PHARMACY

FDA increases drug warnings for TNF blockers

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON A risk of fungal infection has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to call on four drug makers to strengthen warnings on some of their products.

Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade (infliximab), Abbott Laboratories’ Humira (adalimumab), Amgen’s and Wyeth’s Enbrel (etanercept) and UCB’s Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) are the drugs affected after the FDA reviewed 240 reports of the respiratory fungal disease histoplasmosis in patients using the drugs. Of the 240 patients, 45 died from the disease, whose symptoms resemble those of the flu.

The drugs belong to a class of drugs that block tumor necrosis factor, which normally helps the body fight cancer but is sometimes overproduced, leading to diseases such as arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

“Amgen and Wyeth are committed to the safety of patients,” the companies said in a jointly released statement Friday. “Both companies maintain ongoing safety surveillance programs worldwide to analyze and evaluate safety reports from controlled and open-label clinical trials and patient registries, as well as reports received from health care professionals and patients. Both companies work with regulatory agencies to update the label periodically as appropriate based on emerging information.”

Amgen, they stated, will work with the FDA to finalize and communicate revised product labeling for Enbrel to both physicians and patients.

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PHARMACY

A&P, 4D team up through Live Better! program

BY Antoinette Alexander

MONTVALE, N.J. A&P announced on Thursday that it has teamed up with 4D Pharmacy Management Systems to administer employer group prescription drug benefits through its Live Better! Wellness Program.

Under the agreement, employer groups will have access to 4D’s nationwide network of more than 60,000 pharmacies as well as incentives at the company’s participating banner store Pharmacy Centers. The Live Better! Wellness Program begins managing pharmacy benefits Jan. 1, 2009.

The program will also offer mail service prescriptions through the A&P Mail Order Pharmacy. Plan members will have the option of receiving a 90-day supply of maintenance medications at A&P and subsidiary Pharmacy Centers. The Pharmacy Centers offer one-stop shopping including health screenings, diabetic supplies and patient counseling and information service.

Within the next few weeks, 4D plans to launch group and broker marketing activities.

“This partnership brings our pharmacy offerings to the next level with dynamic services which provide our customers with the information and benefits they need to make healthy decisions in all aspects of their lives,” stated Rebecca Philbert, A&P senior vice president of merchandising, supply and logistics.

In addition, Live Better! Wellness Program pharmacists will provide on-site visits to employer groups to assist with health and prescription drug education.

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Rite Aid reopens nine New Orleans locations

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid on Thursday reported it has reopened nine stores in the New Orleans area that can accommodate both Rite Aid and non-Rite Aid customers. The company continues to open more stores on a daily basis as conditions allow.

Residents displaced by the hurricane can visit any open Rite Aid for their prescriptions because the company’s satellite-linked computer network assures a complete customer prescription history at any Rite Aid store. Because of the state of emergency, Rite Aid pharmacies also can access prescription information for patients who do not normally get their prescriptions at Rite Aid.

In addition, the Rite Aid store at 7060 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, La. is selling 20-pound ice bags to the public for $4. More than 200,000 pounds of ice were sold in Baton Rouge since Sunday, and two Rite Aid stores there are now selling ice, the company stated. The company will continue to truck in ice and other supplies where most needed.

Relief teams of Rite Aid associates, including store cashiers and pharmacists, have traveled or are traveling from Tennessee and unaffected areas of Louisiana and Alabama to help stores that have been impacted and to help reopen additional stores. Earlier this week, Rite Aid reported it had re-opened 32 stores in these areas.

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