PHARMACY

Biogen Idec and Merck acute heart failure drugs prove promising

BY Drug Store News Team

WALTHAM, Mass. Acute heart failure therapies developed by pharmaceutical giants Biogen Idec and Merck will add considerable value to the niche market, according to a report by Decision Resources.

The report, entitled “Acute Heart Failure”, finds that the launch of Biogen Idec’s Adentri and Merck’s rolofylline, along with EKR Therapeutics’ ularitide, will be the primary drivers of growth in the acute heart failure drug market over the next decade. Growth will also be driven by an increase in the number of diagnosed events of acute heart failure as a result of the rising population of elderly people, improved diagnosis methods and increased survival following acute myocardial infarction.

“Despite the significant unmet need, research and development pipelines for acute heart failure are not as robust as those for other cardiovascular indications such as hypertension and dyslipidemia,” said Decision Resources Analyst Amir Mobasheri. “As a result, any novel agent that can demonstrate improvements in safety and mortality and shows efficacy in preventing future acute heart failure episodes will be well received by physicians and patients.”

The report forecasts that the acute heart failure market will more than double, from $354 million in 2007 to $768 million in 2017 in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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Urging stronger grassroots efforts, NACDS unveils RxIMPACT initiative

BY Jim Frederick

CHANDLER, Ariz. Addressing the organization’s 28th annual Regional Chain Conference, leaders of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores exhorted smaller-chain pharmacy operators to help defend the industry from burdensome patient-privacy regulations and other threats, and to rally behind a new grassroots advocacy initiative.

That initiative, called RxIMPACT, marks an acceleration of NACDS efforts to “engage members and the communities they serve by learning how to interact with lawmakers through advocacy and training programs, pharmacy tours, Capitol Hill visits and other personalized grassroots services,” noted an organization spokesperson. NACDS will hold its first RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill on June 16 to 17, 2009.

The need for effective and sustained grassroots lobbying won’t wait that long, however, NACDS president Steven Anderson and newly elected chairman Andy Giancamilli told regional chain members at the conference here. And among the most critical and immediate priorities is the campaign by NACDS and other advocacy groups to slow the rush in Congress to adopt new privacy provisions that industry leaders say would damage pharmacist-patient relationships, slow the adoption of health information technology and hike business costs for pharmacy retailers.

Those tougher privacy laws are contained in new legislation to spur the adoption of HIT as part of the massive economic stimulus bill now under consideration in the Senate. But given the patient confidentiality protections already in place under HIPAA regulations, those privacy provisions are ill-conceived and unnecessary, NACDS leaders told members at the conference.

“Sometimes,” Anderson asserted, “an issue is propelled by the political sails of what I call ‘faulty nomenclature.’ Faulty nomenclature is the use of politically popular terms to describe what is in reality poor policy. In this case, that term is ‘privacy.’”

Anderson reiterated NACDS’ support of HIT, but noted the unintended consequences of so-called “privacy” provisions that he said would impact the entire healthcare delivery system. “We need to assure Congress that we know privacy, and this isn’t it,” he said. “We need to let Congress know that the unintended consequences of what they are considering could actually hinder HIT adoption, stunt economic stimulus and, most importantly, harm patient care.

“Does Congress really want to stifle prescription refill reminders? That could make even worse the $177 billion in annual costs – and health consequences – from failure to take medications as prescribed,” Anderson added.

In his first address as NACDS chairman, Giancamilli appealed to members to engage directly with the political process as a new, Democratic majority in Congress grapples with the complexities of healthcare reform and technology. “The future direction of the industry hinges on the willingness of NACDS members to engage in the public policy debates of the day, since affecting our short- and long-term future is the primary reason we all choose to participate in associations like this one,” said Giancamilli, who is CEO of Katz Group North America and its U.S. subsidiary, Snyder’s Drug Stores. “But now we need even more members to engage in powering the NACDS advocacy engine.”

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Pfizer discontinues phase 3 trial of axitinib as treatment for pancreatic cancer

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Pfizer has discontinued a phase 3 trial of a drug it was investigating as a treatment for pancreatic cancer, the drug maker announced Friday.

The company said an investigative board found no evidence that patients treated with axitinib and gemcitabine did better than those treated with gemcitabine alone. Gemcitabine is a standard treatment for pancreatic cancer.

“These results were disappointing, given the trend towards prolonged survival seen in a phase 2 study of axitinib in this extremely difficult-to-treat patient population,” Pfizer Oncology Business Unit’s SVP clinical development and medical affairs Mace Rothenberg stated. “However, we remain steadfastly committed to continued investigation of axitinib in renal cell carcinoma, where it is currently in phase 3 for second-line treatment.”

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