PHARMACY

CDC recommends Zostavax to prevent shingles in adults

BY Drew Buono

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a single dose of Merck’s Zostavax even for people who have already had a case of shingles to prevent the painful condition and its potentially long-lasting after-effects, according to published reports. The Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in 2006 and the CDC issued a provisional recommendation then, which is now replaced by this unanimous recommendation.

Shingles comes from the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone who has had chicken pox is vulnerable to an outbreak of shingles because the virus can lie dormant for decades near nerve roots along the spinal cord. Stress, a weakened immune system, and age can allow the virus to be reactivated. Half of people who have reached the age of 85 have already had shingles or will have a case.

The vaccine was tested among 38,000 people 60 and older in a large randomized clinical trial that showed it blocked the disease in half the people and cut the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia by two-thirds in those who still got shingles after being vaccinated.

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Chinese companies set to enter generic market

BY Drew Buono

LONDON Chinese drug manufacturing companies are now looking to get into manufacturing generic drugs, according to Reuters. The country is already the world’s biggest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients and is now aiming at producing finished drug products for sale in the U.S., Europe and other key markets.

IMS Health said last year’s first approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a Chinese generic—a copy of AIDS drug nevirapine—was a sign of things to come. Now, at least 10 other Chinese companies are set to follow suit with other generic products, according to IMS.

The result will be increased competition in a generic drugs industry that is already struggling with tumbling prices. The rise of Chinese generic drugmakers is expected to mirror that of Indian firms like Ranbaxy Laboratories, which also started out as an API supplier but moved into finished generic medicines a decade ago.

The problem, though, according to IMS, is safety issues involving the drugs. The most noticeable problem, the tainted blood thinner heparin that was produced in China and then created a health scare across the globe.

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Pfizer supports transparency initiative by listing Q1 grants

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Following in line of such other pharmaceutical companies as Eli Lilly, Pfizer has begun listing its U.S. medical, scientific and patient organization grants and charitable contributions made in the first quarter of 2008, as part of a mission to increase company transparency.

Of a total $9.97 million in grants and charitable contributions reported for the first quarter of 2008, the largest grant, $3,420,318, was made to the California Academy of Family Physicians in March for a three-year national health care professional education campaign to reduce the number of U.S. smokers. This grant was distributed among nine partner organizations across the country.

Other grants include $500,000 to Family Health International for malaria patient education and treatment, and $237,500 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for its clinical investigator training program with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“We want to bring greater transparency to the way we partner with leading medical, scientific and patient organizations,” said Jeffrey Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. “Detailing these grants and charitable contributions is an important part of our ongoing transparency drive.”

The company plans on updating its information each quarter.

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