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Allegra’s OTC switch could make it a big player in market

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Though Schering-Plough’s — now Merck’s — Claritin and Johnson & Johnson’s Zyrtec product lines have dominated the over-the-counter antihistamine market, the big share of the prescription antihistamine market held by Sanofi-Aventis’ Allegra (fexofenadine hydrochloride) could give it a battering ram to bust in as well, thanks to the big break Sanofi got in the form of a Food and Drug Administration approval of an OTC switch for the drug.

(THE NEWS: Sanofi successfully switches Allegra. For the full story, click here)

On the subject of big-ticket mergers and acquisitions in the drug industry, the entry of Pfizer and Merck into the biotech industry with their respective purchases of Wyeth and Schering-Plough — as well as French drug maker Sanofi’s efforts to acquire Genzyme — has been the dominant theme as the business model of developing widely used blockbuster drugs has begun to collapse due to generic competition.

But the three companies also have sought to drive growth by entering the OTC market, with Sanofi getting into the business through its purchase of Chattem. That acquisition will give it the necessary expertise and market access to turn Allegra into a major player in the OTC antihistamine market once it becomes available in March.

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UT Southwestern may have found potential cure for Type 1 diabetes

BY Allison Cerra

DALLAS — Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center suggested that taking away the actions of a certain hormone can alter Type 1 diabetes into "an asymptomatic, noninsulin-dependent disorder."

When testing mice, the researchers found that insulin is not depended on when the body’s hormone, glucagon, is suppressed.

"We’ve all been brought up to think insulin is the all-powerful hormone without which life is impossible, but that isn’t the case," said Roger Unger, professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study appearing online and in the February issue of Diabetes. "If diabetes is defined as restoration of glucose homeostasis to normal, then this treatment can perhaps be considered very close to a ‘cure.’"

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is a disease that occurs when the body does not produce insulin. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

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Depressive diabetics’ spouses also experience distress, study finds

BY Allison Cerra

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Spouses of older patients with diabetes tend to experience distress if the diabetic patient has symptoms of depression, according to a new study.

Researchers at Purdue University based their study on statistical models with 185 couples older than 50 years of age, noting that after patients and spouses completed individual surveys that measured distress related to diabetes — such as adherence to treatment recommendations and depressive symptoms — they found that distress felt by spouses is similar to what patients felt, which could contribute to their own depressive symptoms, including irritability or sadness.

These depressive symptoms, the researchers noted, come from patients’ own anxieties about living with the disease or from caring for someone with the disease, but not necessarily because the other person is struggling.

"Because spouses’ distress is not always directly linked to feelings of their partners, it tells us that we need to pay more attention to the spouse, as well as the patient," said lead researcher Melissa Franks, an assistant professor of child development and family studies. "Understanding the triggers for depressive symptoms can help practitioners and experts better care for patients and spouses as individuals and as a unit."

The findings appeared in the December 2010 issue of the journal Family Relations.

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