PHARMACY

Debate over necessity of vaccinations erupts after measles outbreak

BY Diana Alickaj

SAN DIEGO A measles outbreak in California last month where 12 unvaccinated children had contracted measles, sparked a debate among public health officials and parents on the importance of taking vaccinations, according to the New York Times.

In the United States, over 90 percent of children that are able to take vaccines do get them, but a growing number of parents have resisted based on unfounded fears that vaccines cause autism and other unnecessary complications to children.

According to Saad Omar, an assistant scientist at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health, in 1991, only one percent of children did not receive vaccines in states where personal-belief exemptions are offered. Personal belief exemptions are regulations that allow parents to opt-out on having their children receive vaccinations, because of personal objections to them. The most recent estimates, from 2004, indicate that the number of children in these states has increased to 2.54 percent.

These figures worry public health officials, who feel, according to the Times, that if more parents decide not to have their children vaccinated, it will result in unnecessary illnesses affecting many children. “The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles’ heel,” said Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don’t realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine.”

Many statistics show that death from measles in particular, which causes brain swelling and pneumonia, has decreased 68 percent from 2000 to 2006 because of vaccinations. Children who have taken necessary vaccines against various illnesses could also be affected by illnesses from other children who neglect to do so.

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New combination of drugs shown favorable in treating lupus

BY Diana Alickaj

NEW YORK A new study suggests that a combination of two potent drugs may serve as a new treatment for those who don’t respond to conventional Lupus treatments.

In the study, Ronald van Vollenhoven and colleagues at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm tested 16 female patients who did not respond to traditional lupus treatment, and were given, as a result, weekly infusions of rituximab for 4 weeks. The first and last infusions were combined with cyclophosphamide and a steroid, according to published reports.

It was found that after 6 months there was a significant decrease of SLE severity also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, which is an autoimmune disorder that damages the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs and blood.

Researchers noted that the presence of rituximab which targets B cells of the immune system, and cyclophsophamide, a strong immune suppressant drug, showed 50 percent improvement in disease severity, as well as causing the disease to go to remission in nine out of the thirteen patients.

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Amgen, Roche battle over Mircera still unsettled

BY Diana Alickaj

In the long battle for Amgen to prevent generic drug company Roche Holdings from bringing its anemia drug Mircera into the US market, a federal appeals court has ruled that Roche could import its drug as long as it was not for sale, while also returning the case back to the International Trade Commission.

Amgen feels that since Roche applied for Mircera’s approval from the FDA, it was violating Amgen’s patents—for Epogen and Aranesp—because the application proved intent to sell. The FDA has already approved the drug but, according to published reports, it has not been marketed it in the US based on the legal matters involved.

As Drug Store News reported yesterday, Roche agreed to the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts’ conditions in an attempt to get Mircera on the market, including, according to published reports, paying Amgen a higher royalty fee. The court’s approval would give Amgen a new rival in the top selling Anemia market, which has made up more than 40 percent of Amgen’s revenue per year. Roche has agreed to set Mircera’s price at or below Epogen’s for the remainder of the patents that Amgen holds.

Amgen’s patents for its anemia drugs begin expiring in 2013, and, according to reports, Roche plans on waiting until then to sell its drug in the U.S. According to IMS Health, Aranesp had U.S. sales of $3.2 billion last year and Epogen had sales of $3.1 billion.

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