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Amgen, GSK, Novartis win top drug industry award

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Biotechnology company Amgen won a 2009 Prix Galien Award for a drug used to treat a rare autoimmune bleeding disorder, the Prix Galien USA committee announced Thursday.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based drug maker won the Prix Galien USA Best Biotechnology Product award for Nplate (romiplostim), the first treatment specifically developed for chronic immune thrombocytopenic purpura and the first peptibody protein approved by the Food and Drug Administration. ITP results from a low number of platelets, causing the blood to fail to clot as it should and resulting in purple bruises on the skin and mucous membranes.

British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline also won the Best Biotechnology Product award, for Promacta (eltrombopag), used to treat thrombocytopenia.

Novartis won the Best Pharmaceutical Product award for the cancer drug Gleevec (imatinib mesylate). French pharmacist Roland Mehl started the Prix Galien in 1970, and it was brought to the United States in 2007. The award is meant to recognize technical, scientific and clinical research achievements in the development of medicines and medical technologies.

“The 2009 Prix Galien USA winners represent what is possible when basic scientific research translates into drug development and discovery,” New York University School of Medicine professor and Prix Galien USA committee chairman Gerald Weissmann said in a statement. “We all benefit from the research that provides new treatments for the millions of cancer patients worldwide and for patients living with rare blood diseases.”

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CVS Caremark to distribute free seasonal flu-shot vouchers to the unemployed

BY Allison Cerra

WOONSOCKET, R.I. In response to the current economic state, CVS Caremark announced it has begun to provide 100,000 free seasonal flu shots to the unemployed as part of its efforts to help keep Americans healthy this flu season. The initiative kicks off Thursday at The Work Place, a member of the Massachusetts Career One-Stop Initiative in Boston.

In more than 20 markets across the country, CVS Caremark will offer vouchers for free seasonal flu shots worth a total of $3 million. The vouchers will be distributed at participating One-Stop Career Centers and other select employment training agencies that offer career resources, training, and workforce information to job seekers, students, and businesses.

Beginning the week of Oct. 5, participating employment centers will offer free flu shot vouchers for distribution to their unemployed clients. The vouchers can be redeemed at CVS/pharmacy stores during a scheduled flu shot clinic or at MinuteClinic health centers located within select CVS/pharmacy stores during their regular hours of operation; no appointment necessary. Free flu shot vouchers will not be available at CVS/pharmacy or MinuteClinic.

Participating employment centers are located in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

“The unemployed are particularly vulnerable this flu season, as many lack health insurance or employer coverage for a flu shot. We are excited to get this program underway and to start providing protection for this group as early in the flu season as possible,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., chief medical officer for CVS Caremark.

More information on contacting the individual employment centers participating in the free flu voucher program can be found at www.cvs.com/flu.

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Walgreens opens 7,000th store in Brooklyn, N.Y.

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens is celebrating the grand opening Thursday of its 7,000th store.

Brooklyn, N.Y. state and local officials will welcome the retailer to another New York neighborhood during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon Eastern time. The new store in the Gravesend neighborhood, near iconic Coney Island.

As part of the grand opening, the AARP/Walgreens Wellness Tour is offering free health screenings to all adult attendees and flu shot vouchers to uninsured adults in the store’s parking lot today. The appearance by the customized, traveling health-screening bus is part of a nationwide tour of nine vehicles to deliver free health screenings across the country for early detection and prevention of diseases, as well as health education. Screenings test for total cholesterol level, blood pressure, bone density, glucose levels and body mass index.

The Coney Island-themed grand opening will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony, food, music and entertainment. Guest speakers include Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz and other state and local officials. Walgreens also will donate $7,000 to Lenny’s Lighthouse, a Brooklyn charity that provides support to people with disabilities.

“For the last decade we have focused on finding the best corners in America to provide consumer goods and pharmacy and health and wellness services,” said Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson. “Today, more than 50% of the U.S. population lives within two miles of a Walgreens and close to 75% lives within five miles.”

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