PHARMACY

Antiviral drugs could cause insulin resistance, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

ST. LOUIS — Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, one of the greatest advances has been antiviral drugs that have helped extend the lives of patients with viral infections.

But the drugs also cause insulin resistance, which can put people taking them at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to a new study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, compounds in the drugs known as protease inhibitors interfere with the body’s ability to control blood-sugar levels.

“Our lab has established that one of the effects of these drugs is blocking glucose transport, one of the most important steps in how insulin works,” WUSTL medical professor and lead study author Paul Hruz said. “Now that we’ve identified the main mechanism, we will look to develop new drugs that treat HIV but don’t cause diabetes.”

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Study: Depression may be both a risk factor and consequence of diabetes

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — A new study published in the Nov. 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine suggested there is a two-way relationship between depression and diabetes.

An Pan of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues assessed the relationship between the two diseases among 65,381 women who were ages 50 years to 75 years in 1996. After completing an initial questionnaire about their medical history and health practices, participants completed follow-up questionnaires every two years through 2006. The study subjects were classified as having depression if they reported symptoms of depression, using antidepressant medication or being given a diagnosis of depression by a physician. Women who reported a new diagnosis of diabetes completed a supplementary questionnaire about symptoms, diagnostic tests and treatments, the authors said.

During the 10-year follow-up, 2,844 women were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and 7,415 developed depression. Women with depression were about 17% more likely to develop diabetes after controlling for other risk factors, such as physical activity and body mass index. Those who were taking antidepressants had a 25% higher risk of developing diabetes than those who did not have depression.

After controlling for other risk factors for mood disorders, women with diabetes were 29% more likely to develop depression. Women who took insulin for diabetes had a further increased risk — 53% higher than women without diabetes.

"The findings from this well-characterized cohort of more than 55,000 U.S. women with 10 years’ follow-up add to the growing evidence that depression and diabetes are closely related to each other, and this reciprocal association also depends on the severity or treatment of each condition," the authors wrote. "All the associations were independent of sociodemographic, diet and lifestyle factors."

The study was supported by a National Institutes of Health grant.

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UnitedHealthcare partners with Kroger, Safeway on $2 generic Part D plan

BY Alaric DeArment

MINNETONKA, Minn. — UnitedHealth Group will start a program next year that it said can reduce drug costs to as low as $2 per script, the company said Tuesday.

The program, Pharmacy Saver, will be available to Medicare Part D members and is a collaboration with Kroger, Safeway and Prescription Solutions. The program will allow members to purchase some scripts for $2 for 30- and some 90-day supplies and applies to hundreds of prescription drugs, including 8-of-the-10 most commonly used by UnitedHealthcare Medicare plan members.

“Economic pressures are putting a strain on many people’s budgets, including [those of] many seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries living on fixed incomes,” UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement CEO Tom Paul said. “Pharmacy Saver is another example of our promise to provide our members with affordable prescription drugs.”

The program is similar to one that Walmart and Humana launched at the beginning of October that charges Medicare Part D members a $14.80 monthly premium, generic drug co-payments as low as $2 at Walmart pharmacies and no co-payments for certain generics filled through Humana’s RightSource home-delivery service.

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