Sunday, March 29, 2009

Health Canada puts foot down on electronic cigarettes

From CBC News:
Health Canada is warning people not to use so-called "electronic smoking" products, and has instructed businesses not to promote or sell them until the government has evaluated their safety.

"Persons importing, advertising or selling electronic cigarette products in Canada must stop doing so immediately," Health Canada said in a statement Friday.

This includes electronic cigarettes (dubbed "e-cigarettes"), cigars, cigarillos and pipes, and cartridges of nicotine solutions.

The department said sales, imports and ads for the devices, which vaporize tobacco without burning it, are governed by the Food and Drugs Act and require federal approval, which none has so far received. ...more

Canadians using more prescription drugs, drug-tracking firm reports

From the Canadian Press:
Canadians are taking more prescription drugs than ever before, and increasingly those medicines are generic versions rather than brand-names, says a company that tracks worldwide pharmaceutical sales.

In a report released Thursday, IMS Health said the number of prescriptions filled by Canadians rose by more than seven per cent in 2008 over the previous year.

Prescription spending last year hit an estimated $21.4 billion, up from $20.2 billion in 2007, said IMS. In all, pharmacists countrywide dispensed 453 million prescriptions, for an average of roughly 14 per Canadian.

Brian Carter, director of external affairs for IMS Health Canada, said the 2008 rise in total prescriptions reflects a trend that's been going on for several years.

"Basically it's an increased utilization, but that's driven by things like the aging population, an increasing number of products in the marketplace and increasing awareness of consumers of the diseases they have and the drugs that are there to treat them," Carter said from Edmonton. ...more

New study pinpoints prescription error problems

From CTV News:
Every day, pharmacists find errors on physician prescriptions; most are corrected and quickly forgotten. Now a new study is counting those errors -- and the results are surprising.

Under a unique program, pharmacists in Nova Scotia are now tracking and reporting what they call "near hits" - those mistakes that patients never hear about but ones that -- had they not been caught -- could have sent the wrong medication or the wrong dose to a patient.

The ongoing study recruited 13 pharmacies across Nova Scotia, asking workers there to keep track of the errors and near-errors they encounter. They were then asked to report the errors anonymously using an online reporting tool.

In just eight months, the pharmacists at the 13 drug stores have reported 813 potential medication errors.

Dr. Neil MacKinnon, an associate professor at the College of Pharmacy at Dalhousie University, helped launch the study, called SafetyNET. He notes that all of the reported errors were caught in time and corrected before they got to the patient. ...more

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Suit planned against drug makers

From the Montreal Gazette:
A Quebec consumer-rights association is planning an $8-million class-action lawsuit against eight drug makers of children’s cough and cold medications, claiming that they engaged in false advertising.

Option consommateurs contends that the companies knew all along that their over-the-counter syrups and chewable tablets did not relieve cough and cold symptoms in children under the age of six, as advertised.

“Those corporations sold drugs that are simply ineffective,” Maxime Nasr, a lawyer for Option consommateurs, said in an interview Wednesday.

“The labels for those products clearly stated that they were useful for children under the age of six when, in fact, that is not the case.”

In December, Health Canada ordered the companies to re-label antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants and expectorants for children under the age of 12. It demanded that the labels warn that the products not be used by children under six. ...more

Province’s funding of rheumatoid arthritis treatment welcomed

From the Grande Prairie (AB) Daily Herald Tribune:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers in Alberta will soon be able to share in some joint relief.

As of April 1, the drug Rituximab will be covered by Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan for rheumatoid arthritis patients who meet “special authorization criteria.”

Sandy Ursel, a Pincher Creek, Alta.-resident, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis more than five years ago, and Rituximab is the only drug that has brought relief from the illness’s symptoms. Until now, Alberta funded the drug for the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but not RA. Alberta and P.E.I. were the only two provinces that did not cover Rituximab as a treatment for RA, leaving Ursel to worry she would have to cover the cost on her own.

“One treatment costs approximately $19,000, and that’s actually two treatments in succession, two weeks apart,” she said. ...more

Fury as High Street pharmacy sells morning-after pill online in bulk

From the Daily Mail (UK):
Women can bulk buy the morning-after pill over the internet from today - but critics claim it will promote promiscuity and encourage risky sex.

Visitors to Lloyds Pharmacy's online store will be able to buy up to three emergency contraceptive tablets without seeing a doctor or pharmacist.

The company says the move will allow women to stockpile the drug at home to use when their normal contraception fails, or after they have had unplanned and unprotected sex.

It insists it will do 'everything it can' to ensure the drug is not sold to girls under 18, but can only ask customers to promise not to pass the pills on to a friend or family member.

Campaigners said the easy availability of emergency contraception would encourage women to have unprotected sex, safe in the knowledge that they could pop a pill from their bathroom cabinet the next day. ...more

Drug-resistant TB treated at home in South Africa

From CBC News:
South Africa is trying a home-based care program to contain the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

With no new drugs on the horizon, the only way to contain the spread of the highly contagious disease is to help people stick to the gruelling two-year treatment plan required for a full recovery, said Dr. Eric Goemaere, who heads Médecins Sans Frontières in South Africa.

"We are recycling old drugs" that were invented in the 1950s, Goemaere said in an interview for World TB Day on Tuesday. "They were abandoned because they were too toxic."

Goemaere has launched a home-based care program in Khayelitsha, a poor, black township near Cape Town.

Busi Beko was isolated from her family when she was diagnosed with a strain of tuberculosis that is resistant to conventional TB medications. Beko endured two years of injections so toxic that they could have left her permanently deaf. ...more

Doctor calls for pharmacists not to sell homeopathic products

From New Zealand Doctor Online:
“Pharmacists are scientists, and I urge them not to sell products that are proven to be ineffective”, states Dr. Shaun Holt in the latest issue of Pharmacy Today.

Mirroring a similar call made by Professor Ernst in the UK, Dr. Holt said that homeopathic products did not contain any active ingredient but supposedly had energy of substances that were in the product before they were diluted away. “Not only does this make no sense, it has never been demonstrated and there is a US$1 million prize for the first person to show that this occurs”.

Dr Holt continued: “homeopathic products are not just very diluted – they are so diluted there’s nothing there. It is like pouring a cup of coffee into Lake Taupo and then taking a cup of water from the lake the next day and describing that water as “dilute coffee”, and saying that you will get an even bigger boost from it than regular coffee as the dilution has increased its power”. ...more

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seniors fight drug changes

From the Edmonton Sun:
A crowd of about 75 people gathered at the constituency office of MLA Dr. Raj Sherman yesterday afternoon to protest "deficiencies" in the province's proposed seniors pharmaceutical strategy.

"The government is proposing to impose a serious increase to drug costs for seniors, moving from a flat rate system to a means test," said protest organizer David Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare.

"This is a real attack on the principle of universality and really singling seniors out unfairly which, especially in an economic downturn, doesn't seem right."

Ralliers of all ages gathered at the west-end office shouting: "Don't cut seniors out" and waving signs as cars drove by and honked in support. The Raging Grannies also showed their support, flying their own banner and breaking into song. ...more

Personalized medicines could change prescribing practices

From CBC News:
Much of the $30 billion that Canadians spend on drugs every year is wasted, but personalized medicines could revolutionize the way doctors prescribe, a biopharmaceutical researcher says.

People have genetic differences that determine how their bodies react to drugs such as warfarin or Coumadin, a blood thinner taken to prevent clotting. It is tricky to get the dosing right, because too little has no effect but too much can cause bleeding.

"Maybe you need more or maybe you have too much," said Serge Carriere, a healthy 70-year-old in Montreal who takes warfarin because he is at high risk for stroke. "It depends on the individual, the way they metabolize the drug."

Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif of the Montreal Heart Institute is testing the use of genetic analysis to help tailor drug dosages for patients like Carriere. ...more

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pharmacists look for more control

From the Sudbury (Ont.) Star:
It's a scenario that has happened to many people.

You forgot your prescription was running low, there are no more refills allowed and a two-week wait to see the doctor to get it renewed just won't do.

So, you end up going to the emergency department to get the prescription renewed, tying up valuable time and making others wait for something that should have taken just a few minutes to address.

If Ken Burns and the other 7,300 members of the Ontario Pharmacists Association get their wish, that scenario will come to an end.

That's because pharmacists may soon be able to take care of simple renewals for things such as high blood pressure pills and migraine medication after being granted the authority to do so by the province.

"There are a lot of people being treated for things such as high blood pressure," said Burns, pharmacist/manager at Errington Pharmacy in Chelmsford. "They may be monitored on a medication for seven years. We have a written record of the patient and the doctor here. Does it make sense to have to make them go back to a physician (for a renewal) or sitting in an emergency department in a line and then meeting a doctor who doesn't have any information about them?" ...more

Only 30% of RI pharmacists are certified

From the Jakarta Post:
Only 30 percent of the at least 27,000 pharmacists working across Indonesia posses a certificate declaring their competency, an official with the Association of Indonesian Pharmacy Graduates (ISFI) has said.

Speaking to journalists here Thursday, secretary of the association, Arel ST Iskandar, said this was mainly due to the fact that official certification for pharmacists had only been available in the country since 2006.

Thanks to the certification program, he said, the gap in quality between certified and uncertified pharmacists can now be clearly seen, Arel said on the sidelines of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the education of pharmacists in Indonesia, at Padjadjaran University. ...more

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wetaskiwin pill dispenser a first for Alberta

From the Wetaskiwin (AB) Times Advertiser:
It’s a first for Alberta and the Wetaskiwin Value Drug Mart.

The business has been chosen as the first pharmacy in the province to install the latest technology for automated dispensing.

The change will help equip the store’s pharmacists with “the ability to handle more prescriptions with increased efficiency and accuracy,” according to a press release.

“It’s an investment in the future of our pharmacy, and reflects our strong commitment to patients’ health and safety,” said Wetaskiwin Value Drug Mart pharmacy manager Rodney Bleakney.

Parata Max fully automates the dispensing of oral solids – pills, tablets and capsules, which comprise approximately 70 per cent of the pharmacy’s prescriptions. ...more

Gonorrhea superbug hits Canada

From the Vancouver Sun:
Gonorrhea superbugs are swiftly emerging in Canada, and men, as well as patients over 30 are at the greatest risk, new research shows.

In women, untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and scarring of the fallopian tubes, causing infertility. In men, it can cause inflammation of the prostate and urethra.

For both sexes, the sexually transmitted infection can cause serious bloodstream and joint infections, as well as immune complications.

Symptoms of gonorrhea include a painful or burning sensation with urination and penile or vaginal discharge. But, according to Canada's public health agency, the majority of infected women and some infected men will not show any symptoms. ...more

Heavy drinking-prostate cancer link confirmed

From CTV News:
Men who drink 14 or more drinks a week are 20 per cent more likely to develop prostate cancer, according to an international review co-authored by a University of Victoria researcher.

The results, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, provides more concrete evidence of the link between alcohol and prostate cancer - a link that has remained controversial.

Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., along with research teams from the U.S. and Australia reviewed 35 previously published studies that linked drinking and the risk of developing prostate cancer.

The studies that Stockwell and his colleagues examined included "cohort studies", which measure people at one point in time and then re-measure them later to see if their drinking, smoking or exercise is associated with the incidence of disease. ...more

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pharmacists' role in evolutionary mode

From the Toronto Star:
On Monday afternoon, when Zubin Austin was educating his Introduction to Clinical Pharmacology class about cholesterol, he was standing in front of a diverse group.

The diversity of first-year pharmacy students at the University of Toronto – not only culturally, but ranging in age from 16 to fifty-something, with upwards of one year of university to a PhD under their belts – serve to underscore the burgeoning range of possibilities for graduates.

"Become a teacher, industry expert, regulator, the sky is the limit," says Deo Bahadur, Pharmacy Operations Leader at Toronto Western Hospital.

Bahadur was a pharmacist in his native Guyana and worked as a pharmacy technician when he first arrived in Canada. Later, he went back to school in Jamaica for two years to earn a pharmacy degree that's recognized here.

He currently teaches in the new Bridging program for pharmacy technicians at Centennial College, a first step to becoming a regulated technician. At Toronto Western, he's both a manager and a clinical pharmacist, responsible for about 30 to 40 neurology and neurosurgery patients. ...more

Toronto vending machines dispense prescription drugs

From the National Post:
Hundreds of Toronto patients have been picking up their prescription drugs in recent months much as they withdraw cash or buy a can of cola -- from special vending machines that some observers believe could transform the pharmacy business.

Customers insert their prescription into a slot in the device and a few minutes later, it spits out their medication.

Proponents say the Canadian-made drug kiosks, which feature a video link to a real pharmacist, offer convenience when there is no pharmacy open or close by. Skeptics, though, warn the machines will never duplicate the benefits of meeting in person with a druggist.

Pharmacy regulators, meanwhile, seem sympathetic, with the profession's governing body in Ontario releasing proposed legislative changes this week that would open the door to wider use of such technology.

"I think it could be the next BlackBerry," said Dr. Sharon Domb, medical director of family medicine at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, which has been testing the technology. "The feedback has been positive: ‘It's great, it's fast, I don't have to go anywhere else.' " ...more

Accreditation for pharmacy college

I am a bit unclear regarding what this means. Now that Qatar University has been accredited by the Canadian Council for Accreditation, will this make it easier for their grads to move to Canada? Is this a trend we can expect from other foreign universities?

From Gulf Times (Qatar):
Qatar University’s College of Pharmacy has been accredited by the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programmes, it was announced yesterday.
“Qatar University is the first international institution to be evaluated by the Council for accreditation under the standards applied to pharmacy schools in Canada,” CCAPP Executive Director Dr David Hill said.

In a letter to QU President Prof Sheikha Abdulla al-Misnad he stated that the Council is extremely pleased with the initial stages of its relationship with QU and will use the experience as a model for other international universities seeking CCAPP accreditation.

Prof al-Misnad described the accreditation as a testament to the excellence of the Pharmacy programme, the dedication of the students, staff and faculty and recognition of the commitment of Qatar’s only university to the continued advancement of pharmacy education and practice in the country.

College of Pharmacy Dean Dr Peter Jewesson explained that the accreditation is provisional as a class of students is yet to be graduated. “The College will continue to work with CCAPP as it prepares for the first BSc (Pharm) class graduation and first Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) class enrollment by 2011,” he said. ...more

Foreign drugs can be a risk or a bargain

From the Los Angeles Times:
Obtaining low-cost drugs from Canada, Mexico and other foreign countries is a controversial method for shaving prescription expenses.

In most instances it is illegal, but authorities often take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to the practice as long as consumers are purchasing nonnarcotic drugs for personal use.

Residents of border states such as Michigan and California have frequented foreign pharmacies for years. Buying from abroad via the Internet or mail order carries additional risk, experts warn, because consumers can't be sure of the source of the drugs.

This month, Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) introduced drug importation legislation that creates a legal and regulated system for buying drugs from foreign countries. ...more

How to protect yourself from medication errors

From CTV News:
Each year, about 422 million prescriptions are filled in Canada. And each year, countless Canadians are sent to hospital because of problems with these prescriptions.

A study published this past summer in the Canadian Medical Association Journal estimated that more than one in nine of all emergency room visits are medication-related. Many of the times, the patients were at fault because they skipped doses or ignored warnings on the label. But often, the patient has done everything right; they've simply been the victim of a prescribing error.

Somewhere between a doctor writing a prescription and a patient receiving it, errors can be made with incorrect drug selection, contraindications, dosage errors, or communication problems with the pharmacy.

How serious is the problem in Canada? Startlingly, no one knows. That's because Canada still does not have a decent nationwide system for reporting medication errors.

The systems that do exist focus more on medication side effects or on errors made in hospital. But the problem of prescribing errors made in doctors' offices remains largely unexplored, says Dr. Neil MacKinnon, an associate professor at the College of Pharmacy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, whose primary area or research is studying medication errors. ..more

Pfizer to set up 600 smoking cessation clinics in 2 years

It looks like Pfizer will opt for a more direct approach when they are selling Champix in India. With the relatively open pharmaceutical laws, it could work there. I wonder how objective these clinics will be. Nonetheless, it's an innovative concept.

From the Economic Times (India):
Pfizer India plans to launch 600 smoking cessation clinics across the country in the next two years in partnership with private sector hospitals and clinics. Pfizer India director (pharmaceutical marketing) Anjan Sen said: “We have already tied up with 150 clinics in 17 cities, including Max Healthcare, and are in talks with more hospitals for partnerships. We are also in talks with the government to use this as a treatment option in the 600 clinics that they plan to set up.”

The government had last year announced to launch same number of clinics. The government clinics will use nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) like chewing gum and patches, along with counselling, to help people quit smoking, a method that doctors say has far less success rate than medication which blocks the receptors in the brain absorbing nicotine.

According to Mr Sen, the government will shortly conduct a clinical trial of the Pfizer drug, Champix, to check its efficacy and if satisfied it will become a part of the government’s anti-smoking programme. ...more

Researchers explore supersized doses

From the Globe and Mail:
Researchers are taking a fresh look at vitamin D - the over-the-counter supplement much-ballyhooed as a way to prevent diseases - to determine whether it could be effective as a medical treatment for those who already have chronic illnesses such as cancer.

Although the investigations are in their early stages, any successful outcomes could be a major health breakthrough, giving patients an inexpensive treatment option that's as close as the nearest pharmacy.

Already the so-called sunshine vitamin is glowing brightly in medical circles, with recent studies showing its efficacy in preventing everything from cancer to the flu. Typical of the recent investigations was one conducted at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, where multiple sclerosis patients received one of the largest vitamin D doses ever dispensed in a clinical setting.

It yielded some tantalizing evidence that supersizing the nutrient helps calm symptoms of the neurological disease. ...more

Better drugs encouraging AIDS complacency: Nobel doctor

From AFP:
People are forgetting to practise safe sex because they no longer fear dying from HIV/AIDS, says the doctor who won the Nobel prize for helping to discover the virus.

Treatment advances mean "some people in my country, France, and other Western countries have become complacent -- they see HIV/AIDS as a chronic disease -- not as one that can kill," virologist Francoise Barre-Sinoussi said.

The doctor shared the Nobel Prize last year with fellow French virologist Dr Luc Montagnier for their discovery in 1981 of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

Barre-Sinoussi noted there has been a huge leap forward in treatments for HIV/AIDS with a cocktail of drugs that reduces the level of virus in the body and likewise lowers the risk of passing on the pathogen to others.

But she told AFP she worried that people's confidence in retroviral drugs had created a false sense of security, leading to an increase in unprotected sex. ...more

Smoking-cessation drug under scrutiny

From CTV Calgary:
Hundreds of people claim a drug used to help people quit smoking has given them some serious side effects.

Dana Roy says she tried to slit her wrists while she was taking the drug Champix. She says "I looked down at the sink and this knife was sitting here, and I picked it up and cut both my wrists".

Roy says "I had such an overwhelming feeling of anxiety; I just wanted the feeling to go away".

Roy's medication did come with an information sheet that described common side effects such as nausea and trouble sleeping. It also said "tell your doctor if you experience agitation, depressed mood or suicidal thoughts" the sheet also says "it's not known if these symptoms are related to Champix". ...more

Vitamin C may protect against gout

From the Guardian (UK):
Getting plenty of vitamin C in your diet may protect against painful attacks of gout, researchers have found. The study showed that men who consumed the most vitamin C, from fruit and vegetables or from supplements, were less likely than other men to get gout.

Gout is a very painful condition causing swelling and stiffness in the joints. It usually affects the big toe joint and can make walking difficult. Gout is quite prevalent, with about 1 in 100 people getting it at some point in life, and is far more common in men than women. It tends to occur in men over 40, especially those who are overweight. Unfortunately, there are few good treatments. The pain is treated mainly with painkillers. ...more

MDs, pharmacists battling drug resellers

From the Winnipeg Free Press:
Inner-city doctors and pharmacists want the province to help them crack down on prescription-drug abuse in response to the growing number of people reselling addictive painkillers such as OxyContin on the street.

Betty Edel, executive director of the Mount Carmel Clinic, said the strip of medical clinics and pharmacies along North Main Street has become a hub for the resale of prescription painkillers.

Edel said area residents and people from other Winnipeg communities are coming to North Main to fill their prescriptions and sell them to dealers who, in turn, sell the drugs for a steeper price on the street.

OxyContin is a strong narcotic that contains oxycodone and other opiates and is prescribed by physicians as a long-release painkiller. Some addiction experts call it "hillbilly heroin," since tablets containing oxycodone can be purchased for about $5 a pill, then resold by dealers. ...more

Pharmacists want power to renew prescriptions

From the Windsor (Ont.) Star:
Giving pharmacists authority to fill some prescriptions without a doctor’s order would help patients in our physician shortage-plagued region, a local pharmacist says.

David Malian, a LaSalle pharmacist and past-president of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, is endorsing the recommendation that Ontario pharmacists be given more power to order prescription refills and give people meds for minor ailments without a doctor’s sanction.

“Pharmacists are well-educated, well-trained … and they’re the most accessible health care professional that a patient can see,” Malian said in an interview this week. “Allowing them to expand their scope of practice, in conjunction and in communication with other health care practitioners, only will enhance better health care.”

Last fall, the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council submitted a report to the Ministry of Health that recommends allowing pharmacists to extend or adjust prescriptions, order lab tests and dispense medication for simple ailments like rashes and pink eye. The ministry has said it will study the report and ask for input from health professionals and the public....more

'Don't stop asthma meds in pregnancy'

Pregnant women who have asthma run a greater risk of giving birth prematurely if they stop taking their asthma medication, the results of a new study indicate.

According to researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada, ‘many pregnant women cease taking their asthma medication to protect the health of their child. However, they don't know that unchecked asthma can cause greater harm to the child than the medication’.

The researchers also pointed out that there is no link between taking asthma medication, such as Ventolin, and any congenital birth defect.

The study involved 13,000 pregnant women who consulted a doctor about asthma between 1990 and 2002. The Canadian team analysed the medication used by these women and their rate of admission to hospital following visits to A&E.

It found that those who suspended their asthma treatment during pregnancy were more likely to give birth prematurely. The probability of suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) during pregnancy also increased among those who stopped taking their medication. ...more

Monday, March 09, 2009

Birth-control pills, low birth weight linked

From the National Post:
Women who get pregnant within a few weeks of taking birth-control pills seem much more likely than others to have low birth-weight or premature babies, concludes a new Canadian study that deals with one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs.

The findings suggest couples should consider using condoms and other "barrier" contraception methods in the month before they try to conceive, say the researchers from the University of Ottawa.

The study does not definitively prove a cause-and-effect relationship and needs to be confirmed by more research, said the lead investigator. It is also unclear why oral contraceptives might affect the development of the fetus, added Xi-Kuan Chen, an epidemiologist.

The findings should not be ignored, though, he said.

"Doctors should be bringing this to the attention of patients," said Mr. Chen, who is also a senior analyst with the Canadian Institute for Health Information. "When they consult with some patients, they should suggest there might be some effect for them." ...more

Bitter pill for 'uncaring' pharmacists

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Suburban pharmacies sheltered from supermarket competition routinely failed to live up to their claims of being caring professionals, according to the consumer organisation, Choice.

The consumer group has seized on fresh research that says pharmacies are failing to give customers advice on drugs. It wants consumers to have a voice in the secretive negotiations between the Pharmacy Guild and the Government over the billions of taxpayer dollars paid to pharmacists to provide dispensing services.

University of South Australia researchers have found that nearly half the customers surveyed said they rarely got advice on drugs from pharmacists.

This was despite the $5.44 pharmacists receive from the Government each time they dispensed a prescription, in adddition to their retail mark-up.

"Most consumers are not routinely given or offered written or oral medicine information at the time a medicine is dispensed," concludes a report by the university's School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences. ...more

Alberta cancer patients win drug funding

From the Calgary Herald:
Tears of joy greeted the Stelmach government's announcement Thursday that it will spend an estimated $5 million a year to fund the colorectal cancer treatment Avastin--making Alberta one of the last provinces to cover the controversial drug.

With cancer patients looking on, Health Minister Ron Liepert told the legislature the province will begin funding Avastin on April 1, following an Alberta Health Services Board recommendation Thursday that the pricey drug be covered.

"At the end of the day, what we want to do is what is right,"Liepert told reporters. "The decision is the right one."

The decision follows an Alberta Cancer Board recommendation in January that government fund Avastin for the treatment of advanced colon cancer.

Avastin has been at the centre of a national debate about costly cancer drugs, but the board endorsed the therapy after reviewing studies showing it can modestly extend survival for those suffering from colon cancer.

The health minister announced the decision Thursday after Calgary-Currie Liberal MLA Dave Taylor brought patients and family members to the legislature to plead their case. ...more

Doctor recycles prescription drugs to the homeless

From CBC News:
A prominent Canadian doctor has begun to recycle unused prescription drugs to homeless people in Ottawa because he says they could not afford them otherwise, CBC News has learned.

Dr. Jeff Turnbull, chief of staff at the Ottawa Hospital in Ottawa, acknowledges the practice is controversial but says it is one way to ensure that homeless people get the medication they desperately need.

He and Dr. Ron MacCormick, an oncologist in Sydney, N.S., want provincial governments to establish regulations that would guide doctors who want to recycle unused prescription drugs that would otherwise be thrown out.

"I think it's a common sense issue where we could come up with common sense guidelines to direct this," Turnbull said.

Turnbull, who is nominated to become president of the Canadian Medical Association next year, gives the unused drugs to patients at an inner city health centre in Ottawa. ...more

A little bit of sugar provides lasting pain relief for babies: study

From CBC News:
Sugar has a calming effect on babies that lasts beyond 10 minutes, new Toronto research suggests.

Researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital and York University studied 240 babies and their reactions after half were given sugar and the other half were given a placebo following a painful medical procedure.

The research involved measuring the "pain responses" of the babies during a diaper change after a blood test, including recording their heart rate and facial reactions, such as squeezing their eyes shut and bulging their brows.

The findings, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, determined that while babies cried during a diaper change after a blood test, giving them a bit of sugar after the needle appeared to dull the pain.

The majority of the babies in both the group given the sugar and the group given a placebo were given a diaper change within an hour of the blood test.

The infants given table sugar, or sucrose, had lower pain scores than the infants given placebos. ...more

HIV rates 'surprisingly high' in those over 50

From CTV News:
Rates of HIV infection among people over 50 appear to be on the rise - perhaps in part to the increased use of erectile-dysfunction drugs, global experts are warning.

In an article published in the World Health Organization's Bulletin on Tuesday, WHO experts warn that HIV is still rarely considered a risk for older individuals, even though seniors are considered more likely than younger people to risk unprotected sex.

"HIV prevalence and incidence in the over-50-year-olds seem surprisingly high and the risk factors are totally unexplored," the authors from the WHO and Minnesota's St. Olaf College write.

Patients over the age of 50 make up roughly eight per cent of new HIV diagnoses in Europe and 11 per cent in the United States, the report finds. And in Brazil, HIV infection among those aged over 50 years doubled between 1996 and 2006, jumping from 7.5 to 15.7 cases per 100 000 inhabitants. ...more

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Drug Imports May Become Legal in U.S. Under Obama, McCain Plans

From Bloomberg:
Americans may soon be able to buy cheap drugs imported from other countries without fear of breaking the law, now that a five-year push in Congress for new rules has gained support in President Barack Obama’s budget.

A proposal to allow drug imports was introduced today by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican defeated by Obama for the presidency, along with Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan, of North Dakota, and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, of Maine. Obama called for the changes in his budget last week, and views the measure as one way to reduce health-care costs so that medical coverage for the uninsured can be expanded.

Brand-name drugs in other countries cost as much as 70 percent less than in the U.S. Allowing imports would save Americans $50 billion over the next decade, including $10 billion for the U.S. government, the lawmakers said. Dorgan and Snowe previously introduced similar legislation opposed by the pharmaceutical industry and former President George W. Bush. ...more

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cross-border medicine trade back in spotlight

From the Globe and Mail:
U.S. President Barack Obama's $3.55-trillion (U.S.) budget included one sentence that could reopen a long simmering debate in Canada - how much access Americans should have to inexpensive medicines from Canada.

For years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made it difficult for Americans to import drugs from other countries, including Canada, citing concerns about safety. But that has not stopped many Internet pharmacies from sprouting up on this side of the border, offering a wide range of prescription and non-prescription drugs, usually at lower prices. Price controls and a lower dollar have kept medicine prices generally lower in Canada compared with the United States.

The Internet cross-border business has been estimated as close to $1-billion (Canadian) and peaked several years ago when the Canadian dollar traded well below 70 cents (U.S). Business has trailed off in recent years as the dollar strengthened and changes were made to some U.S. drug plans for senior citizens.

Yesterday, Mr. Obama signalled in his budget that his administration supports efforts to open up the cross-border medicine trade. One section, titled "Lower Drug Costs and Improves Food and Medical Product Safety," noted that the budget "supports the Food and Drug Administration's new efforts to allow Americans to buy safe and effective drugs from other countries." ...more

Shoppers Drug Mart's cure for the recession

From the Financial Post:
The sorry economy may be sending customers in to a Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. outlet these days for some Xanax and a box of tissue to dry their tears.

But after posting 19 consecutive quarters of profit in a backsliding retail sector, what's important to chief executive Jurgen Schreiber is the added booty customers continue to walk out with: a tube of lipstick here, a scented candle there, a treat from the new line of antioxidant chocolate and perhaps some Royale toilet paper, offered that week at a fire-sale price. Before they know it, that trip for a box of Kleenex has morphed into a $150 basket of items at the checkout counter.

"People spend 20 to 30 minutes in our stores looking around," Mr. Schreiber said in a recent interview at his Toronto headquarters, shortly after Canada's largest drug store chain posted a fourth-quarter earnings rise of 14.4% and sales that leapt 15% to $2.5-billion. That's against an economic backdrop that saw the biggest overall retail sales decline in December since the same month in 1991, when the goods and services tax was introduced. Sales fell 5.4% from November, while economists were projecting a decline of up to 3%. ...more

Prescription drugs: more business for Canadian online pharmacies?

From CBC News:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration still says "don't do it." The "it" being buying prescription drugs from Canadian — or any other foreign — online pharmacy.

The official line is that if you're an American buying drugs online, you could be paying for:

* Counterfeit drugs.
* Medicine that's too strong or two weak.
* Drugs made in unsafe conditions.
* Drugs that are beyond their best-before date.

The FDA says there's nothing wrong with buying online, as long as the website is located in the United Prescription drugs being measured out.States, is licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the site is operating, has a licensed pharmacist on hand to answer your questions and requires a prescription from a doctor who is licensed to practice in the United States. ...more

Health Canada asks for quarantine of drugs from Indian plant under investigation

From the Canadian Press:
An Indian pharmaceutical firm has agreed to a Health Canada request to quarantine all drugs coming into Canada from a manufacturing plant alleged to have falsified data and test results.

Health Canada said Thursday that Ranbaxy Canada has agreed to place a hold on all drugs coming into the country from the Paonta Sahib manufacturing facility.

Health Canada revealed the move in a brief end-of-day email in response to questioning from The Canadian Press.

The questions were provoked by a statement issued Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA said it was halting review of new drug applications involving the Paonta Sahib plant because it had evidence of data falsification.

Health Canada provided no details of how many or what type of drugs Ranbaxy Canada imports to this country. Nor did it offer advice to people who might be taking those drugs.

"Health Canada is taking appropriate actions to mitigate the potential risks to the health and safety of Canadians," said the response, sent by spokesperson Alastair Sinclair.

"Following Health Canada's request, Ranbaxy Canada has quarantined all products imported into Canada from the Paonta Sahib site." ...more

McKesson withdraws offer for Uniprix after pharmacists fail to approve deal

From the Brandon (MB) Sun:
The sale of Quebec's second-largest pharmacy was scuttled Friday after independent pharmacists who own Uniprix Inc. rejected an offer from medicine distributor McKesson Canada.

The company withdrew its offer after the number of shares tendered by the deadline Friday didn't meet the minimum conditions laid out in McKesson's Jan. 19 offer.

McKesson said it will continue to support the independent pharmacy business model despite withdrawing the offer.

"Our desire to help the Uniprix Group succeed and to see further growth among its banners remains strong, and we wish to pursue our longstanding business relationship," stated McKesson Canada president Domenic Pilla. ...more

Wash. pharmacist put old drugs back in supply

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
The pharmacist at TOP Food and Drug in suburban Edmonds seemed like an excellent employee.

Friendly and helpful to the customers, he even ran a collection drive, asking people to bring back any unused prescriptions so he could donate the medicine to Third World countries.

Instead, he put much of that medicine back in the pharmacy's supply - even if its expiration date had passed - thus improving the store's profits while masking that he was also skimming thousands of dollars in copayments and other transactions.

The now-former pharmacist, Milton Cheung, will be sentenced Friday after admitting his conduct in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last fall. The government and Cheung's attorney agreed to recommend a 15-month sentence, while the pharmacy's parent company, Bellingham-based Haggen Inc., has agreed to create a compliance program to improve record-keeping at all its pharmacies.

"Customers were never advised that they were receiving expired and adulterated drugs," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Friedman wrote in a memo to the court. "And while there are no reports of adverse patient reaction, Cheung had no right to expose the public to the risk of product tampering, bacteria and other market adulteration inherent in his scheme." ...more