PHARMACY

GSK awards Epix $5.5. milestone payment

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline and Lexington, Mass.-based pharmaceutical company Epix Pharmaceuticals has earned the latter $5.5 million in milestone payments, Epix announced Thursday.

Epix has discovered three new drug candidates for treating a number of diseases. Epix and GSK have been collaborating since December 2006, and Epix has already gained $35 million. If the collaboration goes as planned, Epix may earn up to $1.2 billion.

The $5.5 million payment comprises $3 million for identifying the candidates and another $2.5 million for overall progress. Epix previously received two milestone payments totaling $6 million.

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Merck wins liability ruling in N.J. Vioxx case

BY Drew Buono

NEWARK, N.J. According to the New Jersey State Supreme Court, Merck is not liable for the medical monitoring of Vioxx users who are not claiming injury, as reported by the Associated Press. The 5-1 ruling by the state’s highest court means a class-action lawsuit by people who used the once-popular painkiller will be dismissed. One justice did not participate.

Vioxx users who claim they have no immediate symptoms but that use of the drug gives them a greater risk of developing illness filed the lawsuit. So they want diagnostic testing to uncover any hidden or developing problems. But, because they aren’t claiming they have an injury, they aren’t eligible for the settlement Merck announced in November. Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle thousands of U.S. personal injury lawsuits involving a heart attack, stroke or death. About 45,000 eligible claimants had initiated enrollment as of March 31.

The high court said that since the Vioxx users in the case don’t claim injury, they “cannot satisfy the definition of harm” in seeking medical monitoring under the state’s Product Liability Act. In dissent, Justice Virginia A. Long argued that the law encompassed a broad definition of harm, and includes the concept that an “increased risk of injury that creates a need for medical surveillance” is a recognizable harm.

Merck lawyer Ted Mayer said in a statement that, “The N.J. Supreme Court has made it clear that you cannot bring a medical monitoring claim unless you allege you were injured by a product. The plaintiffs in this suit sought to recover from Merck even though Vioxx has been off the market for almost four years and they do not claim that it ever injured them.”

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after its own study showed Vioxx doubles risk of heart attack or stroke.

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Merck, Health Interactions look to improve conversation on diabetes

BY Drew Buono

CHICAGO and WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck and the health education company Health Interactions have announced an expansion of a multiyear relationship to change how healthcare professionals engage patients in learning about diabetes and to improve diabetes self-management education among patients.

Healthy Interactions and Merck now will undertake training and equipping 5,000 additional healthcare professionals with the U.S. Diabetes Conversation Map Program, which allows people with diabetes to communicate in groups that include other diabetics and diabetes educators to help deal and live with the chronic disease. Healthy Interactions developed the program in collaboration with the American Diabetes Association. The enlarged effort also provides for the debut of the U.S. Diabetes Conversation Map Program in Spanish, beginning this month, to help connect with the nearly three million Hispanics and Latinos with diabetes in the United States.

Merck sponsors Training and distribution of the U.S. Diabetes Conversation Map tools. Since launching at the 2007 American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions, the demand for the U.S. Diabetes Conversation Map Program has been so strong that Healthy Interactions has surpassed its three-year goal of training 10,000 healthcare professionals in just 10 short months.

The expansion of the Conversation Map Program into the Spanish language represents an important milestone. Hispanics and Latinos have a significantly increased risk for diabetes, with Type 2 diabetes occurring at a rate approximately 1.7 times that in the non- Hispanic white population.

“Merck is firmly committed to improving patient education through our flagship program, Journey for Control, and we recognize the value and impact that this Program has for patients with diabetes,” said Kathryn Hayward, U.S. Marketing Leader, Diabetes at Merck.

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