PHARMACY

FDA approves treatment for high blood pressure

BY Alaric DeArment

PARSIPPANY, N.J. The Food and Drug Administration has granted approval to a first-line treatment for high blood pressure.

Japanese drug maker Daiichi Sankyo announced Wednesday the approval of Azor (amlodipine and olmesartan medoxomil), an initial therapy for hypertension patients likely to need multiple drugs for the condition in order to achieve their desired blood pressure.

“The approval of Azor as a first-line therapy gives doctors an important treatment option that may help the many patients who require multiple medications avoid several treatment steps to achieve their blood pressure goals,” Emory School of Medicine professor and Association of Black Cardiologists chief science officer Keith Ferdinand said. “Fixed-dose combinations like Azor provide patients with a more convenient option than separate monotherapies, which may help simplify the treatment regimen and decrease overall pill burden.”

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Sanofi-Aventis U.S. acquires rights to leukemia drug

BY Alaric DeArment

BRIDDGEWATER, N.J. The U.S. subsidiary of French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis has acquired the rights to a drug for treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the company announced.

Sanofi-Aventis U.S. said it acquired the drug Oforta (fludarabine phosphate) from biotech company Antisoma. Oforta, a tablet, is approved in the United States for treating B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia in adults.

“We are extremely pleased to add Oforta to our existing oncology portfolio and believe it represents an exciting opportunity for Sanofi-Aventis U.S.,” the company’s VP and head of its Oncology Business Unit John Harrington stated. “Sanofi-Aventis is a company committed to identifying and exploring new treatment options for patients facing serious diseases, such as CLL.”

Antisoma licenses certain rights and purchases Oforta from Bayer Schering Pharma. Sanofi-Aventis U.S. will acquire the agreements under the transaction.

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McKesson to oversee strategic vaccine reserve

BY Jim Frederick

SAN FRANCISCO McKesson Corp. has been tapped by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to store and supply the nation’s strategic reserve of 2008-2009 seasonal influenza vaccines.

Under a contract signed with the CDC, McKesson will warehouse and potentially distribute up to 500,000 flu vaccine doses from its specialty distribution centers.

Behind the agency’s choice of McKesson: the company’s ability to handle the special storage and supply-chain requirements of distributing vaccines. The health services and distribution giant also holds the appropriate local, state and federal licenses for safely handling and transporting regulated drug products.

“Outsourced vaccine storage requires a distributor with experience and infrastructure to assure that supply chain systems are stable and secure,” said Philip Bolger, VP and general manager for distribution and physician services at McKesson Specialty Care Solutions. “In addition, McKesson can support the compressed timetable for vaccine distribution across the U.S. and its territories.”

Given their composition and limited shelf life, vaccines require special handling to maintain their viability through the storage and distribution process. “Precise cold chain management is critical to the product being received by the end user in manufacturer-recommended conditions,” the company noted.

Through a previous contract with the CDC, McKesson already supplies vaccines for public-sector needs. Two of its specialty distribution centers are primarily dedicated to that program, which shifted to a centralized distribution model in 2007 and delivers pediatric and adult vaccines to more than 46,000 providers across the United States and its territories.

“The demands of CDC programs require a distributor with experience, flexibility and vision, and we are honored by the CDC’s continued confidence in McKesson to meet these needs,” said Pat Blake, president of McKesson Specialty Care Solutions.

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