PHARMACY

NACDS hails passage by House members of equal-access provisions of military bill

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drugs Stores was quick to praise the U.S. House of Representatives for its approval today of a defense spending bill that preserves the right of military members and their families to obtain prescription medicines from community pharmacies without penalty.

The House today approved the language of the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, hammered out last week by House and Senate negotiators. Among the key elements of the bill are two provisions that affect the ability of retail pharmacies to participate in the TRICARE military health program.

To wit, the defense bill would extend the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments, so that patients covered by TRICARE won’t be penalized for opting to have their prescriptions filled at a local pharmacy in their community, rather than through a mail-order facility. The bill also contains language that affirms the right of the Department of Defense to negotiate with drug manufacturers for federal pricing discounts for TRICARE prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies, “in the same manner as they do today for TRICARE prescriptions filled at military bases or by mail order,” NACDS noted.

Both provisions would help maintain a level playing field between retail and mail-order pharmacies that serve military families, according to the pharmacy group. In addition, noted NACDS, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Defense Department will save $1.8 billion over the next five years by negotiating directly with drug makers for pricing discounts on drugs sold by retail pharmacies.

To become law, however, the Defense Authorization Act conference report must now pass the Senate and be signed by President Bush.

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson hailed today’s action in the House. “Keeping equal access to community pharmacy for our military men and women is a priority for NACDS,” Anderson said. “We applaud the House for its action to preserve access to retail pharmacies in the TRICARE program. This legislation will help maintain choice for soldiers, military retirees and their families.”

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GSK inks potential $1.4 billion development deal with OncoMed

BY Drew Buono

LONDON and PHILADELPHIA GlaxoSmithKline and OncoMed Pharmaceuticals have entered into an agreement to discover, develop and market novel antibody therapeutics to target cancer stem cells, which are believed to be key in the metastasis and recurrence of cancer cells.

Under the terms of the deal, OncoMed can earn milestone payments from GSK of up to $1.4 billion, based on the achievement of specified discovery, development, regulatory and commercial milestones. OncoMed will also receive double-digit royalties on all collaboration product sales. In addition, GSK will have an option to invest in a future initial public offering by OncoMed.

Under the partnership, GSK received an option to license four OncoMed product candidates directed at multiple cancer stem cell targets. The alliance with GSK includes OncoMed’s lead antibody product candidate, OMP-21M18, a monoclonal antibody, which is scheduled to enter the clinic in 2008.

“This alliance confirms GSK’s growing status as a world leader in the development of new oncology medicines for use in the treatment, prevention and supportive care of cancer patients and provides us access to an exciting new area of drug discovery. We believe that targeting cancer stem cells has the potential to change the paradigm of how oncology patients are treated and we are very excited to be working with OncoMed to develop novel and innovative medicines in this regard,” said Hugh Cowley, senior vice president and head of the company’s Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery.

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Roche nominates its own candidates for Ventana board

BY Drew Buono

BASEL, Switzerland Roche has been trying to acquire Ventana for about six months and Ventana has called Roche’s offers “grossly inadequate,” according to published reports. Now, Roche has made a move to increase its chances of buying the company.

Roche has nominated four candidates for election to Ventana’s board of directors at its next annual general meeting, scheduled for June.

“We have taken this step, as required by Ventana’s bylaws, because we are committed to pursuing the acquisition of Ventana. However, we continue to prefer a negotiated transaction,” said Franz Humer, chairman and chief executive officer of Roche.

“All of our nominees have proven track records in their areas of expertise and if elected, we are confident that they will act in the best interests of Ventana stockholders by exploring all alternatives for maximizing shareholder value.”

Roche’s offer has been a steady $75 per share, a $13 difference below the price at which the shares are currently trading.

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