PHARMACY

CDC warns public on zombies. No, really.

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted an attention-grabbing page Wednesday titled: “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.”

“There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for,” the CDC stated on the Web page. “Take a zombie apocalypse for example. … You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

In addition to click-through graphic elements — which can be posted to any website, blog, social networking profile or email signature — that link users to more information, the site actually offers advice on emergency supplies, developing a family disaster plan and what to do when under quarantine.

And it’s working — the faux emergency page with real emergency advice has been picked up by a number of mainstream news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal.

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PHARMACY

Avandia to be available only by mail order in November, FDA asserts

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — A controversial GlaxoSmithKline drug for treating Type 2 diabetes no longer will be available through retail pharmacies as of Nov. 18, the Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday.

Avandia (rosiglitazone) and such related drugs as Avandaryl (rosiglitazone and glimepiride) and Avandamet (rosiglitazone and metformin) will be available only by mail order from specially certified pharmacies and for certain patients, such as those already successfully treated with the drug and those who can’t control their blood sugar with other diabetes drugs and don’t want to use other drugs belonging to the same class as Avandia.

The drug has attracted controversy due to studies showing that it increases the risk of heart attacks in patients taking it. In September 2010, the FDA moved to restrict access to the drug as part of a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy.

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PHARMACY

Study finds 10% of cancer patients abandon oral anti-cancer medications

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Despite the promise of oral drugs for treating cancer, high costs and the burden of taking multiple medications drive 10% of patients prescribed the drugs not to fill their initial prescriptions, according to a new study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice and the American Journal of Managed Care.

Healthcare research firm Avalere Health conducted the study, “Patient and Plan Characteristics Affecting Abandonment of Oral Oncolytic Prescriptions,” by examining pharmacy transaction data on 10,508 patients from between 2007 and 2009, and will present results of the study at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting next month.

The study found that high cost and having to take multiple prescriptions were the leading factors in 10% of patients abandoning their drugs. For example, claims with cost sharing of more than $500 were four times as likely to be abandoned as those with cost sharing of $100 or less.

“Our study shows that many cancer patients are abandoning the medicine they need,” Avalere Health VP Lauren Barnes said. “With 45.5% of Medicare patients in our sample facing cost sharing greater than $500 for their first anti-cancer drug, this is a Medicare quality issue of the first order.”

Higher rates of abandonment were found among Medicare patients and those with lower incomes. Patients with incomes less than $40,000 per year had an abandonment rate of 11%, compared with 10% for those making $40,000 to $75,000, and 9% for those making more than $75,000. Among Medicare patients, abandonment rates were 16%, compared with 9% of those with commercial insurance. In addition, patients with more than five drug claims for noncancer medicines in the previous month had an abandonment rate of 12%, compared with 9% with no claims.

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