findings that the drugs cut suicide risk by more than 40 percent among adults and over 50 percent for elderly people should reassure doctors, the researchers said.

But the study confirmed the drugs seriously raise the suicide risk for children, Corrado Barbui of the University of Verona and colleagues reported in the Canadian Medical Journal.

"Data from observational studies should reassure doctors that prescribing (the drugs) to patients with major depression is safe," they wrote. ...more

Ontario sees rise in drug-resistant gonorrhea cases

From CTV News:
There has been a sharp increase in the percentage of gonorrhea cases in Ontario that are resistant to antibiotics that until recently were potent and simple-to-use weapons against the sexually transmitted infection, a new study published Tuesday reveals.

The research showed that 28 per cent of gonorrhea samples tested in 2006 were resistant to fluoroquinolone drugs, up from four per cent in 2002. And in selected sites, it was even higher, according to the study, which was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Fully 55 per cent of samples from one unnamed clinic -- identified by the researchers as treating a large clientele of men who have sex with men -- were quinolone resistant. The authors said to their knowledge this is the highest resistance rate so far reported in North America.

Both the authors and infectious diseases experts who were not involved in the work were startled by how quickly and how high the rate climbed. ...more

Ontario aims to counter drug firm sales pitches

From the National Post:
Hoping to counter the influence of pharmaceutical-company representatives and their well-versed sales pitches, the Ontario government is joining a growing national movement to offer physicians one-on-one drug briefings that leave out the commercial bias.

Research suggests that visits by pharmaceutical reps, the heart of a multi-million-dollar marketing system, can inordinately skew doctors' prescribing habits.

The province is planning to fund independent experts to visit medical offices and offer a balanced, evidence-based take on drug treatment.

The advice from the proposed service should lead to more appropriate treatments being prescribed to patients, the Ministry of Health says.

It is also hoped to lower costs for the government drug plan.

Its action follows on the heels of a similar initiative getting underway in B.C. Other provinces, from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia, have also dabbled in the idea, called "academic detailing," though the Ontario venture promises to be the largest one yet. ...more

Pharmacist retires after 60 years

From the Victoria Times Colonist:
Pharmacist Ed Rowley spent close to six decades working for the best of reasons.

"I like working with my sons. I think that's the whole thing -- I like my job," said the 83-year-old Rowley, who retired last month after a colourful 60-year career behind the counter.

During the years that Rowley worked with sons Craig, Grant and Bruce, "I don't think we ever had a disagreement."

Quips fly fast and furious among the four Rowleys, who are well-known in Fairfield, where the Gonzales Pharmacy has dispensed prescriptions since 1952.

Soft-spoken, with a wicked sense of humour, Ed Rowley has a prodigious memory. After graduating from the University of B.C. in 1949, he worked as a pharmacist until Sept. 23, almost 60 years in the same career, one he says has brought him many friends and much satisfaction. ...more

National drug plan needed: Report

From the Vancouver Sun:
Governments must act now to make sure prescription drug costs are affordable — especially for many newly unemployed Canadians who have lost not only their paycheques but also their medical benefits, a new report says.

In the Health Council of Canada report, expected to be released Friday, the federal, provincial and territorial governments are urged to "re-engage" and get back to work on the National Pharmaceutical Strategy that was agreed to in 2004 to address the safety and affordability of prescription drugs.

"We have, across the country, a patchwork of different provincial drug plans," said John Abbott, interim CEO of the Health Council.

"Coverage is sporadic and those on low incomes, particularly those now that may face unemployment because of the economic uncertainty in Canada, are going to be most vulnerable."

The national drug strategy aims to improve nine key areas, among them reducing drug costs, providing faster access to new drugs, improving the way drugs are monitored once they're on the market, and developing options for catastrophic drug coverage....more

Foreign doctors, our values

This article is primarily about physicians, but the same can be applied to foreign pharmacists in Canada. In fact, there is mention of pharmacists further into the article.

From the Globe and Mail:
When Andrea and Ginette Markowski, a same-sex couple, went doctor shopping last month, they got a rude surprise. The doctor they approached confessed she was uncomfortable with lesbians- - so uncomfortable she advised them to look elsewhere.

The doctor, Kamelia Elias, who works in a Winnipeg clinic, has practised in Canada for five years. She received her medical training in Egypt, and her religion condemns homosexuality. Lesbians "get a lot of diseases and infections," she told the local paper, incorrectly. "I said it's better to find someone who will take this type of patient." But the couple was furious. "She clearly was shocked by our relationship, unable to recover," said Andrea Markowski.

Dr. Elias is just one of an increasing number of immigrant medical professionals whose beliefs and backgrounds clash with Canadian ways. Some discover that the struggle to have their credentials recognized is not the only barrier; there's also the culture gap. The Markowskis have filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and Dr. Elias has found herself condemned by gay-rights groups across the country....more

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Task force taking group approach to opiate problem

From the Fort Francis (Ont.) Times:
With the abuse of prescription drugs like oxycontin on the rise, a community task force has been established to address the problems arising from the increasing amount of opiate addiction in Rainy River District and First Nations’ communities.

OPP Insp. Dave Lucas, who last week was appointed as the new detachment commander of the Kenora OPP, informed delegates at the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards Zone 1 semi-annual meeting here in Fort Frances that representatives from pharmacies, aboriginal agencies, counselling services, dental offices, prevention programs, police services, and health care have come together to discuss the problem—and are trying to find both short-term and long-term solutions.

Insp. Lucas admitted he didn’t know much about this kind of opiate abuse until two years ago, when it became very clear it was a problem in Rainy River District.

“I asked myself, ‘Why didn’t I know about this if it is such a huge issue?’” he remarked, adding it quickly became evident there are no regulations to control how these drugs are prescribed. ...more