Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pharmacists in 7 cities strike in defiance of association leadership

From the Jordan Times:
Hundreds of pharmacies outside the capital observed a four-hour work stoppage on Sunday to protest a sales tax on pharmaceuticals, despite calls by the Jordan Pharmacists Association (JPhA) to call off the strike.

“All” pharmacies in Mafraq, Ajloun, Karak and Salt decided to ignore the JPhA council and shut their doors from 8:00am until noon, according to association activists.

Moreover, around 90 per cent of pharmacies in Zarqa, Jerash and Madaba also joined the work stoppage, according to Malik Saad Maaitah, an activist from the JPhA’s Zarqa branch.

On Saturday, JPhA President Taher Shakhshir issued a statement calling on all pharmacies to refrain from closing their doors on the grounds that an agreement with the government over the controversial law was imminent.

But the JPhA council decision did not sit well with the leaders of some JPhA branches, who decided to act on their own, according to Maaitah. ...more

Monday, July 27, 2009

Canada tallies swine flu vaccine needs

From CBC News:
Canadian health officials are deciding on how much swine flu vaccine will be needed in the country this fall.

Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said Monday the order must be placed by the end of the month, and that officials are working on a firm number of how many people will want or need the vaccine.

King noted the whole vaccine order will not be ready at the same time, but said officials expect the vaccine to first become available in mid-November.

At a meeting in Toronto, King told public health units from across the province to factor the H1N1 virus into their back-to-school preparations. Younger people are more likely to fall ill, which means people in campus residences could be at greater risk, she said.

"We know that there's a high degree of susceptibility in persons under the age of 50," King said. ...more

Ireland “set for pharma supply crisis from Aug 1”

From Pharma Times:
Patients enrolled in Ireland’s Community Drugs Schemes may have difficulty getting their prescriptions filled from August 1, as more than 1,100 community pharmacists have said they will stop dispensing medicines under the SchemesHSE from that date.

The pharmacists’ action follows following a move by Mary Harney, the Minister for Health and Children, to cut payments to pharmacists under the Schemes by 34%. Early this week, the Health Service Executive (HSE), which is responsible for providing health and personal social services for everyone living in the Republic, will publish information on its website and in newspapers on pharmacies that will be open for Schemes business. The Executive has also urged the pharmacists to reconsider their decision.

The HSE's chief pharmacist, Kate Mulvenna, said: “we are asking pharmacists who have chosen to terminate their contract to assist us in ensuring minimal disruption to patients who need access to their medications. By handing over prescription records to their clients, on request, and by identifying to the HSE patients who may require extra supports, pharmacists can help ensure that their clients can continue to access their medications." ...more”

Alberta to offer free flu shots

From the Calgary Herald:
Albertans will be eligible for a free vaccine against seasonal influenza this fall and, though the shots won't protect against the H1N1 virus, experts predict a high level of interest amid the swine flu pandemic.

Alberta Health on Thursday announced an expansion of its annual flu shots--which have historically been offered to high-risk groups for free -- into an $8-million vaccination program for everyone over six months of age.

The program comes as the province prepares a separate vaccination plan for H1N1, the new influenza virus that first emerged in Mexico this spring and spread around the world.

"Although this is coming in at the same time as the H1N1 virus, this is something that was in the works for some time," said Dr. Andre Corriveau, chief medical officer of health for Alberta.

"We've decided to go ahead with that plan, even though we are dealing with something else on top of it."

Corriveau conceded the health system will face a significant increase in workload as it tries to deliver the two vaccines to all Albertans. He said the province is also drafting a communications strategy so patients understand the difference between the shots. ...more

Don’t take symptoms lightly — pharmacists

From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
Some pharmacists in Halifax are sending clients with bad coughs and other flu-like symptoms directly to their doctors in light of the H1N1 outbreak in the province.

And, it’s likely there will be more such referrals after Friday’s first recorded swine flu death, they say.

"I have recommended on at least two occasions when someone had quite a bad cough . . . that they seek medical attention right away," said Mary Ellen Savage, a pharmacist at Kyte’s Pharmasave in Dartmouth.

"For that type of symptom, I’m trying to refer them immediately."

A pharmacist at a Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in central Halifax said those with flu-like symptoms are being told they should get checked out "as soon as possible." ...more

Swine flu fears prompt run on UK pharmacies

From CNN.com:
Pharmacies in England are reporting a run on supplies like surgical masks, thermometers and anti-bacterial gels by customers concerned about swine flu amid a surge in the number of people infected by the virus.

In some cases, drug stores in England say they are out of the items and may not get more in for weeks or months.

"People are very panicked," said a pharmacy assistant at Zafash Pharmacy in southwest London. "That's why everyone is running for thermometers, surgical masks, and anti-bacterial gels."

The UK's Department of Health estimated this week that there were around 100,000 new cases of swine flu in England in the week ending July 17 -- nearly double the number of cases for the previous seven days. ...more

Staff shake-up at pharmacies seen as cure

From the Standard (HK):
The city's 500 pharmacies and dispensaries may be required to have full-time pharmacists - instead of them being present for just a third of their business hours - under a looming overhaul of the industry.

Under current laws, a pharmacy need only have a pharmacist working 6.7 hours if it is open for business 10 hours a day.

But members of a top-level committee, formed after a spate of drug contamination blunders that have killed six people, have reached a consensus that fully staffed pharmacies is the way to go, The Standard has been told.

The government proposal means dispensaries will have to create an additional shift for a pharmacist. ...more

Pharmacist out on bail

From the Victoria Times Colonist:
A Saanich pharmacist has been released on $10,000 bail.

Ali Laal, owner of Pharmaesthetics Inc. at 3960 Quadra St. and the People's Pharmacy in Esquimalt, was arrested last Thursday after police found a loaded handgun at his store.

Laal was originally arrested July 5 and charged with assault, assault causing bodily harm and careless use or storage of a firearm. The assault charges relate to incidents involving his wife and daughter. ...more

Cost-lowering drug reform expected to hit Shoppers

From the Globe and Mail:
Proposed drug reforms in Ontario could pinch the bottom line of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and other pharmacies - and eventually have a ripple effect on drugstores across the country.

The Ontario government quietly introduced proposals this month that could reduce funding it provides to pharmacies while promoting new ways of pricing and distributing drugs in a bid to lower provincial drug costs.

Yesterday, Shoppers, the country's largest pharmacy chain, flagged the reforms as ones which "may have an adverse impact on the company's business, sales and profitability," while releasing its second-quarter results, which were respectable amid the recessionary climate. The proposed reforms could be implemented as early as this fall.

Jurgen Schreiber, chief executive officer of Shoppers, told analysts it's too early to assess the impact. But he said Shoppers also wants to trim pharmacy costs, so he welcomes the discussions with the Ontario government over the next month to find "joint solutions." ...more

Tamiflu approved for Canadian babies

From CBC News:
Canadian infants under one year old who are sick with the flu may receive the antiviral drug Tamiflu, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Thursday under new swine flu pandemic guidelines.

The Public Health Agency of Canada prepared the interim guidance to help doctors treating infants with influenza-like illness during the H1N1 pandemic.

"The public health emergency created by the pandemic, and this group's increased vulnerability from influenza, created the urgent circumstances that deemed this necessary," Aglukkaq said.

"Although there are limited data supporting the use of Tamiflu in children under one, there now exists an urgent need for recommendations to treat this population, given this group's increased risk for morbidity and mortality from influenza," the agency said on its website.

Regulators in the United States and Britain have made similar changes, Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief medical officer of health, told a teleconference with reporters. ...more

Prescription sales right tonic for Shoppers Drug

From Reuters:
Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada's biggest pharmacy chain, reported a higher quarterly profit on Wednesday that matched expectations, helped by stronger sales of prescription drugs and beauty care products.

Shoppers said it earned C$136.1 million ($123.7 million), or 63 Canadian cents a share, for the second quarter, ended June 20, up from C$126.6 million, or 58 Canadian cents a share, for the same period last year.

The company said the 2009 results were also helped by the inclusion of Easter holiday weekend sales.

Revenue climbed 8.5 percent to C$2.29 billion, with same store sales rising 5.7 percent. ...more

Pfizer, Microsoft sue Viagra spammers

From the Globe and Mail:
Pfizer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are teaming up to fight the slew of spam e-mails hawking Viagra that invade consumers' computers.

The companies said Thursday they had filed a total of 17 lawsuits against defendants involved in the sale and distribution of the blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug.

Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash., software giant, has targeted spammers before, but this is the first time the company has joined forces with a nontechnology firm.

As many as one in every four spam e-mails advertise Viagra, Microsoft and Pfizer said.

Consumers often mistakenly think the e-mails are sent by New York-based Pfizer and that the drugs they order through these on-line pharmacies are legitimate, said Beth Levine, Pfizer's general counsel for U.S. pharmaceuticals. ...more

Province proposes changes to allow B.C. pharmacists to give injections to patients

From Business in Vancouver:
B.C. pharmacists will soon have the authority to give injections to patients if regulatory changes proposed Tuesday are approved.

The Ministry of Health Services is proposing changes to the Health Professions Act that would allow qualified pharmacists to administer vaccinations and other injections to patients.

Under the proposed regulations, interested pharmacists will be required to complete a comprehensive training program before receiving authorization from the College of Pharmacists of B.C.

The standards of practice and training program are being developed jointly between the BC Pharmacy Association, the College of Pharmacists of B.C. and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

The province is expecting the regulatory changes and training to be completed by mid-fall to allow pharmacists time to prepare for the annual flu vaccination campaign the province is launching this fall. ...more

Miracle diet pill alli sold to slim women by chemists

From the Times (UK):
High street chemists are selling a new over-the-counter diet pill to women who do not have weight problems, a report has claimed.

During an investigation into the fat-busting drug alli, Which?, the consumer magazine, found that half of independent pharmacies approved the sale to researchers who did not need it.

Trials have showed that adding alli to a reduced-calorie, lower-fat diet can help people to lose 50 per cent more fat than by dieting alone. Alli aids weight loss by blocking absorption of fat from food into the body. However, licensing conditions for the tablets, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, stipulate the drug should only be sold to overweight people with a body mass index (BMI) of 28 or above.

Two weeks after the pill went on sale in May in chemists’ shops, Which? sent seven undercover researchers to 32 outlets, including small chains and retailers such as Boots and Lloyds. ...more

Planet Pharmacy to open 750 outlets

From Trade Arabia:
Planet Pharmacy, a Dubai-based pharmacy retailer, is set to launch 250 pharmacies across the UAE and over 500 in Saudi Arabia by 2012, making it the largest pharmacy chain in the Middle East.

The company, which is a joint venture between Julphar and the private equity division of Global Investment House, will open pharmacies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi by December this year.

The pharmacies, to be named Health First, will be launched with the objective of growing to be the market leader in the pharmaceutical retail business across the region.

John Makepeace, chief executive of Planet Pharmacy, said: “Planet Pharmacy and its Health First stores have a vision of becoming the biggest and most trusted pharmacy brand in the Middle East within the next three years.” ...more

Pharmacists in Bahrain Oppose Draft Law

From the Khaleej Times:
A draft law giving businessmen right to open pharmacies in Bahrain has been rejected by pharmacists.

The Bahrain Pharmacists Society at an extraordinary meeting held last week called upon parliament not to pass the bill to protect economic interests of its members.

The current law regulating working of pharmacies was issued in 1997 and allows only Bahrainis with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy to open a pharmacy. The proposed bill allows investors from various nationalities to enter
the business. ...more

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Canadian swine flu vaccine set for October

From CBC News:
Canada will have enough H1N1 vaccine in place by late October to deal with any swine flu outbreak, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Friday.

Aglukkaq told reporters that drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Inc., with whom Ottawa has a contract to develop a swine flu treatment, should be able to produce enough of the drug by then to treat a major spread of the infection.

"Everyone who needs vaccine will be able to get at least one dose before Christmas," Aglukkaq said as she gave an update on the H1N1 flu.

Many countries have been scrambling to stockpile treatments for swine flu after the disease began spreading in April. But the lack of available product has forced some governments to develop supply plans in case of a major outbreak of the H1N1 virus.

The World Health Organization now predicts that a fully tested vaccine for the virus will not be ready for general use before November instead of an earlier fall forecast. Worse still, the United Nations agency has said there will likely not be enough of the serum to go around. ...more

Canada will have enough vaccines to share

From the Globe and Mail:
Canadians will have a better chance of getting vaccinated against the pandemic influenza than people in many other countries, including the United States and Britain, thanks to nearly a decade of planning for the disease's arrival.

“We're actually in a fairly unique position of having domestic capacity, of having planned for that in Canada now for many years,” David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail Thursday.

In 2001, the federal government began a 10-year agreement with a drug company that was eventually sold to GlaxoSmithKline. That contract obligates the giant pharmaceutical manufacturer to provide vaccine to every Canadian who wants it in the event of a pandemic.

Canada was the first country in the world to sign such an agreement, and, in exchange, it has given the company money to expand the capacity of its plant at Ste-Foy, Que.

“Three or four years ago, we could fill about eight million doses a month,” said Dr. Butler-Jones. “Now it's up closer to 14 million. So, within a couple of months, we have enough vaccine essentially for everybody living in Canada to get at least one dose, which would probably be sufficient for most of us.” ...more

Digital pen a Loch Lomond first

From the Saint John (NB) Telegraph Journal:
The digital pen is mightier than the ink pen, not to mention more efficient, accurate and safer. The Loch Lomond Villa introduced the technology on Thursday, becoming the first such institution in Atlantic Canada to use the digital pen system.

Looking like a normal pen, it's used by doctors to write prescriptions. Once the pen is placed in its holder, it downloads the information to the computer and transmits it to a pharmacy. A special paper is used to write on, and a camera in the pen records the writing and then encrypts it.

Before the technology was introduced, the prescription were written by doctors, collated by staff and then faxed to the pharmacy, a much slower practice that could lead to duplication and errors.

According to Loch Lomond Villa CEO Cindy Donovan, the switch to the digital pen is seamless and requires no special training for staff. ...more

B.C. residents shell out $25M for Viagra in 2008

From the Calgary Herald:
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.

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.

Experts say it might have to do with cultural factors — the 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

Pharmacist arrested after loaded gun found in store

From the Victoria Times Colonist:
A Saanich pharmacist is being held in custody after police found a loaded handgun at his store Thursday afternoon.

Ali Laal, owner of Pharmaesthetics Inc. at 3960 Quadra St. and the People's Pharmacy in Esquimalt, was originally arrested July 5 and charged with assault, assault causing bodily harm and careless use or storage of a firearm. The assault charges relate to incidents involving his wife and daughter.

Laal was released the next day on $1,000 bail and conditions to stay away from his alleged victims and a home on Excelsior Road in Saanich.

On Thursday, Saanich police executed a search warrant at the Quadra Street pharmacy and arrested Laal again, this time in connection with a 2008 investigation, said Sgt. John Price.

However, after the loaded handgun was discovered, the 50-year-old businessman was charged with possession of a loaded restricted firearm, possession of a firearm without a licence, breach of recognizance by having a firearm and possessing a firearm while prohibited by a court order. ...more

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Que. man first case of drug-resistant H1N1 strain in Canada

From Canada.com:
The first Canadian case of swine flu that is resistant to the antiviral drug Tamiflu raises a red flag but flu experts Wednesday were still far from pushing the panic button.

The resistant virus was found in a Quebec man, 60, who was given a preventive dose of the antiviral as a precaution because he had a pulmonary condition. His son fell sick with the virus.

But the father also became ill and researchers at a Quebec City laboratory on emerging viruses and antiviral resistance discovered he had a new strain of drug-resistant H1N1 virus.

It's believed the virus adapted to the drug and became resistant. There is no evidence the man transmitted the resistant virus to anyone else and he recovered quickly without going to hospital. ...more

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Family of dead Alta. man seeks class-action lawsuit against drug-makers

From the Calgary Herald:
The last time Ellen Robb spoke with her brother, he was doing chores and laundry at home, optimistic that with his chronic back pain under control, he would soon be back at work as an electrician.

Four days later, after many unanswered phone calls, Robb found Doug Hoy dead on his apartment floor, barefoot as if he were on his way to get his laundry basket across the hall.

Months later, a toxicology report revealed Hoy’s blood had three times the safe amount of fentanyl, Robb said.

Fentanyl is an opiate 80 to 100 times as strong as morphine, and approved for use as a pain medication in Canada and the United States.

Hoy had been prescribed the fentanyl patch to treat his severe chronic back pain after another powerful opiate, OxyContin, failed to bring relief.

Now, Robb and her family have taken steps to launch a class-action lawsuit against five pharmaceutical companies, alleging the companies that design, test and distribute fentanyl patches were negligent in warning people about the risks of breathing problems or death, as well as severe weakness, drowsiness and confusion. ...more

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome to Canada, Eh!

I never post press releases here, but I decided to make an exception this time. I cannot even guess how many times I have been asked, "When is naproxen going to be available without a prescription in Canada?" This release verifies that naproxen will now be available in most Canadian provinces as an OTC item.

From Newswire (PRESS RELEASE):
The wait is over and Canadians only need to go to their local pharmacy to access ALEVE(R) (naproxen sodium) - the first over-the-counter naproxen sodium tablet. With just one pill, ALEVE(R) offers Canadians convenient access to pain relief for up to 12 hours. It is an option for the nearly 4.5 million Canadian men and women with arthritis(1) to relieve their joint and arthritis pain, helping them get back to doing the activities they love to do. ALEVE(R), which is marketed and manufactured by Bayer HealthCare, is available over-the-counter in a 24-count bottle in most provinces. A larger 100-count bottle is available behind the counter - just ask the pharmacist. ALEVE(R) is not available over-the-counter in British Columbia, Quebec or Newfoundland. ...more

Paper prescriptions meet their match

From Saint John (NB) Telegraph Journal:
Whether it's justified or not, doctors are notorious for having illegible handwriting. But if a New Brunswick start-up can prove its service is worthwhile, patients may no longer wonder how pharmacists can read prescriptions.

Saint John-based MedRunner is working on a prototype for a virtual prescription service that would not only make picking up medicine quicker, easier and more efficient but also integrate with, and contribute to, a patient's medical record.

"In paper prescriptions there's so much room for error, and adverse reactions," says MedRunner co-founder Todd Murphy, an MBA student at the University of New Brunswick

If a prescription were misread it could result in death, he says, but in a virtual system that mistake is far less likely.

The company has the Department of Health's approval to work in co-operation with the pharmaceutical association to test the service to prove the concept works.

The service, which is still under development, would be part of New Brunswick's province-wide e-health records system, which would allow doctors to easily access a patient's medical and list of past and current prescriptions when deciding on a treatment. ...more

Apotex warned as U.S. drug agency cracks down

I have not heard if Health Canada is looking into these issues on our side of the border or not...

From Reuters:
Canada's Apotex Inc could face a freeze on new drug applications in the United States as well as a ban on products entering the country after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned it of a number of manufacturing breaches at a Toronto factory.

The June 25 warning, which followed a late 2008 inspection of the Etobicoke, Ontario facility, cited a number of manufacturing deviations from U.S. manufacturing codes.

Among the breaches, the agency charged that Apotex did not thoroughly investigate the failure of batches of some drugs and also noted an unusual high number of rejected batches.

This, the FDA suggested in the letter, "demonstrates a lack of adequate process controls and raises significant concerns regarding the capability and reliability of (Apotex's) processes to consistently manufacture drug products meeting predetermined specifications." ...more

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Women's only pharmacy to open in Vancouver

From Canada.com:
The first women's only pharmacy in North America will open its doors Tuesday in Vancouver.

The pharmacy, located in the city's troubled Downtown Eastside, is called Lu's: A Pharmacy for Women, and is aimed at providing female-oriented services to clients.

Caryn Duncan, executive director of the Vancouver Women's Health Collective, came up with the idea of opening a pharmacy for women in 2006.

She lives in the area and often saw queues of patrons spilling out of pharmacies onto sidewalks and having to speak to pharmacists through security glass.

"They're, I think, quite hostile places and women don't feel safe," Duncan said. "Women are walking distances to have prescriptions filled and we're hoping that they will think to come to Lu's." ...more

Internet drug purchases included in spending bills

From the Associated Press:
The Senate dealt a blow to the drug lobby Thursday by voting to permit people in the United States to order lower-cost drugs from Canada over the Internet.

The prescription drug plan, by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., passed the Senate by a 55-36 vote that added it to a $42.9 billion bill funding the Homeland Security Department. The Senate then approved the homeland security measure by a 84-6 vote Thursday night.

Critics said Vitter's amendment would open a gaping loophole that would expose people to Internet scams and unsafe drugs, but the allure of importing U.S.-made drugs from other countries where government policies have driven prices lower has long had a pull on lawmakers.

But so too has the drug lobby, which has always defeated attempts to allow consumers widespread access to "reimported" drugs. Several Democratic leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his top lieutenant, Dick Durbin of Illinois, initially opposed Vitter's amendment, only switching their votes after it became clear the popular idea would pass.

Their doubts about the idea may ensure the drug importation rule gets dropped during House-Senate negotiations on a final bill. Currently, U.S. travelers may return with a three-month supply of drugs when crossing the border. ...more

Drug marketers try to cut through the wombleminki

From the Globe and Mail:
In the dubious privacy of a bowling club, two balding, grey-haired men are talking about sex. Their eyebrows raised, their bellies pulling slightly at the fabric of their maroon team shirts, one tells the other how pharmaceuticals have helped him in the bedroom.

“Viagra spanglechuff,” he says gleefully, chuckling with self-satisfaction. “Dip minky Viagra”

That's the 2007 campaign by Toronto-based ad agency Taxi for the infamous little blue pill. The gibberish is a more creative way of masking content that wouldn't make it onto the airwaves otherwise. But the offending language isn't the sordid details of elderly sex lives – it's the description of what Viagra actually does.

In Canada, prescription drug advertising is strictly regulated, and this kind of regulation, it seems, is on everyone's lips these days. New developments in the advertising laws have called into question how marketing should be legislated in this country.

The creatives at Taxi had to develop “the international language of Viagra” because in Canada, the English language wouldn't do. Ads can state the name of the drug, but Health Canada does not allow them to say what it's for. This kind of direct-to-consumer drug advertising is allowed stateside, however, and one Canadian company took notice. ...more

Health Canada probing potential link between diabetes drug and cancer

From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada is investigating the diabetes drug Lantus after research suggested there may be an increased risk of developing various types of cancer among those taking the medication.

Lantus is a long-acting synthetic insulin similar to human insulin that is used to control blood sugar in people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It has been marketed in Canada since February 2005 by Sanofi-Aventis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency recently announced they would be reviewing Lantus (insulin glargine) after four studies looked at the potential link between the drug and cancer in diabetics.

"Three of the four studies suggested a very slightly increased risk of cancer associated with use of Lantus, while the fourth study found no link between the drug and the development of cancer," Health Canada said in an advisory Thursday. ...more

Antipsychotic drugs being dispensed more often: Study

From Canada.com:
Antipsychotic drugs are increasingly being prescribed to senior citizens to treat symptoms of dementia, despite the risk of serious side-effects and even death that some of them pose, according to a new study.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information report released Thursday, found that the proportion of Canadian seniors who submitted claims for antipsychotic drugs through public drug plans in six different provinces, increased to five per cent from 4.3 per cent between 2001 and 2007.

The jump occurred during a period when several warnings about the risks of certain antipsychotic drugs among patients with dementia were issued by Health Canada, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and by drug manufacturers, based on studies that had shown an increased risk of stroke or death. Guidelines were also issued that advised doctors to strongly weigh the benefits of the antipsychotic drugs against their risks. ...more

Pfizer Fails to Maintain Patent on Norvasc in Canada

From Bloomberg:
Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, failed to maintain its patent on the hypertension drug Norvasc in Canada after a federal judge granted Ratiopharm GmbH permission to sell a generic version of the medicine.

More than 7.8 million prescriptions of amlodipine besylate, marketed by Pfizer as Norvasc, are sold annually in Canada, Ulm, Germany-based Ratiopharm said today. A generic version probably will save Canadian patients about C$180 million ($155 million) a year, the closely held company said. Pfizer said it will appeal.

“We are extremely pleased at the decision by the Federal Court,” Jean-Guy Goulet, chief executive officer of Ratiopharm Canada, said in a statement. “This decision opens the amlodipine patent to generic manufacturers in Canada, the last major jurisdiction where the patent was held.”

Ratiopharm challenged the Canadian patent in 2004 and won in 2006. Pfizer successfully reversed the ruling on appeal. Ratiopharm then sued to invalidate Pfizer’s patent, with Judge Roger Hughes ruling in favor of Ratiopharm yesterday. ...more

Drug spending continues to rise: OECD

From the London (Ont.) Free Press:
Spending on prescription and non-prescription drugs continues to rise in Canada, making us the second-highest per-capita drug spender among western nations.

But the pharmaceutical industry says it’s money well used because effective new drugs can reduce costs in other parts of the health-care system.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development figures show Canada’s pharmaceutical spending averaged $691 US per person in 2007, up from $644 the previous year. In 1960, the first year for which the OECD compiled data, Canadians spent just $16 apiece on pharmaceuticals.

The top spender in 2007 was the United States, at $878 per capita.

Canadian drug spending also rose slightly as a slice of overall health spending, to 17.7% of the total. It’s been inching up since the early ’60s, when it was 12.9%. The figure includes medical “non-durables” such as bandages and vitamins, not just prescription drugs. ...more

Blood test may miss statin-related muscle injury: study

From CBC News:
Muscle damage related to the use of statins is not uncommon, but now researchers say tissue classified as injured by the cholesterol-lowering drugs can't always be detected through a standard blood test.

Studies suggest 10 to 15 per cent of people taking statins experience some kind of muscle pain or weakness as a side effect of the treatment. A smaller but unknown percentage have stronger, persistent pain, called myopathy.

If doctors suspect statins are causing pain, they usually test for an enzyme in the blood known as creatin phosphokinase (CPK), which leaks from damaged muscles.

But a study by U.S. and Swiss researchers published in the July 7 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal found muscle damage even when tests came back negative for elevated levels of serum CPK.

The researchers looked at leg muscle biopsies from 44 people who had "clinically diagnosed statin-associated myopathy" and were either currently taking statins or had recently taken them.

They found that 25 of those patients also had muscle injury, in spite of normal blood tests. Only one patient with "structural injury" had a circulating level of creatine phosphokinase that was elevated more than the upper limit of normal, the researchers said. ...more

Health Canada, FDA warn of swine flu scams

From the National Post:
Health authorities in Canada and the United States are on high alert for Internet scams related to swine flu and are cracking down on websites that are selling unauthorized products and making illegal claims about how to prevent and treat the illness.

Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are tracking the websites and have issued dozens of warning letters to force the removal of offensive claims.

Among the products that have popped up online are: a pill that is purported to cure a swine-flu infection within hours; a spray that claimed to leave a layer of ionic silver on the skin that would kill the virus; fake test kits; a shampoo; nasal sprays; wall-mounted ultraviolet light machines that allegedly prevent the spread and destroy the virus; and an electronic instrument that declared its "photobionic energy" and "deeply penetrating mega-frequency life-force energy waves"would strengthen the immune system and prevent infection. The machine costs thousands of dollars. ...more

Asthma drug linked to suicide attempts, thoughts of self-harm

From Canada.com:
The side-effects of a popular asthma medication that has been sold in Canada for 12 years has been linked to suicide attempts and thoughts of suicide, as well as feelings of depression and hostility.

The July 2009 issue of the Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter from Health Canada cites montelukast sodium — which has been marketed in Canada since 1997 as Singulair — as having several connections to the alarming reactions.

Between its introduction to the Canadian market and Jan. 31, 2009, Singulair has been linked to two suicide attempts in Canada and 11 cases where users had thoughts of suicide or self-harm. In 29 other cases, 14 of which were labelled as "serious adverse reactions," those affected suffered from depression, hostility or other psychosis. No deaths have been linked to the drug's side-effects. ...more

Expansion returns Jean Coutu to profitability

From the Vancouver Sun:
Canadian pharmacy company Jean Coutu Group Inc. reported a profit of $10.3-million in the first quarter on Tuesday, thanks to several franchise store openings.

The earnings for the first quarter ended May 30 of the 2010 fiscal year, at 4 cents per share, are an improvement over a net loss of $20.2-million (8 cents) in the same period last year.

Revenue, from merchandise sales to franchises plus franchising activities, rose almost 8% to $619.3-million from $574.3-million in the first quarter of 2009.

"We have reached our objectives in spite of the economic conditions that prevailed during this quarter," Francois Coutu, chief executive, said in a statement. "We intend to maintain the rhythm of our network's expansion and renovation projects and the development of our product offering." ...more

Monday, July 06, 2009

Drug regulators seek curbs on acetaminophen products

From the Calgary Herald:
American drug regulators are considering pulling some products with acetaminophen off the shelves and Health Canada is keeping a close eye on the deliberations as it also moves to warn consumers about the risk of liver damage due to an overdose of the drug.

Acetaminophen, widely used as a pain reliever and to reduce fever, is generally a safe and effective drug, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but when a patient exceeds the recommended dosage, it has been known to cause abnormalities in liver function, liver failure and death.

The FDA has made various efforts since the 1990s to stem what it calls "a public health concern," but it has been unsuccessful in reducing the number of cases of liver damage related to the drug. ..more

Canadian-made HIV vaccine close to human trial

From the National Post:
It has been 20 years in the making but researchers at the University of Western Ontario say they're confident their HIV vaccine is only months away from being approved for human trials.

Lead researcher Dr. Chil-Yong Kang said Thursday the approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can come as soon as two or three months.

"We've been working on the HIV virus since 1987. This is a very important day for us," Dr. Kang said while attending a conference in South Korea. "It is a very important milestone for us, this vaccine."

The SAV001-H vaccine has already been tested on monkeys and rats with no side effects. ...more

Antipsychotic drug use spiralling in kids, research says

From CBC News:
Medical research out of the University of British Columbia suggests the number of children taking medications known as atypical antipsychotics has increased tenfold over the past decade, CBC News has learned.

The drugs — a class of medicines used to treat psychosis and other mental and emotional conditions — can have potentially serious side-effects, and are linked to increases in stroke and sudden death in adults.

Health Canada has not approved atypical antipsychotics for children.

"None of the atypical antipsychotics approved in Canada [Risperidone, Quetiapine, Olanzapine, Clozapine, Paliperidone, Ziprasidone] are indicated for use in children," Philippe Laroche, a Health Canada spokesman, told CBC News in an email on Thursday. ...more

Health Canada weighs options as U.S. FDA adds "black box" warnings

From the Ottawa Citizen:
Health Canada is still in discussions with Pfizer Inc., about whether to add safety warnings to packages containing anti-smoking drugs that may have psychiatric side effects, including suicidal thoughts.

South of the border, U.S. health officials Wednesday ordered Pfizer Inc and GlaxoSmithKline PLC to add strong "black box" warnings on their anti-smoking drugs to highlight the risk of serious mental health problems.

Philippe Laroche, spokesman for Health Canada, said the federal agency expect to reach an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant by the end of this summer, or the fall.

"In addition to updated safety information regarding the risk of psychiatric events, new labelling will also incorporate information regarding angioedema, serious skin reactions and accidental injury," said Laroche in an email to Canwest News Service.

The U.S. warnings, which must be added to Pfizer's Champix and Glaxo's Zyban, follow more than five thousand reports of depression, hostility and other behavioural changes in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration said. ...more

Tamiflu-resistant strain of swine flu found in Hong Kong

From CBC News:
Health officials in Hong Kong reported Friday a single instance in which a strain of the swine flu was found to be resistant to Tamiflu, the main antiviral drug used to treat the virus.

The case involved a 16-year-old girl who came from the United States in mid-June, had mild symptoms, and was eventually discharged.

The current strain of H1N1 influenza A virus has been circulating in several countries since it first appeared in Mexico in April.

The Tamiflu-resistant strain in Hong Kong was found during routine sensitivity testing of the swine flu virus to both oseltamivir and zanamivir, the Hong Kong Department of Health said in a statement on its website.

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) are the two antiviral drugs that appear to be effective in treating the H1N1 virus, Health Canada says. ...more

Cardiovascular medication costs jumped 200%

From CTV News:
The use of cardiovascular drugs has increased so dramatically in Canada that costs associated with the medications have jumped 200 per cent in a decade, new research suggests.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, put the total cost of cardiovascular drugs in 2006 at more than $5 billion. Statins, which lower cholesterol, accounted for nearly 40 per cent of those costs.

According to the researchers, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death and disability in Canada, and cardiovascular drugs are the most commonly prescribed medications.

If the pace continues, the researchers warned, costs could spiral to $10.6 billion by 2020 and could threaten the viability of government-funded drug insurance programs.

"This rapid escalation in costs for cardiovascular drugs threatens the sustainability of public drug insurance programs," the authors wrote. "Increases of this magnitude over such a relatively short period deserve further scrutiny." ...more

HSE paying pharmacists full price for discounted drugs

This sounds similar to generic rebates in Canada...

From the Irish Business News:
Pharmacists are being offered discounts of as much as 80 per cent off the list price they invoice the Health Service Executive (HSE) for certain medicines. Discounts of 40, 50 and 60 per cent on bulk purchases by pharmacies were not uncommon.

Documents seen by this newspaper show major discounts being offered to pharmacists on a wide range of some of the most commonly used medicines, including antibiotics, painkillers and anti-cholesterol drugs, by pharmaceutical companies.

A document written by one pharmaceutical company clearly illustrated the potential saving to pharmacists.

It outlined how the pharmacy could invoice the HSE just over €4,000 for a large batch of anti-depressants under an agreed contract with the state, but the pharmacist could avail of discounts enabling it to purchase them for just over €1,000. ...more

Pharmacist doles out bitter pill

From Express Buzz:
All he needed was two tablets to save his mother which would cost him more than Rs 2. But, Rafeeq Ahmed, had not bargained for the rude shock that life was waiting to throw back at him. On reaching the pharmacy, Rafeeq realised that he had forgotten to take his wallet.

As his need was urgent, Rafeeq requested the pharmacist to give him the tablets and he would pay later, but the pharmacist refused to oblige.

A desperate Rafeeq tried to snatch the tablets and left his watch behind at the counter but the pharmacist caught him and beat him up leaving him with a fractured jaw.

Rafeeq had to shell out Rs 70,000 for his surgery and now wants to sue the pharmacist. He has filed a complaint with the Hennur police on Friday. ...more

Pharmacists try to cash in on swine flu

From News.com.au:
Fears have emerged that pharmacists are trying to cash in on the shortage of the one drug experts say can treat swine flu.

A pharmacist in Sydney's northwest has been found selling a course of 10 tablets of Tamiflu for $68.85. That is about $20 more than his four competitors who are within walking distance.

Customers are paying the price after finding that other pharmacists have run out of the tablets or do not realise they are paying too much.

"He is taking advantage of people because a lot of people need this," the mother of a nine-year-old boy who was prescribed Tamiflu said yesterday.

"I went there after another chemist had none but I didn't realise I was paying more. He has hiked up the price because there is not enough around."

Even one of his competitors expressed surprise yesterday at how much the pharmacist was charging, saying it was "a bit steep". ...more