PHARMACY

CDC revises guidance on flu season antiviral meds

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday clarified earlier guidance issued to healthcare professionals Dec. 19 on the use of influenza antiviral medications this season. “Recent media reports may have led some to believe that these developments mean physicians are without influenza treatment options for the 2008-2009 flu season,” the agency said.

The December guidance was issued in response to early data from a limited number of states indicating that a high proportion of influenza A (H1N1) viruses are resistant to Tamiflu. “Worldwide, the proportion of H1N1 viruses that are resistant to oseltamivir has been increasing so this development is not surprising,” CDC said.

To date, no H1N1 strains in the United States have been found to be antiviral resistant. “At this time, it’s not possible to predict how common H1N1 viruses will be during the rest of this flu season, as there are many different flu viruses and every influenza season is different. The current samples studied come from a handful of states, and may not be indicative of how the rest of the season will progress or what viruses will circulate in other states,” CDC added, noting that it is monitoring the development of antiviral-resistant strains of the influenza virus.

The CDC has advised healthcare professionals that if H1N1 viruses are circulating in the community, or it’s not clear which viruses are circulating, health care providers are recommended to use an alternative antiviral, Relenza, or a combination of Relenza and Tamiflu. “In some instances, oseltamivir [Tamiflu] alone can still be used, such as when influenza B is diagnosed, or H1N1 viruses are not circulating.”

Earlier this month, CDC reported increased influenza activity across the United States in the week leading up to New Year’s Day. Approximately 81.2% of this year’s influenza illness has been caused by a type-A virus—the various strains of which are all related to the two type-A viruses, both of which are included in this year’s vaccine.

Of the type-A viruses that have been subtyped, 13.7% are related to the Brisbane H3N2 strain, which have so far been found to be resistant to both antiviral medications Tamiflu and Relenza. Of the 88 H1N1 isolates tested to date, none of them exhibit antiviral resistance, the CDC reported.

The influenza B viruses circulating since Oct. 1 can be divided into two distinct lineages —Yamagata and Victoria. Nine influenza B viruses tested belong to the Yamagata lineage and are related to the influenza B vaccine component. The remaining 20 viruses are not related to the influenza B vaccine strain.

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Assurant Health announces benefits partnership with Take Care

BY Antoinette Alexander

MILWAUKEE Assurant Health has announced that its health plan members can now receive in-network benefits at all Take Care Clinics.

With the addition of the 322 Take Care Clinics, which are located within Walgreens stores, Assurant Health customers with Individual Medical, Short Term Medical and Real Choices Small Group plans have access to more than 800 retail health clinics throughout the United States.

“This agreement is part of our continuing commitment to give our customers more choices and convenient access to affordable health care options,” said Scott Krienke, SVP of product lines for Assurant Health.

Added Peter Miller, president and CEO of Take Care Health Systems, “Our goal is to provide access to care to as many individuals as possible. Partnering with companies like Assurant Health allows us to offer our model of care to more individuals across the country, and this national contract sets the stage for continued coverage as we expand our model to new markets and states.”

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FDA approves generic version of Medicis’ Loprox

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a generic version of Medicis’ Loprox, FDA records show.

The agency approved Paddock’s ciclopirox gel in the 0.77 percent strength on Jan. 7. The gel is used to treat seborrheic dermatitis.

Medicis’ non-acne skin medicines had sales of $173 million in 2007, according to Medicis financial data, which did not list separate figures for Loprox. Nycomed also makes a generic version of the 0.77 formulation, while Medicis continues to market the 1 percent formulation.

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