HEALTH

JDRF honors Roche with Chancellor’s Award

BY Allison Cerra

INDIANAPOLIS A maker of blood-glucose meters, infusion pumps and other diabetes management tools was awarded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for its long-standing corporate partnership with the organization.

Roche was given the Chancellor’s Award at JDRF’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., and was noted as “an exceptional partner in the education and management of diabetes.” Roche and JDRF work together on the Bag of Hope program, which provides education materials on juvenile diabetes and a free Accu-Chek blood-glucose meter. The bags contain products and materials valued at about $100, which are distributed to families by local Roche and JDRF representatives.

Since 2004, Roche has committed almost $10 million to the Bag of Hope program.

“Roche is an exceptional partner in the education and management of diabetes. During the past several years, the Bag of Hope program has become the cornerstone of our outreach program to families with newly diagnosed children, and we thank Roche for its continued funding of this incredibly important educational initiative,” said Courtney Davies, national director of corporate relations at JDRF.

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Op-ed urges reclassification of pseudoephedrine

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Former White House drug policy spokesman Robert Weiner and Jonathan Battaglia, a policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates, on Tuesday released a statement advocating the reclassification of pseudoephedrine as a prescription-only pharmaceutical.

In an op-ed in The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, Weiner and Battaglia claimed that Oregon has taken the step and in the three years since 2006 enactment, has cut the methamphetamine crisis in half.

The co-authors suggested that the current federal legislation, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, does not go far enough with daily and monthly sales limits for pseudoephedrine.

“The result was a confusing process for retailers and the arrests of law-abiding people with no other motive but getting rid of their cold or allergies,” the two wrote.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association has been working toward a workable solution that doesn’t entail reclassifying PSE as a nonprescription offering. The association in April officially called on Congress to amend and strengthen the federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act by requiring nationwide electronic tracking for all over-the-counter sales of cold-and-allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

The proclamation came as the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control held a hearing on “The Status of Meth: Oregon’s Experience Making Pseudoephedrine Prescription Only.”

“E-tracking is the only solution that will immediately block illegal sales and prevent criminals from buying illegal amounts of PSE to manufacture methamphetamine,” the CHPA stated. CHPA president Linda Suydam committed on behalf of industry to fund a national system and work with the retail community to expand the National Precursor Log Exchange system currently being implemented in eight states that have passed e-tracking legislation.

The NPLEx e-tracking system works in real time to stop individuals from exceeding package limits when purchasing PSE-containing medicines. Using sales records that retailers are already required to keep and which only are made available to law enforcement, NPLEx works across state lines and provides law enforcement with an effective tool to stop methamphetamine production.

“We are asking Congress to significantly improve the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act by leveraging cutting-edge technology to block illegal pseudoephedrine sales nationwide,” Suydam stated. “Electronic tracking offers the best solution to reducing methamphetamine labs without imposing a costly and unnecessary prescription mandate. Our goal is to stop illegal pseudoephedrine sales while maintaining important over-the-counter access to the 15 million consumers who rely on these medicines each year.”

Ten states already have adopted laws requiring retailers to use an e-tracking system to track PSE sales, CHPA noted, including: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Washington. Attorneys general from Alabama, Kansas and Washington submitted letters to the caucus noting their support for electronic tracking and urged consideration of e-tracking at the federal level.

CHPA is funding NPLEx in eight of these states to help retailers to comply with these new laws.

Only two states, Oregon and Mississippi, have instead elected to make PSE medicines available by prescription only. Local municipalities within Missouri, but not the entire state, have adopted similar legislation.

Suydam told the caucus that, “when contrasted with electronic tracking, prescription mandates simply fall short. A prescription mandate would be more expensive to consumers, sales limits from [the Combat Meth Act] would no longer apply, and there would be no system for real-time blocking of illegal prescription sales within states or across state lines.”

Suydam also challenged the effectiveness of Oregon’s prescription-only law, noting that most of Oregon’s lab reductions occurred prior to the state’s prescription mandate and that states across the West achieved similar results without such a burdensome restriction.

“The industry supports federal legislation requiring nationwide tracking, and we are asking that the current paper system be modernized to provide a system that will work seamlessly and more effectively across all states,” said Suydam. “E-tracking systems like NPLEx are the most effective tool we have to systematically address methamphetamine production in this country. A multistate approach to electronic pseudoephedrine sales tracking offers more benefits for law enforcement and consumers than a prescription mandate, but without the substantial and unnecessary costs of a prescription approach.”

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Diabetic eye disease may be curbed with help of computer programs

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Computerized systems may be able to detect early eye problems related to diabetes, according to a University of Iowa analysis.

The analysis, which was published in the Apr. 16 issue of Ophthalmology, found that computer programs may aid in finding diabetic eye disease and related issues. By analyzing 16,670 people with diabetes with two programs — EyeCheck and Challenge 2009 — a trained technician would use a digital camera to take pictures of the retina, then electronically transfer the images to computers, which can automatically detect the small hemorrhages (internal bleeding) and signs of fluid that are hallmarks of diabetes damage.

"It is an important question: whether a computer can substitute for a human to detect the initial signs of diabetic eye disease," said Michael Abramoff, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and an ophthalmologist with UI Hospitals and Clinics. "Our analysis shows that the computerized programs appear to be as accurate and thorough as a highly trained expert in determining if these initial signs of an eye problem are developing in someone with diabetes. Once the initial problems are found, an eye specialist can treat the patient."

The researchers said that while the programs significantly could reduce the number of patients with diabetic-related vision problems, the images were prescreened to ensure the computers could analyze them and the computer-based assessments were compared with assessments done by only one human reader at a time, which may not reflect a comparison to assessments by multiple readers.

 

"A computer alone will never be a substitute for the care of a good doctor, but it’s exciting to think that computers can be partners in finding the patients at risk of blindness who should see an ophthalmologist," said study author Vinit Mahajan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences.

 

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