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Armada Health Care opens registration for 2010 Specialty Pharmacy Business Summit

BY Allison Cerra

SHORT HILLS, N.J. One of the nation’s largest specialty pharmacy channel management organizations is gearing up for its annual summit.

Armada Health Care announced this week that registration is now open for the 2010 Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit, slated for May. The summit, Armada said, “will deliver every attendee an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about the growing specialty pharmacy channel. [The summit] will also provide insight into future changes in this market through valuable business sessions and educational seminars.”

For registration and more information about this nationally recognized event, visit www.armadasummit.com or contact Armada Health Care at (973) 564-8004.

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CRN challenges folic acid/lung cancer link

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Patients with heart disease in Norway, a country with no fortification of foods with folic acid, had an associated increased risk of cancer and death from any cause if they had received treatment with folic acid and vitamin B12, according to a study in the Nov. 18 issue of JAMA.

Most epidemiological studies have found inverse associations between folate (a B vitamin) intake and risk of colorectal cancer, although such associations have been inconsistent or absent for other cancers, according to background information in the article. “Experimental evidence suggests that folate deficiency may promote initial stages of carcinogenesis, whereas high doses of folic acid may enhance growth of cancer cells,” the authors wrote. “Since 1998, many countries, including the United States, have implemented mandatory folic acid fortification of flour and grain products to reduce the risk of neural-tube birth defects. … Recently, concerns have emerged about the safety of folic acid, in particular with respect to cancer risk.”

Retorted Andrew Shao, VP scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, “The real headline of this study should be that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer; the study found that a total of 94% of the subjects who developed lung cancer were either current or former smokers. For years, the vast body of scientific evidence has shown that individuals who have smoked at any point in their lives are at a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer. Most health experts would agree that the No. 1 way to prevent lung cancer is to abstain from smoking.”

The two randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials included 6,837 patients with ischemic heart disease who were treated with B vitamins or placebo between 1998 and 2005, and were followed up through Dec. 31, 2007. The researchers found that after a median of 39 months of treatment and an additional 38 months of post-trial observational follow-up, 288 participants (8.4%) who did not receive folic acid plus vitamin B12 versus 341 participants (10%) who received such treatment were diagnosed with cancer — a 21% increased risk.

A total of 100 patients (2.9%) who did not receive folic acid plus vitamin B12 versus 136 (4%) who received such treatment died from cancer — a 38% increased risk. A total of 16.1% of patients who received folic acid plus vitamin B12 versus 13.8% who did not receive such treatment died from any cause.

“Our results need confirmation in other populations and underline the call for safety monitoring following the widespread consumption of folic acid from dietary supplements and fortified foods,” the study authors noted.

However, in the United States, where mandatory folic acid fortification has been in effect since 1998, the general rate for total cancer has gone down, not up as this study would suggest. “If high doses of folic acid have a paradoxical effect on lung cancer, then we likely would not have seen these drastic reductions in lung cancer incidence over the past two decades,” Shao said. “It is inappropriate at this point to reach firm conclusions based on such limited data, especially in the face of vast evidence showing benefit for folic acid supplementation.”

Finally, the original studies were secondary prevention trials (i.e., treatment) involving ischemic heart disease patients — not healthy individuals — and the present publication represents findings from the combined trials on cancer obtained from a secondary analysis. Both trials were designed to assess effects on cardiovascular events, not cancer, Shao explained.

“Therefore, not only is it inappropriate to draw any conclusions from these results, but whatever might be concluded does not readily apply to the generally healthy population,” he said.

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Penn Traffic files for Ch. 11 bankruptcy

BY Alaric DeArment

SYRACUSE, N.Y. The troubled operator of three supermarket chains in the Northeast has filed for bankruptcy.

The Penn Traffic Co. announced Wednesday that it had voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection so that it could continue operating its stores while preparing to sell them off. Penn Traffic had announced earlier this month that it had entered a forbearance agreement with its lenders after defaulting on its loans.

The company said it would operate as “debtors-in-possession” under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company operates the P&C Foods, Quality Markets and BiLo banners in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hampshire.

“Our P&C, Quality and BiLo supermarkets remain open for business to serve our customers and communities,” president and CEO Gregory Young said in a statement. “We intend to continue to work closely with our vendor partners to provide the fresh products and good value that our customers have come to expect from our stores.”

Penn Traffic has suffered ill fortunes over the last year. In December 2008, it sold off its wholesale business to C&S Wholesale Grocers for $43 million, a month after it had closed two stores in Oswego, N.Y., and Lebanon, N.H. On Jan. 9, it announced plans to close an additional eight P&C Foods and Quality Markets stores in New York and Vermont.

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