Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reforms not to blame for drug shortages: group

From CBC News:
Recent changes to provincial drug plans are not to blame for significant medication shortages, the Canadian generic drug industry says.

Pharmacists in New Brunswick say they have been struggling to find alternatives to fill prescriptions, substituting products when items are not available.

"Certain manufacturers don't seem to be able to supply the product right now," said Donna Chauvin, a Fredericton pharmacist. "We're noticing we have to switch strengths of one drug for another."

The head of the provincial pharmacists' association said pharmacists have speculated that reforms in other provinces are to blame for the shortages.

"It's not out of the question for a manufacturer to decide, 'You know what, we're going to sell every molecule we make this year. Maybe we make sure those products make their way into more profitable markets,'" said Paul Blanchard, executive director for the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association.

Ontario decided in June that generic drug prices will be cut to 25 per cent of the price of patented drugs, down from 50 per cent. In July, British Columbia decided to drop the cost of generic drugs from 65 per cent of the brand name cost to 35 per cent. Alberta and Quebec reached similar cost-cutting deals with the drug industry recently. ...more

Moroccan pharmacies threatened over cross symbols

From Magharebia:
A self-proclaimed "lover of al-Qaeda and Jihad" has given Moroccan pharmacy owners one month to remove cross symbols from storefronts or else face beheading.

"In 2009, crusade France lured owners of pharmacies with financial benefits and discounts in medications in return for placing the green cross along the green crescent," said a letter published in late July by several online forums. "We demand you remove the crosses off the fa├žades of your pharmacies and to respect our religion," the web threat continued.

"Forewarned is forearmed," the unnamed writer said. "We give you and those who work with you an interval of one month to return to your true nature and nation."

The deadline expires August 28th.

Morocco has not issued an official response to the online ultimatum. Communication Minister Khalid Naciri on August 17th told Magharebia that "the government can't issue reactions to each and every threat posted on the internet". ...more

Drugs protect monkeys from Ebola, US study finds

From Reuters:
U.S. government researchers working to find ways to treat the highly deadly Ebola virus said on Sunday a new approach from AVI BioPharma Inc (AVII.O) saved monkeys after they were infected.

Two experimental treatments protected more than 60 percent of monkeys infected with Ebola and all the monkeys infected with a related virus called Marburg, the team at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland reported. ...more

Many drugs for U.S. kids tested in poor countries

From Reuters:
A law intended to speed up development of new drugs for U.S. kids has ended up financing clinical trials in poor countries, where the medicines might never become available.

That's the conclusion of a new report whose authors say the situation raises ethical concerns.

More than a third of the published trials performed under 1997 legislation called the Pediatric Exclusivity Provision were carried out at least partly in developing or transitioning nations, such as Uganda and India, researchers found.

"The trend that we describe brings up some scientific and ethical problems," said Dr. Sara K. Pasquali, a pediatrician at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, whose findings appear in the journal Pediatrics.

"Oftentimes, access to a study may be the only access to medical care a family has," she said of trial participants in developing countries. Once the testing is done, however, it's unclear if effective drugs will be marketed in the country in question, and whether they will be affordable. ...more

Fasting women risking health by taking tablets to delay periods

From the Arab News:
There is a growing tendency among young women, especially unmarried ones, to take drugs to delay menstrual cycle in the holy month of Ramadan.

“Out of their eagerness to observe fasting throughout the month of Ramadan without missing any days, many young women customers, including unmarried, are coming to buy Primolut N tablet. The sale of the tablet is on the rise with the advent of the fasting month of Ramadan,” Al-Watan daily reported, quoting a pharmacist in Taif.

According to the pharmacist, most of the customers of this tablet are unmarried girls. “They are not at all bothered about the side effects after using these tablets. They approach familiar pharmacists to buy it without a prescription,” he said.

Primolut N tablet contains the active ingredient norethisterone, which is a synthetic hormonal product similar to the natural female hormone progesterone. It is used in a wide range of menstrual disorders. ...more

'Magic drug' gives hope to bipolar patients

From the Vancouver Sun:
A new antidepressant being tested in Canada appears to do what no other drug can -- increase connections between brain cells within hours to swiftly improve symptoms.

The finding by Yale University researchers may explain how one dose of ketamine can reduce symptoms of depression within 40 minutes among the hardest-to-treat cases, and could help spur development of quick-acting antidepressants.

About 17 per cent of the Canadian population will experience major depression at some point in their lives.

Prozac-like drugs and other antidepressants take at least two weeks to produce an effect, and sometimes months for a full effect.

Even then, they work well in only about a third of patients.

The risk of suicide increases during those dangerous weeks or months of lag time. ...more

Monday, August 09, 2010

New cancer drugs used less often in Canada

From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
Groups that advocate for cancer patients are using a new report from the United Kingdom to bolster their call for greater access to cancer drugs in Canada.

The report said that of 14 countries studied, Canada ranked 13th in usage of cancer drugs launched in the last five years.

On Thursday, the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada renewed its request that the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health create a national catastrophic drug plan for cancer patients.

"I think this means that many cancer patients, many Canadians, aren’t getting the treatments that might help them for their cancer," Dr. Kong Khoo, vice-chairman of the coalition, said from Kelowna, B.C. ...more

Controversial drug proves highly effective in treating depression

From the Globe and Mail:
Medications used to treat depression may have powerful side effects, take weeks or longer to work, or have limited effectiveness in some individuals.

But there is growing excitement – and even surprise – about a new treatment that relieves symptoms of depression in some patients in a matter of minutes, a discovery that could chart a new path in research of the disease.

The medication that is gaining more attention, and respect, in the mental health field is ketamine.

A small study of 18 patients with bipolar disorder resistant to treatment published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry found depressive symptoms improved significantly in 71 per cent of those treated with ketamine, compared with a six-per-cent improvement in the group that was given a placebo. Among those given ketamine, depressive symptoms began to improve in as little as 40 minutes. ...more