PHARMACY

McKesson to oversee strategic vaccine reserve

BY Jim Frederick

SAN FRANCISCO McKesson Corp. has been tapped by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to store and supply the nation’s strategic reserve of 2008-2009 seasonal influenza vaccines.

Under a contract signed with the CDC, McKesson will warehouse and potentially distribute up to 500,000 flu vaccine doses from its specialty distribution centers.

Behind the agency’s choice of McKesson: the company’s ability to handle the special storage and supply-chain requirements of distributing vaccines. The health services and distribution giant also holds the appropriate local, state and federal licenses for safely handling and transporting regulated drug products.

“Outsourced vaccine storage requires a distributor with experience and infrastructure to assure that supply chain systems are stable and secure,” said Philip Bolger, VP and general manager for distribution and physician services at McKesson Specialty Care Solutions. “In addition, McKesson can support the compressed timetable for vaccine distribution across the U.S. and its territories.”

Given their composition and limited shelf life, vaccines require special handling to maintain their viability through the storage and distribution process. “Precise cold chain management is critical to the product being received by the end user in manufacturer-recommended conditions,” the company noted.

Through a previous contract with the CDC, McKesson already supplies vaccines for public-sector needs. Two of its specialty distribution centers are primarily dedicated to that program, which shifted to a centralized distribution model in 2007 and delivers pediatric and adult vaccines to more than 46,000 providers across the United States and its territories.

“The demands of CDC programs require a distributor with experience, flexibility and vision, and we are honored by the CDC’s continued confidence in McKesson to meet these needs,” said Pat Blake, president of McKesson Specialty Care Solutions.

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Warner Chilcott to relocate to Ireland

BY Alaric DeArment

ARDEE, Ireland The board of directors of Warner Chilcott has voted unanimously to move the company’s headquarters from Hamilton, Bermuda, to Ireland, the company announced Monday.

Warner Chilcott has kept its headquarters in Bermuda since 2005, but plans to finish the relocation during the second half of this year, changing its name from Warner Chilcott Limited to Warner Chilcott plc. The company said its relocation would offer shareholders a stable long-term legal and regulatory environment.

Warner Chilcott has had a presence in Ireland since 1996.

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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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