PHARMACY

Merck responds to reports of jaw disorder in patients taking Fosamax

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Reports of improper healing and infection of the jaw in patients taking an osteoporosis drug have prompted a response from the drug’s manufacturer.

Merck & Co. issued a response Wednesday to reports of patients taking Fosamax (alendronate sodium) developing osteonecrosis, which often follows tooth extraction.

The company said the condition, also known as ONJ, is not well-understood and may occur for a number of reasons, such as cancer and certain cancer therapies and poor oral hygiene. It also said clinical trials in which more than 17,000 patients took Fosamax did not turn up reports of ONJ.

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WellPoint to collaborate with health insurance providers for online tool

BY Alaric DeArment

INDIANAPOLIS Health insurer WellPoint will collaborate with two other health insurance providers to provide access to its online cost comparison tool for more than 48 million Americans.

The Indianapolis-based insurer said the collaboration would allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida and Health Care Service Corp. – which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in four other states – to provide the total estimated cost ranges associated with 35 specific medical procedures performed at more than 2,800 hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, free-standing radiology facilities and other facilities.

“We developed this transparency tool in 2006 for use by members in our health plans, with the goal of creating well-informed consumers of health care,” WellPoint president and CEO Angela Braly said in a statement. “We are pleased to be working with other Blue companies so that even more members can have access to clear, concise health cost information in major cities across the country.”

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Pfizer, Medivation commence late-stage clinical trial for Huntington disease treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Two drug makers have started a late-stage clinical trial of a drug developed by Soviet Union scientists in the 1980s to evaluate it as a treatment for Huntington disease.

Pfizer and Medivation announced Thursday the start of a phase 3 trial of dimebon (latrepirdine), saying that the Food and Drug Administration had granted the drug orphan drug designation. The FDA grants the designation to investigational drugs for conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States each year.

The drug was originally developed as an antihistamine, but has attracted the attention of researchers as a possible treatment for Huntington disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Based on the promising results of our phase 2 trial of dimebon in Huntington disease, we are pleased to advance dimebon into late-stage clinical development,” Medivation chief medical officer Lynn Seely said in a statement. “Huntington disease is a fatal genetic disease for which no medications are currently approved by the FDA to treat the cognitive impairment associated with the condition.”

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