PHARMACY

FDA report indicates risk of infection, cancer with Enbrel

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Amgen’s drug Enbrel cane cause deadly side effects in children, according to a new report released Monday by the Food and Drug Administration.

The drug is used to treat psoriasis in adults and arthritis in adults and children, but an FDA staff review says that it causes infections and cancer in some children with psoriasis. FDA scientists will meet Wednesday to determine whether the agency should approve Enbrel for treating psoriasis in children.

Enbrel had sales of $3.2 billion in 2007, according to Amgen financial reports. Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen acquired the rights to Enbrel, known generically as etanercept, when it bought Immunex Corp. in July 2002.

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PHARMACY

Researchers develop online tool for tracking children’s immunizations

BY Drew Buono

ATLANTA Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed an online tool to help parents and pediatricians adjust childhood immunization schedules when one or more vaccinations are missed.

When a child falls behind in the vaccination schedule, doctors must determine when it’s appropriate to give any missed vaccines or future vaccines. This usually requires the creation of a personalized catch-up schedule for each child, something that’s often done while the child sits in the treatment room. The online tool is designed to ensure that missed and future vaccines are given without violating guidelines regarding vaccines and doses.

“Physicians have been telling us for years that they needed a computerized program to tell them when to give vaccines after a child misses scheduled immunizations. Now this tool is available for health care professionals and parents to use, and they are excited to use it,” said Larry Pickering, executive director of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and a collaborator on the project.

When using the tool, a doctor or parent inputs a child’s date of birth and previous immunization dates. The program then creates a personalized schedule of the recommended dates to administer all future vaccines. It offers two options—administer the vaccines as soon as possible or administer the vaccines when recommended.

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HHS awards contracts for speedy flu identification test

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON If the world ever faced an avian influenza pandemic, how would doctors distinguish it from the seasonal flu?

Health and human services department secretary Mike Leavitt announced Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had awarded $12.9 million in contracts to two pharmaceutical firms for the development of tests that could distinguish the common flu from the lethal H5N1 form within three hours.

The two companies are San Diego-based Nanogen, and Gaithersburg, Md.-based Meso Scale Diagnostics, each of which received about $6.5 million for the contracts. The contracts provide funding of up to $10.4 million for Nanogen and $12.1 million for Meso Scale Diagnostics for further developments up to three years.

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