PHARMACY

Heartburn drugs’ interaction with anti-clotting drug may raise risk of heart attack

BY Alaric DeArment

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. Four popular drugs used to treat heartburn may raise the risk of heart attack in patients taking a cardiovascular drug, according to a recent study presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.

Researchers at pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions and the Indiana University School of Medicine found that four proton-pump inhibitors – Wyeth’s Protonix (pantoprazole), AstraZeneca’s Nexium (esomeprazole) and Prilosec (omeprazole), and Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ Prevacid (lansoprazole) – could reduce the effectiveness of Sanofi-Aventis’s and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s anti-platelet drug Plavix (clopidogrel), thus raising the risk of heart attack and stroke. Other proton-pump inhibitors were not included in the study due to the low number of patients taking them.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that PPIs decrease the effectiveness of clopidogrel and put cardiovascular patients at a much higher risk, a huge concern given the large number of patients affected,” Medco chief medical officer and study researcher Robert Epstein stated. “While this study confirms prior research in this area, it brings us a step further in our understanding by showing that this is a problem associated with each of the four most popular PPIs.”

The study, part of the Clopidogrel Outcomes Study, investigated pharmacy claims data of 16,690 patients taking Plavix following a stent procedure and tracked the subjects for a 12-month period from 2005 to 2006, comparing 6,828 patients taking Plavix and a proton-pump inhibitor to 9,862 taking Plavix alone.

“Our study, along with a 2007 FDA review and other researchers’ work, provides strong evidence that PPIs do not independently raise cardiovascular risks for stent patients, and further strengthens the observation that this interaction exists between PPIs and clopidogrel and impairs the effectiveness of the anti-platelet drug,” Epstein said.

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Gilead finds that investigational hypertension drug reduces blood pressure in patients

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN FRANCISCO An investigational drug reduces blood pressure in patients with resistant hypertension, results of a phase 3 clinical trial presented Friday at the American Society of Hypertension’s annual scientific meeting in San Francisco showed.

Gilead Sciences announced the presentation of data from DAR-311, a phase 3 trial of the drug darusentan. The drug, an endothelin receptor agonist, is designed as a once-daily treatment for use as part of a three-drug regimen that includes a diuretic.

“Because of the increased risk of a number of life-threatening cardiovascular conditions associated with failure to control blood pressure, including stroke and heart attack, it is essential that new therapeutic approaches be evaluated for treatment of resistant hypertension,” stated lead study author and professor of medicine at the State University of New York Downstate Medical College of Medicine. “These data are important because they showed meaningful reductions in blood pressure when darusentan was added to existing antihypertensive regimens in a very difficult-to-treat patient population.”

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Walgreens wraps up Drug Fair deal

BY Rob Eder

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens announced late Friday afternoon that it has completed the acquisition of 31 Drug Fair stores in central and western New Jersey. In March, Walgreens agreed to buy the stores in the wake of Drug Fair’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Walgreens expects to have completed store conversions “over the next few weeks,” according to a statement, including extensive remerchandising, refreshed graphics package, new signage and displays, and a shift to the Walgreens product mix and assortment, including private label. Store hours will not be affected during the transition period, the company stated. More importantly, the store makeovers will also include conversion to Walgreens’ pharmacy system, tying it into the other 6,700-plus stores in the chain, and the ability to offer pharmacist counseling and prescription labels in 14 languages.

“This will be a seamless transition for our new customers,” said Walgreens market VP Tim Anhorn. “In fact, many of the familiar faces they know and trust will continue to work at these locations. These stores will carry on the tradition of service that Drug Fair has built over more than 50 years in this region.”

In addition to the 31 Drug Fair stores it will continue to operate, Walgreens also has purchased the prescription files two other stores, one in Clifton and another in Morris Plains, N.J., which Walgreens plans to move to stores it already operates in those areas. The company said it also expects to complete transactions for two additional Drug Fair locations in the coming weeks.

With total sales of more than $340 million, including $170 million of it coming from prescription drug sales, Drug Store News had ranked Drug Fair no. 48 on its annual listing of the top 50 pharmacy retailers in America for 2008 (The Drug Store News PoweRx50 2008).

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