Thursday, September 24, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alberta reports drug-resistant case of H1N1

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

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

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

Canadian drug maker facing ban on U.S. exports

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

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

It only affects products destined for the U.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-diabetes drug effective against cancer: study

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

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

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

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

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

Calgary pharmacist guilty of trafficking painkillers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Drug combo helps Bell palsy patients recover

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

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

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

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

Pharmacists to join swine flu fight

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

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

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

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

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

Canada shuns drugs without prescriptions

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

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

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

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

New diabetes drugs added to Saskatchewan's drug formulary

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

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

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

Canada will get vaccine by October: health chief

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

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

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

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

First Nations need own health system: task force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caution on mix of cholesterol-lowering meds

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

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

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