Thursday, October 29, 2009

OxyContin violence escalates

From the Calgary Sun:
Digging in dumpsters to find used painkiller patches to chew on, drinking cough syrup and vomiting it into a bowl to pass to a fellow addict, holding up a pharmacy.

These are the desperate measures taken to feed drug addictions -- dangerous and, at times, deadly.

Calgary has seen an alarming spike in drugstore robberies with OxyContin the pill of choice -- another example of extreme steps fuelled by the need for narcotics.

Forty-three pharmacies have been hit so far this year, up from 17 last year and police are now looking for a culprit behind some half-dozen cases citywide over the last two weeks.

"It's either a crime of opportunity or a crime of need," police spokesman Kevin Brookwell says.

"Thank goodness, up until this point, no one has been hurt." ...more

Doctors question ethics of needles for children

From the National Post:
With Canada on the brink of one of its largest-ever vaccination drives, a group of academics and doctors is urging health-care workers to make flu and other shots less painful for children, suggesting it is actually "unethical " for them to ignore the sting of injections.

Many doctors and parents believe a needle is nothing to fret about, with the hurt lasting only a moment and leaving no long-term effects, the researchers acknowledge in a series of medical-journal papers just published.

Using one of several possible pain-reduction techniques, however, could help avert needle phobias that affect as much as 10% of the population, last years and undermine vaccination campaigns, they argue.

Those methods -- from anesthetic cream applied to the skin to simply giving babies sugar water -- are seldom employed now, the panel says in the journal Clinical Therapeutics. ...more

Coutu Plans Doubling Generic Drug Sales, CEO Says

From Bloomberg:
Jean Coutu Group Inc., Canada’s second-largest pharmacy chain, plans to at least double generic drug sales in the next five years as the company attracts new customers and patents expire on widely prescribed medicines, Chief Executive Officer Francois J. Coutu said.

“For us, it’s clear that generics are an area that will grow quickly,” Coutu said in an Oct. 27 interview at company headquarters in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil. It depends on the speed with which patented drug formulations become available for copying, often as cheaper versions, “but we think doubling or even tripling revenue in the next few years is a realistic target,” he said.

Jean Coutu, which has 364 franchised stores in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick, expanded into the generics business in 2007, when it acquired closely held Canadian manufacturer Pro-Doc Ltd. for an undisclosed amount. Pro-Doc had revenue of C$22.7 million ($22.1 million) in its fiscal second quarter, a fourfold increase from the same period a year earlier. Jean Coutu’s revenue for the quarter totaled C$608.7 million. ...more

Antipsychotic drugs linked to childhood obesity

From CBC News:
More than a third of children and teenagers taking certain antipsychotic drugs became overweight or obese in the first three months of treatment, a new U.S. study has found.

A newer class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotic medications can be lifesaving for young people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe aggression associated with autism, according to an editorial accompanying the study in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the widespread use of the drugs should be reconsidered, given the risk of weight gain and the long-term risk of cardiovascular and metabolic problems, wrote Dr. Christopher Varley and Dr. Jon McClellan of Seattle Children's Hospital.

For the study, the researchers looked at 205 children and teens aged four to 19 with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and disruptive or aggressive behaviour spectrum disorders. ...more

The road to roll-out

From CBC News:
It's normally a complicated and lengthy process to get new drugs approved in Canada. After years of research and development, a drug company is required to conduct extensive clinical trials to back up its claims that the drug will work the way the company says it's supposed to, before it can submit it for approval.

Once the data's in, the company has to assemble the appropriate paperwork — the New Drug Submission — and ship it off to Health Canada's Therapeutic Products Directorate branch. If everything's in order, and Health Canada's satisfied that the drug's benefits will far outweigh its risks, it takes an average of 18 months for approval to come through.

It helps if the drug has already been approved in the United States.

That's the story for virtually all drugs — including vaccines. Yet it took only a few months for Health Canada to give the go ahead to Arepranix H1N1. That's the vaccine GlaxoSmithKline has developed exclusively in the Canadian fight against the swine flu pandemic. ...more

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Drugmakers strike back at generics

From the National Post:
When the blockbuster heart pill Norvasc lost its patent protection earlier this year, generic manufacturers couldn't wait to get into the lucrative market for Canada's third top-selling prescription drug, predicting they could save patients $180-million a year with their cheaper copies.

But the Saskatchewan government has just awarded its first contract for a generic version of the medicine to a "generic" branch of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that makes Norvasc itself, feeding concerns that such tendering systems will become the norm and inadvertently leave Canadians paying much more for prescription drugs.

Pfizer lost a drawn-out court battle recently to try to keep its patent-protection in force longer and delay any generic competition for another year.

Like other brand-name companies, though, the world's largest pharma firm sometimes enters the generic market when its drugs go off patent, and its GenMed division offered Saskatchewan's drug plan the lowest price among the eight competitors that started selling copies of Norvasc when the patent expired last week....more

Catholic, a chemist but he won't sell the pill

From the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:
A pharmacist has stopped selling contraceptives because of his strong religious beliefs.

Trevor Dal Broi is telling women using oral contraceptive pills for birth control to take their scripts to another chemist.

He removed condoms from his East Griffith Pharmacy several weeks ago and has banned the sale of emergency contraception morning-after pills.

These pills have been available without a prescription for between $20 and $30 since 2004.

Mr Dal Broi is handing out a leaflet to women with scripts for the contraceptive pill saying that he accepts the official teaching of the Catholic Church against the use of artificial contraception and has a moral objection to dispensing them. ...more

Jean Coutu second-quarter revenue up 7.3 per cent, chain earns $14.9 million

From the Canadian Press:
Growing second-quarter sales at Jean Coutu's (TSX:PJC.A) generic drug manufacturing subsidiary helped the Quebec pharmacy giant offset on its books the final impact from losses generated by a big investment in the U.S.-based Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) chain.

Drugmaking division Pro-Doc reported gross sales of $22.7 million in the quarter, up from $5.2 million a year earlier. Jean Coutu's pharmacists, who are free to order from any generic manufacturer, rely on Pro Doc to supply about 60 per cent of its needs for a lineup of some 300 drugs.

Jean Coutu has finally written off its 28 per cent stake in Rite Aid, as losses exceeded the carrying value of the investment. During the quarter, its share of the U.S. chain's losses amounted to $24.3 million compared with $73.1 million a year earlier.

Overall, Jean Coutu earned $14.9 million, or seven cents per share, in the period ended Aug. 29. That compared with a loss of $39.1 million or 16 cents a year earlier.

"We are very satisfied with our second-quarter results," CEO Francois Coutu said during a conference call. ...more

Pharmacists relish evolving role in industry

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
A passion for science combined with a desire to work with people equals the perfect prescription for a successful career as a pharmacist.

It's a profession in high demand in B.C. as well in the rest of the world, and with pharmacists taking on additional roles to provide health-care services in the province, it's becoming an even more interesting career option.

Beginning this fall, B.C. pharmacists will be able to administer injections to patients -- including the H1N1 flu vaccine, which will reduce the pressure on doctors' offices and make it more convenient for people to protect themselves from the virus.

Earlier this year, the province also gave pharmacists the authority to renew and alter prescriptions without first sending patients to their doctor's office. ...more

Calgary residents swarm seasonal flu clinics

From the Calgary Herald:
Thousands of Calgarians packed flu shot clinics as Alberta launched a massive influenza immunization campaign Tuesday, braving winter driving conditions and long lineups for a vaccine against seasonal strains of the virus.

Alberta Health Services said 2,950 people were inoculated against the seasonal flu at four sites in the city by Tuesday afternoon, nearly double the number that turned out on the first day of last year's program.

The clinics for seasonal influenza are the first phase of government's two-part flu plan, which also includes a separate vaccine for H1N1 influenza that is expected to be available in November.

"I'm thrilled by the lineups," said Dr. Judy MacDonald, deputy medical officer of health with the provincial superboard. "People want to do the best they can to protect themselves." ...more

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Smoking cessation drug's link to depression countered

From CBC News:
A newer smoking cessation drug is not linked to an increased risk of self-harm or depression, a British study suggests.

Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have warned that people taking varenicline — sold in Canada as Champix and in the U.S. as Chantix — have experienced unusual feelings of agitation, depressed mood, hostility, changes in behaviour or impulsive or disturbing thoughts, such as ideas of self-harm or of harming others.

The smoking cessation product is effective. British researchers writing in Friday's issue of the British Medical Journal looked for more evidence of adverse neuropsychiatric effects related to the drug. ...more

Labelling deadline may keep natural health products off shelves

From CBC News:
Hundreds of natural health products could disappear from store shelves next spring because of a Health Canada backlog in approving licences, warns the Canadian Health Food Association.

"We're at a critical stage," said Carl Carter, director of regulatory affairs and policy development for the CHFA.

"The biggest concern we have at this point is the standards of evidence Health Canada has been requesting for products' efficacy," he told CBC News.

Firms that make and sell natural health products are not opposed to being regulated. In fact, they welcome the Health Canada stamp of approval, said Carter. However, he said the "pendulum has swung too far" in terms of proving that a drug works. ...more

Court upholds $2M award to Wal-Mart pharmacist

From the Associated Press:
A former pharmacist at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed she was fired after asking to be paid the same as her male colleagues is entitled to $2 million in damages awarded by a jury, the state's highest court ruled Monday.

Cynthia Haddad was fired in 2004 after working more than 10 years for Wal-Mart, seven of them at a store in Pittsfield.

Wal-Mart claimed she was fired because she left the pharmacy unattended and allowed a technician to use her computer security code to issue prescriptions during her absence.

Haddad, however, claimed in a discrimination lawsuit that she was fired because she complained about being paid less than her male counterparts, including a bonus given to pharmacy managers. The company paid the bonus, then fired her two weeks later.

In 2007, a jury found that the company discriminated against Haddad, and awarded her $1 million in compensatory damages and another $1 million in punitive damages. A judge later revoked the $1 million award for punitive damages, finding there was an insufficient basis for the jury's decision. ...more