PHARMACY

Amgen: Nplate may help patients with autoimmune bleeding disorder

BY Alaric DeArment

ORLANDO, Fla. — A drug made by Amgen maintained blood platelet counts in patients with an autoimmune bleeding disorder, according to results of a five-year study released Sunday.

Amgen announced results of its study of Nplate (romiplostim) in adults with chronic immune thrombocytopenic purpura, in which the body’s own immune system destroys platelets, necessary for clotting of the blood. Results of the study, which showed that 95% of the 292 patients receiving the drug maintained platelet counts, were presented at the annual meeting and exposition of the American Society of Hematology.

“In this study, nearly all Nplate-treated patients were able to maintain platelet counts within the target range for more than five years,” said David Kuter, lead study investigator and chief of hematology at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.

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Ian Read to replace Jeffrey Kindler as Pfizer’s CEO

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Pfizer president and CEO Jeffrey Kindler has retired from the company, the drug maker said Sunday. Ian Read, who currently heads Pfizer’s global biopharmaceutical operations and has worked for the company since 1978, will succeed him.

Kindler cited personal reasons for retiring, saying his around-the-clock work schedule had been “extremely demanding” on him personally, and that he would take time to spend with his family before making his next moves.

“My nearly nine years at Pfizer and, particularly the last four and a half as CEO, have been extremely exciting and rewarding,” Kindler said in a statement. “I feel our team can proudly boast of some transformational accomplishments.”

Kindler oversaw Pfizer’s transformation from a large pharmaceutical company into a highly diversified manufacturer of products ranging from pharmaceuticals for relatively common conditions to biotech drugs and over-the-counter medications, particularly through the company’s acquisition last year of Wyeth.

“In 2006, Jeff Kindler took on the challenge of transforming Pfizer in the face of enormous changes in the global healthcare marketplace and significant patent expirations of major products, including Lipitor,” Pfizer board lead independent director Constance Horner said. “Acting with the highest level of ethics and professionalism, he moved aggressively to drive change at the company, including putting new, more focused and agile business units in place, building and enhancing world-class compliance systems, recruiting talented new leaders and refocusing and streamlining operations in every part of the world.”

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Walgreens puts its money where its mouth is with World AIDS Day campaign

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Pharmacy advocates are using every tool they can to spread the message that pharmacists bring a lot more than prescription services to the healthcare table. So how about a 341-ft. digital billboard looming above Times Square?

(THE NEWS: Walgreens launches high-impact push in support of World AIDS Day campaign. For the full story, click here)

Amid the scramble to implement a massive health-reform law and wrestle the out-of-control health cost spiral back to Earth, the drive by retail pharmacy to assert a more prominent role in the fractured, overwrought U.S. healthcare system is reaching a crescendo. Walgreens, as much as any pharmacy chain, is putting its money where its mouth is.

More specifically, the nation’s top drug chain is pouring more resources into high-profile community health endeavors. The goal: to reach more at-risk patients where they live, shop and work, and to field an army of well-trained patient-care specialists. And the fact that many of them also happen to dispense medicines as bench pharmacists is, at this stage of the clinical-care game, almost beside the point.

Walgreens is making a splash to highlight its partnership with the Greater Than AIDS advocacy organization and its growing arsenal of clinical capabilities for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. It’s heavily promoting those community health services via the massive digital board above its Times Square store, through a new signage and information campaign at more than 200 drug stores that cater heavily to HIV patients and online on two of its websites.

Walgreens already has provided additional training in helping patients live with HIV/AIDS to more than 800 of its pharmacists. Those professionals practice at Walgreens drug stores, medical centers and call centers; over the next year, the company promises to add another 150 locations offering special HIV/AIDS services.

The new alliance with the Greater Than Aids group — and the digital billboard campaign — was kicked off as part of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. But Walgreens clearly has signaled that it is in this for the long haul: the company said it again will team up with Greater Than AIDS to support “HIV Take Action” Month next June.

At that time, the chain will mark the event with special promotions, and participating Walgreens pharmacies will offer in-store services — including HIV testing. Throughout 2011 Walgreens also will post photos submitted by everyday Americans that celebrate personal “deciding moments” in response to HIV/AIDS on its digital billboards in Times Square and Las Vegas, said president of pharmacy services Kermit Crawford.

It’s more than just a public service campaign, and it comes at a critical and hopeful time in the ongoing AIDS epidemic. Pharmaceutical companies now have some 100 new HIV and
 AIDS drugs and vaccines in the pipeline, according to the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and it goes without saying that the successful management of AIDS and HIV depend on both a regimen of high-cost drugs and a high-touch, patient-centered approach to daily care.

Helping those patients continue leading healthy lives is a high calling, and the effort calls out for the kind of up-close-and-personal care that community and specialty pharmacy providers can provide. It’s hard to imagine a bigger stage on which such pharmacy retailers as Walgreens and others truly can demonstrate their value to community health networks across the country.

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