PHARMACY

Biotech co. begins phase 3 study of melanoma treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

WOBURN, Mass. A biotech company developing medicines for cancer and infectious diseases has started a phase 3 study of a drug for melanoma.

BioVex has initiated its study of OncoVEX (GM-CSF) in previously treated patients with stage 3 and stage 4 melanoma. The study has started recruiting patients in the United States and will open sites in the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia later this year.

“The treatment options for patients with recurrent or metastatic melanoma are currently very limited, with no therapy being approved or recognized to be effective in the second line setting and beyond,” BioVex chief technology officer and founder Robert Coffin said. “Currently, there are also very few late-stage or pivotal clinical studies available for patients who have filed first-line therapy.”

The study will enroll 360 patients, including 240 who will take OncoVEX and 120 in the control group.

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Optimer receives production patent for CDI treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN DIEGO The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a production patent to Optimer Pharmaceuticals covering steps used in the manufacture of fidaxomicin, Optimer announced Monday.

The drug is in phase 3 testing as a treatment for Clostridium difficile infection, also known as CDI.

“The issuance of this production patent is another important milestone in strengthening the patent estate of our lead product candidate, fidaxomicin,” Optimer president and CEO Michael Chang stated. “We believe this patent and the issued polymorphic Form A patent, along with additional pending patent applications, will enhance our intellectual property protection for fidaxomicin.”

CDI causes inflammation of the colon, which often results in diarrhea but can also cause death in extreme cases.

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Walgreens sees boom in e-prescriptions

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. The shift to paperless prescribing took a big leap forward at Walgreens in March, with a tripling in the number of prescriptions filled electronically from year-earlier levels. And new government incentives to doctors will quickly push that level higher still, Walgreens predicted.

Walgreens pharmacies filled a record 3.1 million prescriptions electronically last month, marking a 211% increase compared with March of last year, the company reported Monday. Even more striking: the total number of scripts sent via doctors’ e-prescribing systems and filled by Walgreens last month accounted for 15% of all the drug store chain’s eligible prescriptions.

Walgreens estimated it will fill more than 40 million electronic prescriptions this year, compared with 15 million filled in 2008. The company said it expects growth to continue, as the federal government in January began providing financial incentives for doctors to transmit prescriptions electronically for Medicare patients as part of its campaign to nudge the nation’s healthcare system toward health information technology and electronic record-keeping.

Under that incentive program, doctors will earn a 2% bonus on their covered Medicare reimbursements for every Medicare script they transmit electronically instead of via a handwritten prescription handed to the patient.

Don Huonker, Walgreens’ senior VP of heath care innovation, hailed the continued growth in e-prescriptions and said it contributes to lower health care costs and better patient health.

“Prescriptions transmitted electronically increase the likelihood that patients will get their prescriptions filled, benefit from their drug therapy and avoid more expensive medical procedures,” Huonker said. “E-prescribing improves patient safety and quality of care by reducing medication errors and adverse drug events while also reducing time spent on the phone with physician offices to clarify hand-written prescriptions. The fewer times our pharmacists need to call a physician’s office and verify a prescription, the more time they have to focus on drug interactions, the right dosing and patient consultation.”

Walgreens launched an early, rudimentary e-prescribing network in 1992, making it “the first pharmacy to launch an electronic prescribing system” as well as “the industry leader in filling electronic prescriptions,” the company asserts in a statement. Nationally, some 4% of all eligible prescriptions were transmitted electronically last year, according to SureScripts, the country’s largest secure electronic prescribing network.

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