PHARMACY

FCC gives $15.5 million grant for rural telehealth broadband network

BY Drew Buono

ALBURQUERQUE, N.M. The Federal Communications Commission has given a $15.5 million grant to the Center for TeleHealth and Cybermedicine Research at the Health Sciences Center, according to published reports. The grant will be used to design, build, operate and evaluate a Southwest Telhealth Access Grid, a broadband network that will be mostly serving rural areas that lack such technology.

The grid of telehealth networks will support rural systems and connections to more than 500 sites, primarily in New Mexico and Arizona, along with several Indian Health Service sites in Colorado, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

“I believe, in the end, telehealth will be part of doing business in the health field, just like we use the telephone,” said Alverson, medical director of the Center for Telehealth at the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center. “It won’t be looked at as something unique or special; it’s just what we do. … Just as for many of us now it’s second nature to use the Internet and the Web for health information.”

“The idea with the FCC is not only to support our region, but eventually to connect these regions for a national telehealth network,” Alverson said. The Southwest initiative was one of 69 nationwide the FCC funded.

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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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