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Late-stage clinical trial results: MS drug is effective

BY Alaric DeArment

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. Patients taking an investigational drug for multiple sclerosis fared better than those taking placebo, according to late-stage clinical results presented Friday at a neurology conference.

Avanir Pharmaceuticals said MS patients taking Zenvia (dextromethorphan and quinidine) in 30 mg/10 mg doses experienced a 11.9% greater reduction in pseudobulbar effect – an MS-related condition also known as PBA that causes sudden, uncontrollable episodes of laughter, crying and other emotional outbursts – than those taking placebo in a 12-week phase 3 trial, results of which the company presented at the 3rd World Congress on Controversies in Neurology in Prague, Czech Republic. Patients taking the 20 mg/10 mg dose did not do better than the placebo group.

“PBA represents an area of high, unmet medical need with no FDA-approved treatments currently available,” study presenter and trial steering committee member Daniel Wynn of the Consultants in Neurology Multiple Sclerosis Center stated. “Although the involuntary emotional outbursts of PBA cause considerable impairment for millions of individuals in the United States, it is under-recognized and commonly misdiagnosed.”

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Medco report: Specialty pharmacy spending driven by cancer drugs

BY Alaric DeArment

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. Cancer drugs will become the biggest driver of specialty pharmacy spending, with global sales of the drugs expected to reach $80 billion by 2012, according to a new report by pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions.

Spending on cancer drugs increase by 15.1% last year – behind autoimmune disorder and multiple sclerosis drugs – with an overall contribution to drug spending of 5% during the first half of this year.

“Targeted cancer therapies have dramatically reshaped oncology and greatly benefited cancer patients,” Medco chief medical officer Robert Epstein said in a statement. “The newer cancer drugs improve survival rates since they target what fuels the cancer’s growth.”

Cancer drugs also represent a robust pipeline, with more than 800 under investigation. Many of the drugs that the Food and Drug Administration has approved in the last four years – often biotech drugs – have cost $20,000 for 12-week courses of therapy, while some have cost $10,000 a month, though the report said a regulatory approval pathway for biosimilars could help reduce the costs of biotech drug treatments.

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Kinney Drugs to purchase Vermont retail pharmacy

BY Alaric DeArment

GOUVERNEUR, N.Y. A regional retail pharmacy chain in northern New York state will purchase a locally owned store in Vermont.

Kinney Drugs announced Wednesday that it would purchase Vincent’s Drug & Variety, in Waterbury, Vt. The purchase is expected to take place in early January 2010.

“Everyone at Kinney Drugs is excited at the prospect of welcoming Vincent’s Drug employees and customers into our family,” Kinney Drugs president and COO Bridget-ann Hart said in a statement. “It is important to us that this transition be as smooth as possible for both Vincent’s Drug customers and its employees.”

Vincent’s Drug & Variety has been in Waterbury for 98 years.

“The values, health programs and services and community involvement of our two companies are very much aligned,” owner and pharmacist John Vincent said in a statement. “I wholeheartedly trust the people of Kinney Drugs to provide the same level of caring that Washington County has become accustomed to from Vincent’s Drug & Variety.”

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