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Medco report predicts cancer drugs to fuel specialty Rx spending

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.

“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.”

Spending on cancer drugs increased 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. With 1.48 million Americans expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, spending on the drugs likely will stay high, and according to the American Cancer Society, cancer patients are living longer today than a generation ago.

“As some may extend life, they may be used for longer periods of time and improve quality of life for millions of patients,” Epstein said. “Due to the higher costs of these treatments, however, proper selection and dosing is extremely important.”

Cancer drugs also represent a robust pipeline, with more than 800 under investigation. A database of cancer drugs in development maintained by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America lists a large number of drugs, pharmaceuticals and biologics in late-stage clinical trials.

Many of the cancer 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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Hy-Vee celebrates the other white meat

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A lot of people complain about pork barrel spending, but not Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee.

October is National Pork Month, and the West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee announced Friday that sales of the meat have increased more than 25% over October 2008. The chain said it was on track to increase pork tonnage by more than 30%.

 

“With pork prices the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade, we’ve focused our marketing efforts on promoting pork as a great value for consumers,” Hy-Vee assistant VP meat operations Kenan Judge said in a statement. “Today’s shopper is looking for nutritious, economical meal ideas, and pork perfectly fits the bill.”

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Patients prefer new diabetes drug Victoza over its competitor, survey finds

BY Alaric DeArment

MONTREAL A new diabetes drug satisfied patients more than its competitor, according to a study funded by the drug’s manufacturer.

According to data on 379 patients who took the Diabetes Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaires, presented Thursday at the 20th World Diabetes Congress and published in medical journal The Lancet, patients taking Novo Nordisk’s drug Victoza (liraglutide) perceived less abnormally low or high blood sugar levels — known respectively as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia — than those taking Byetta (exenatide), made by Eli Lilly & Co., Amylin Corp. and Alkermes.

Victoza is approved in Europe, but Novo Nordisk is still waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

“Liraglutide has shown here in a convincing study that it is associated with less nausea, less perceived hypoglycemia and definitely higher patient satisfaction compared to exenatide,” principal investigator Wolfgang Schmidt said in a statement. “Patient-reported outcomes data is an important extension of the efficacy data. If a patient is satisfied with his or her treatment, then they are much more likely to really stick to the treatment over the long term, which is necessary in Type 2 diabetes.”

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