PHARMACY

AstraZeneca plans to expand its prescription drug savings plan

BY Alaric DeArment

WILMINGTON, Del. A drug maker announced Thursday that it plans to expand its prescription drug savings plan.

Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said it would immediately give assistance through its AZ&Me program to qualifying patients who have recently lost jobs, had incomes reduced or experienced changes in marital status or family size. Before, patients would have difficulty applying for the program if they had a change in income or family size and their W-2 statements showed a non-qualifying income.

“AstraZeneca is committed to helping patients get the medicines they need,” AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals U.S. president Rich Fante said in a statement. “Our responsibility goes beyond developing medicines to also making them available to those who cannot afford them.”

The AZ&Me program provides free medicines to people without insurance who make up to $30,000 a year and to families of four making up to $60,000, as well as low-cost medicines to Medicare Part D beneficiaries and free medicines to non-profit healthcare facilities such as free clinics and community health centers.

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PHARMACY

FDA approves two-in-one blood pressure drug

BY Alaric DeArment

EAST HANOVER, N.J. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a blood pressure pill that combines two drugs in one.

Novartis announced Tuesday that the FDA had approved Tekturna HCT (aliskiren and hydrochlorothiazide), which combines the existing treatment Tekturna with hydrochlorothiazide, a widely used diuretic.

The approval was based on a 2,700-patient clinical trial indicating that the combination of the two drugs reduced blood pressure more than either drug alone.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects nearly 74 million adults in the United States and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

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GPhA, generic drug companies release letter regarding biosimilars bill

BY Alaric DeArment

ARLINGTON, Va. An amendment to a health reform bill currently under consideration would preclude the development of a significant biosimilars industry, nearly 30 generic drug companies told three members of the House in a letter released Wednesday.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association released the letter — written to Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Nathan Deal, R-Ga. — signed by 27 generic drug makers criticizing the amendment to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health reform bill by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, that would allow 12 years of market exclusivity for biotech drugs before they faced biosimilar competition.

“While safeguarding market protections and intellectual property rights is critical in the pharmaceutical sector, only a healthcare system that balances the interests of innovation and access to lower cost medicine will achieve the greatest success,” the companies wrote in the letter.

Signatories to the letter included generics companies such as Teva, Ranbaxy and Mylan, as well as Paddock Labs, Sovereign Pharmaceuticals and Spear Pharmaceuticals.

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