PHARMACY

Flu vaccine companies already creating record number for next year

BY Drew Buono

ATLANTA The next flu season expects to be a big one and flu vaccine manufacturers are preparing for this by creating a record number of doses, according to the Associated Press.

The five companies that make flu vaccines for the U.S. market plan to make at least 143 million doses for the 2008-2009 season. They made 140 million doses for the current season.

One of the reasons for the lower number this year was that the vaccine didn’t work well against the viruses that ended up circulating. Each year, health officials essentially make an educated guess and formulate a vaccine against three viruses. Their guess usually works well.

But two of the three strains for the current season were not good matches, and the vaccine was only 44 percent effective overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the reasons for the increased production is that recently, federal health officials expanded the age for flu shot recommendations to children as young as 6 months old. The former recommendation was for children under 5, so this becomes an increase of 30 million people.

One of the manufacturers, CSL Biotherapies, will increase production from 2 million to 6 million doses. Sanofi Pasteur is planning to make 50 million doses for the coming flu season; Novartis Vaccines, 40 million; GlaxoSmithKline, 35 million to 38 million.

In addition, MedImmune Vaccines plans to make about 12 million doses of FluMist, a nasal mist containing live virus approved for healthy people between ages 2 and 49.

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PHARMACY

AmerisourceBergen reorganizes management

BY Jim Frederick

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. Drug distribution and health services giant AmerisourceBergen Corp. today announced a major restructuring of its operations.

The result, said company spokesman Michael Kilpatric, will be a “more streamlined organizational structure designed to drive increased efficiency and effectiveness.”

In line with the changes, Terry Haas, ABC executive vice president and chief integration officer, has left the company “to pursue other interests,” according to the company. ABC president and chief executive officer R. David Yost praised Haas for his “extraordinary contribution to AmerisourceBergen,” as well as the major role he played in the integration of Amerisource and Bergen Brunswig following their merger.

Yost explained the restructuring as follows: “To continue meeting the challenges of an ever changing pharmaceutical environment, AmerisourceBergen needs the infrastructure and cost structure that allows the Company to compete as the most efficient and effective operating company in our industry. It is with that singular focus that we are further integrating our organization.”

The organizational changes are effective immediately. Among the management shifts underway:

  • Michael DiCandilo, ABC executive vice president and chief financial officer, expands his duties with the added position of chief operating officer for AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. (ABDC) and continues to report directly to Yost. The ABDC functions reporting to DiCandilo in his new role include Supply Chain Management; Operations—including the distribution network—and Financial Operations, which previously reported to him. Yost continues to lead ABDC and continues to have the executives leading sales and marketing reporting to him.
  • Steven Collis, executive vice president of AmerisourceBergen and president of the ABC Specialty Group, also has an expanded role that now encompasses supervision of PMSI, the company’s workers’ compensation business. “Steve continues his responsibilities for helping shape the policy and strategy of ABC and for more closely integrating [the specialty group] across AmerisourceBergen,” the company noted. He continues to report directly to Yost.
  • Thomas Murphy, senior vice president and chief information officer, will also take on additional duties by assuming leadership of Business Transformation, the company’s multi-year process improvement project, which includes design of an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system for ABDC and the corporation. Yost continues his executive leadership of the overall improvement effort, while Murphy continues to report directly to DiCandilo.

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FDA sees growing number of counterfeit drugs

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK According to The Lancet, the Food and Drug Administration saw an eight-fold increase in the number of new counterfeit prescription medications from 2000 until 2006.

What’s worse is that worldwide sales of counterfeit drugs are forecasted to reach $75 billion by 2010. This is, in part, due to weak regulatory systems in developing countries, where around 10 to 30 percent of drugs might be fake, according to the journal.

Counterfeiting may have caused the deaths of at least 81 patients in the U.S. after they were treated with a contaminated batch of heparin, a blood-thinning drug.

Last week the FDA told a congressional hearing it believed a dangerous contaminant found in batches of the heparin may have been deliberately added. The contaminant, traced back to a Chinese supplier, was structurally similar to heparin but 100 times cheaper.

The counterfeit drug trade was becoming more difficult to combat even before the tainted heparin was discovered, as criminals were using more sophisticated techniques to bypass standard laboratory tests. For instance, by adding cheaper substances that mimicked genuine drugs.

Substances used to taint medicines varied from chalk to antibiotics to highly lethal substances, said the editorial.

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