PHARMACY

Giant-Carlisle sponsors drug take-back drive

BY Alaric DeArment

CARLISLE, Pa. — Giant Food Stores and Martin’s Food Markets — collectively known as Giant-Carlisle — will sponsor drug take-back events at more than three dozen stores next weekend.

The Ahold USA-owned supermarket banner said customers could bring expired and unwanted drugs to 42 stores on Oct. 26; 40 of the stores are in Pennsylvania, and two are in Virginia.

All medications will be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner at no cost to the customer, though the chain recommended that customers remove or cross out such personal information as names and addresses. During the last program, in April, participating store collected 4,392 pounds of medications.

 

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Francisco Partners acquires McKesson Automation

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN FRANCISCO — Francisco Partners, a technology-focused private equity firm, earlier this week signed a definitive agreement to acquire McKesson Automation, a unit of McKesson Corp. that offers integrated pharmacy automation solutions for hospitals and health systems. McKesson Corp. previously announced its intent to divest this division, which will operate under a new name after the transaction closes. 

The transaction is expected to close this quarter and is subject to customary closing conditions.

“McKesson Automation is highly regarded in the healthcare industry for its system-wide approach to and deep understanding of the medication delivery process,” said Chris Adams, a principal at Francisco Partners. “We are excited to work closely with the existing leadership team to expand the automation business as a standalone company. We will maintain a close working relationship with McKesson Corp. to ensure that the companies’ collective solutions for hospitals and healthcare providers are complementary and effective.”

“Hospitals today face tremendous challenges — from intensifying payment and cost pressures to evolving regulatory standards, changing demographics and quality of care measures,” said Kraig McEwen, president of McKesson Automation. “At McKesson Automation, we are developing technology solutions that help hospitals and health systems effectively manage these changes while improving patient care and outcomes. As a standalone company and with the financial and operational resources that Francisco Partners offers, we will have the ability to further our commitment to continuously advance medication delivery.”

Located in Pittsburgh, McKesson Automation helps hospitals and health systems streamline the delivery of medications — from the distribution source to the patient — shifting focus from manual tasks to patient care activities that impact outcomes and reduce costs. The business offers a range of products addressing every stage of medication delivery within a hospital, including pharmacy, nursing and surgical services.

 

 

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Hospira issues policy paper on biosimilar naming

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — As knock-off versions of biotech drugs get closer to reality in the United States, one issue that has emerged has centered on what to call them.

Next week, Sumant Ramachandra, the chief scientific officer of drug maker Hospira, will travel to Switzerland to speak at the World Health Organization about biosimilar naming, presenting a new policy paper titled "What’s in a Name?: The Importance of Biosimilar Nonproprietary Names for Healthcare Innovation." Hospira is the only U.S.-based company that makes biosimilars for the European and Australian markets.

The paper and speech follow a citizen’s petition to the Food and Drug Administration from the Generic Pharmaceutical Association encouraging the sharing of generic names between biosimilars and their reference products. For example, Amgen’s Neupogen, used to replenish white blood cells in patients undergoing chemotherapy, and biosimilar versions of it would all use the same generic name, filgrastim. Biotech companies say that because biosimilars are similar, not identical to their branded counterparts, their generic names should be made different, such as carrying a prefix.

"Biosimilar naming is an extremely important issue for the United States," Ramachandra said. "With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expected to approve the first biosimilar drugs by mid-decade, we need to make sure that we don’t create unnecessary roadblocks, such as a confusing system of different non-proprietary names that potentially could limit access to more affordable biosimilar drugs."

Part of the issue involves a key difference between the relationship of biosimilars with their branded counterparts, and the relationship of generic drugs to branded drugs. While generic drugs are meant to be chemically identical to branded drugs, biosimilars are designed to be "highly similar" because they’re produced using different cell lines from the originals, but have the same effect. According to Hospira, in Europe, where biosimilars have been available for six years, costs have fallen 25% to 30% after the introduction of a biosimilar.

“It is simple: Biosimilars have no clinically meaningful difference from the reference product, so they should have the same name,” GPhA president and CEO Ralph G. Neas said. “This approach works in Europe, it has worked in the United States for chemical drugs, and it should be the standard worldwide.

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