PHARMACY

Merck eliminating positions but hiring in other areas

BY Diana Alickaj

SEATTLE Merck has decided to eliminate 12 positions at Rosetta Inpharmatics, its Seattle-based subsidiary. The lay-off is said to only affect a small quantity of the 350 people that work for Rosetta, with minor reorganizational changes.

Merck has recently been going through a consolidation of its oncology research operations, but insists that the overall headcount for sites will not change. The company also mentioned that those who are affected will not be left in bad positions, either. “We’ve done this far enough in advance to allow us ample time to work with the affected individuals so they can either find other positions within Rosetta or within Merck Research Laboratories … or (through) outplacement services as a last resort,” said Amy Rose, a Merck spokeswoman.

According to published reports, the positions at Rosetta Inpharmatics would be eliminated on July 1, but they will be hiring in other areas so, Rose explains, “the net result is zero to the Seattle area.”

Rosetta is just one of a portion of companies in Seattle that have decided to downsize. Other companies include Zymogenetics, Northstar Neuroscience, Nastech Pharmaceutical and Amgen.

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Senate approves bill to increase spending for American Indian healthcare

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Senate has approved a bill that would give $35 billion over the next 10 years to the Indian Health Service, which provides tribal health care for 1.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives on reservations, according to published reports.

The bill would strengthen mental health programs and patient screening for cancer and diabetes, expand disease prevention programs and recruit nurses and doctors to serve American Indian populations. It would also modernize and build health clinics and increase tribal access to Medicare and Medicaid.

The Senate also approved an amendment by Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., that would grant the Indian Health Service the authority to more evenly distribute funding for construction of its health facilities. Right now, funding only goes to about 10 states.

The House is expected to take a look at the bill later this year.

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FDA to increase oversight of post-market medications

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration has revealed a new plan called “Safety First”, which is aimed at providing more information on drugs after they hit the market, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The plan involves creating a new database listing possible side effects of drugs, along with clear schedules for following up on questions about them. Also, the FDA plans to make changes to its procedures for making certain regulatory decisions particularly those based on emerging safety worries.

The FDA’s Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, which focuses on the safety of marketed drugs, will get some new powers. The drug safety office will get primary authority over decisions to approve drug brand names and packaging, though this change will not occur immediately. Eventually, the safety office is supposed to formally get another power as well: the ability to commission certain kinds of research, the epidemiological studies often drawn from patient databases. This could involve requiring drugmakers to do such studies, a power the FDA gained under a new law passed last year, or contracting with outside sources.

The FDA is supposed to implement a second phase to the plan, called “Safe Use,” that will focus on ensuring that drugs are used safely in the real world.

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