PHARMACY

HHS releases grants for new Medicare initiative

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Disabled and elderly people and their caregivers are eligible to apply for special assistance through Medicare under a program announced Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius released $25 million in grants and $5 million for a national resource center to support the effort under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, passed last year. The initiative includes special targeting efforts for rural areas and elderly Native Americans.

“Medicare is essential to our effort to provide high-quality health care to all Americans,” Sebelius said. “Many people could be eligible for extra help through Medicare and not even know it. We know that beneficiaries with the greatest needs are often the most difficult to reach.”

The funding is jointly administered by HHS’ Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and is being awarded to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, State Agencies on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Native Americans Tribal Organizations and local communities to help seniors, caregivers and those with disabilities on Medicare.

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Pfizer presents investigational cancer drug results at conference

BY Alaric DeArment

ORLANDO Data from a phase 2 study of an investigational lung cancer drug identify patients who may benefit from treatment with the drug, according to abstracts presented at a cancer conference.

Drug maker Pfizer presented three abstracts of a study on figitumumab (CP-751,871) at the 45th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando, Fla. The study showed a response rate of more than 60% in a single-arm extension cohort of 56 patients conducted to confirm preliminary findings from a 156-patient phase 2 study evaluating overall response with figitumumab when combined with carboplatin and paclitaxel in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

“As we try to find the right drug to use in the right setting for each patient, we are encouraged by these data, suggesting a relationship between tumor histology and response to figitumumab,” Pfizer Oncology Business Unit SVP clinical development and medical affairs Mace Rothenberg said in a statement. “Given that patients with advanced NSCLC face a poor prognosis, it is important to be able to identify specific patients who may benefit most from different treatment options.”

The company recently started a phase 3 trial of the drug, an anti-insulin growth factor type 1 receptor antibody.

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FDA accepts NDA for epilepsy treatment

BY Allison Cerra

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. Sepracor announced Monday that the Food and Drug Administration has accepted the new drug application for its epilepsy treatment.

Stedesa (eslicarbazepine acetate) has been accepted for filing and is now under formal review. The NDA was submitted Mar. 31 for adjunctive therapy in the treatment of partial-onset seizures in adults with epilepsy. Meanwhile, the Prescription Drug User Fee Act date for Stedesa is expected to be Jan. 30, 2010, subject to written confirmation, the drug maker said.

Sepracor is seeking approval of Stedesa  for adjunctive therapy with once-daily doses of 800 mg and 1200 mg in the treatment of partial-onset seizures in adults with epilepsy.

“We are very pleased to continue the advancement of Stedesa as a potential new adjunctive treatment for partial-onset epilepsy,” said Adrian Adams, president and CEO Sepracor. “Stedesa represents a significant and near-term opportunity for Sepracor, and the FDA acceptance of the NDA is yet another step forward in one of our near- and mid-term corporate objectives of expanding and advancing our pharmaceutical product pipeline.”

Stedesa, Sepracor said, was studied in three Phase III trials involving more than 1,000 patients in 23 countries. Sepracor acquired the rights to commercialize eslicarbazepine acetate in the U.S. and Canadian markets from BIAL, a privately-held Portuguese pharmaceutical company, in late 2007.

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