PHARMACY

HHS recommends larger stockpiles of flu vaccines

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday issued new guidelines for protecting people from avian flu in the event of such a pandemic as the one in 1918.

The department recommends stockpiling Tamiflu and Relenza. It also recommended that households store as many as 100 face masks.

There is concern worldwide about the H5N1 strain of avian flu. Though spread through contact with infected birds, it has been found in birds in Europe, Africa and Asia and infected 383 people since 2003, with a fatality rate of 63 percent.

Tamiflu, manufactured by Roche and Gilead Sciences, had sales of $2.01 billion in 2007, according to Roche’s annual report. Relenza, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Biota, had sales of $513 million, according to GlaxoSmithKline’s annual report.

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PHARMACY

Antibody drug found cost-effective against allergic asthma

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK A review of seven studies has found the antibody drug Xolair to be cost-effective in treating allergic asthma, according to a report published in the journal Allergy.

The report, by University of Washington researcher Sean Sullivan and Dr. F. Turk of Novartis Pharma showed that Xolair, Novartis’ brand name for omalizumab, showed the drug was cost-effective in treating allergic asthma for which common asthma medications were inadequate.

The studies also found some evidence that Xolair may not be as cost-effective in treating other forms of asthma.

Novartis and Genentech market Xolair in the U.S. Genentech reported U.S. sales of $472 million for the drug in 2007, according to Novartis financial data.

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First DataBank settles lawsuit for $1 million

BY Drew Buono

BOSTON First DataBank, a provider of integrated databases of information about medications, has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit alleging it conspired with McKesson to manipulate the average wholesale price of drugs.

The case, New England Carpenters Health Benefits Fund vs. First DataBank, filed in 2005, alleges that First DataBank and McKesson “wrongfully increased the so-called wholesale acquisition cost to AWP markup factor applied to numerous prescription pharmaceuticals through a scheme begun in late 2001 and 2002,” which meant that the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit made “substantial excess payments.”

First DataBank denies any wrongdoing or liability and “has valid and complete defenses to the claims asserted against [it] in the class action,” which it is settling to avoid the expense and inconvenience of further litigation, the settlement says.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, explicitly excludes government entities from joining the class action suit. The San Francisco Health Plan and the state of Connecticut have filed suits with similar charges that McKesson and First DataBank inflated the spread between WAC and AWP from 20 percent to 25 percent, costing state Medicaid and other health programs untold sums.

First DataBank is not named as a defendant in the two new lawsuits. McKesson continues to defend itself in all three cases.

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