PHARMACY

GlaxoSmith-Kline launches pandemic-readiness program

BY Alaric DeArment

PHILADELPHIA Companies struggling to build vaccine stockpiles to prepare for a possible flu pandemic will get a boost from GlaxoSmithKline, the London-based drug maker announced Wednesday.

GSK announced the launch of the Relenza Inhalation Powder Pandemic Readiness for Employers Program, or PREP. The program will give business two options when stockpiling the drug. They can either purchase Relenza at a discounted rate with free storage or reserve quantities of the vaccine for future purchase at a capped rate with a nominal annual fee.

The Department of Health and Human Services has encouraged employers to protect their workers and to stockpile antiviral drugs.

“We are committed to helping employers and other business leaders prepare for an influenza pandemic and its impact on the health of their employees and the operation integrity of their organizations,”said Chris Viehbacher, president of North American pharmaceuticals for GlaxoSmithKline. “By offering employers these options, we aim to reduce the storage and cost barriers associated with implementing an antiviral stockpiling program.”

Relenza, which is known generically as zanamivir, had sales of $232.23 million in 2007, according to GSK financial data. In-vitro and animal testing have indicated that it is effective against the H5N1 strain of avian flu, which experts believe could mutate into an airborne strain and cause a global pandemic.

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PHARMACY

Rx Response mobilizes to respond to Hurricane Gustav

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON With Hurricane Gustav barely missing New Orleans, several retail pharmacy, pharmaceutical and medical industry organizations have mobilized to respond.

Rx Response’s purpose is to provide a single point of contact between emergency management officials and the pharmaceutical supply system. It uses a network that allows the officials to communicate with it concerning issues that might affect the supply system, such as pharmaceutical needs. For example, public health officials in Louisiana and Alabama have asked it for a list of pharmacies that closed when Gustav made landfall so that they could direct patients to operating pharmacies.

The organization began almost two years ago in response to Hurricane Katrina and the threat of pandemic influenza. Its members include the American Hospital Association, the American Red Cross, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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Old anti-itching drug may become new hepatitis treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

STANFORD, Calif. Researchers at Stanford University have found a possible new way to combat hepatitis C, according to a report published online in the Aug. 31 issue of Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers found that clemizole hydrochloride, an anti-itching drug, hindered a protein in the hepatitis C virus called NS4B, which is crucial to the virus’ replication without harming cells similar to those found in the liver, which the virus targets.

“We’re excited about this, and we’re actively moving forward toward clinical trials,” said Dr. Jeffrey Glenn, an associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford.

Glenn said that if it proves effective in human trials, clemizole could become an essential component in a new class of multi-drug treatments for hepatitis C.

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