PHARMACY

Nearly all qualified plaintiffs enroll for interim Vioxx payment

BY Drew Buono

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck announced yesterday that more than 44,000 of the approximately 47,000 people who registered injuries connected from taking the pain medication Vioxx have submitted some or all of the materials required for enrollment that could qualify them for an interim payment to resolve myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke claims filed against it.

In addition, about 5,000 other people have sought to enroll and are awaiting status on their eligibility. The 44,000 breaks down by, more than 16,000 claim problems related to ischemic stroke, more than 27,500 are connected to myocardial infarction.

“We are very pleased with the large number of enrollments we are seeing and are confident that when the enrollments are verified, all 85 percent thresholds will be met and exceeded within the timeframes in the agreement,” said Ted Mayer, of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, one of Merck’s coordinating defense counsel. “We are now working with the claims administrator to examine the registration and enrollment materials that have been received and continue to come in. There is a considerable amount of documentation that has to be reviewed before the definitive determination can be made that the thresholds have been met.”

The timely meeting of the thresholds with enrollment documents in compliance with the settlement agreement would obligate Merck to pay $4.85 billion in installments into the resolution fund.

Merck will allow patients to participate in the threshold up to Oct. 30, as long as they are eligible and participate in a timely manner.

Under the settlement agreement, Merck does not admit causation or fault with respect to these claims.

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Rx program more expensive than chain store prescriptions

BY Diana Alickaj

DENVER Rx Outreach, a Colorado program aimed at helping low-income people afford drugs for chronic diseases, was found to be more expensive for purchasing drugs than regular chain-store pharmacies.

A 90-day supply from a choice of 110 generics costs about $20 each, and three-dozen other drugs sell for $30 and $40. In contrast, Kmart’s program for a choice of 300 generic medications for a 90-day supply retails for $15, while Costco sells their prescriptions for about $10.66 and Walgreens sells them for about $12.99.

The program, Colorado Cares Rx, was unveiled this month by the Department of Health Care Policy and financing in partnership with Rx Outreach. The program was started by the state to develop a low-cost drug program, but the sponsors are finding it harder to compete with chain store rivals, based on pricing.

Officials claim growing pains, however. Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder, said “This is just a first step. We have to do more.”

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FDA approves Abilify for teens

BY Drew Buono

TOKYO and PRINCETON, N.J. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb drug application for Abilify for the acute treatment of manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder, with or without psychotic features in pediatric patients aged 10 to 17.

The approval is based on the results of a four-week study that compared Abilify to a placebo in treating pediatric patients with bipolar disorder I. Otsuka Pharmaceuticals sponsored the study.

“We are pleased that the FDA has approved Abilify to treat pediatric patients aged 10 to 17 years suffering from Bipolar I Disorder,” said Taro Iwamoto, Ph.D., chief executive officer, president and chief operating officer, Otsuka Pharmaceutical development and c commercialization. “The approval of this new indication for ABILIFY provides clinicians with expanded treatment options that can help address the therapeutic needs of this population.” 

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