PHARMACY

New class of drugs offers hope for variety of conditions

BY Drew Buono

LONDON A new class of drug, called vaptans, has been developed with the potential to treat a wide variety of conditions ranging from painful periods to brain hemorrhages, according to The Lancet.

Vaptans target a hormone system involved in the control of blood flow and water retention in the body. The drugs can be taken by mouth or injection and work by interfering with the hormone vasopressin.

Various subclasses of the drug have been developed or are in development, scientists reported in the journal. One, known as relcovaptan, by Yamanouchi Pharmaceuticals, has shown positive results in the treatment of painful periods, Raynaud’s disease, which causes loss of blood in the fingertips, and tocolysis (premature labor leading to premature birth).

A second vaptans subclass includes the drugs mozavaptan and tolvaptan by Otsuka Pharma, lixivaptan by Biogen and Cardiokine, and satavaptan by Sanofi-Aventis. These drugs induce water loss without depleting the body of mineral salts, which often occurs with diuretics.

These drugs are being developed to treat a number of conditions, including kidney failure, kidney damage related to diabetes, cirrhosis and depression.

Preliminary work has also been carried out on the use of vaptans for treating glaucoma, Meniere’s disease—a disorder affecting balance—brain hemorrhages and small-cell cancer.

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PHARMACY

Anthem BC/BS allows doctors to access EMRs via cell phone

BY Drew Buono

MANCHESTER, N.H. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire has unveiled new technology that will enable physicians to have secure access to online patient medical records and claims information from their mobile phones.

“Now all licensed New Hampshire practitioners who are part of our e-prescribing program are also able to access both medical records and claims data on Anthem members, anytime, anywhere by using their web-enabled cell phone,” said Richard Lafleur, medical director, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire, who added that participants could also access the new program from their office or home computer.

The addition of the new technology, known as Member Medical History, further enhances the e-prescribing tool by delivering an unprecedented amount of clinical information to the physician wherever he or she may be. Now the doctor looking to generate an electronic prescription is able to quickly access their Anthem patient’s medical history, getting valuable information on medical conditions and the patient’s most recent care, test results, or diagnoses by other clinicians.

“Putting even more comprehensive information in the physician’s hands at the time care decisions are being made improves quality and efficiency,” said Charles Kennedy, vice president of health information technology for Anthem. “E-prescribing and MMH are good examples of how Anthem can use technology to create a community benefit for all patients while still delivering unique value for our members.”

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Study shows metformin as effective as insulin injections during pregnancy

BY Drew Buono

BOSTON According to a new study, metformin, the generic version of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s diabetes drug Glucophage, is just as effective as insulin injections in treating women who develop diabetes during pregnancy, researchers in New Zealand and Australia reported yesterday.

Gestational diabetes appears in 1-in-20 pregnant women, and there has been concern that metformin might affect a fetus because the drug can cross the placenta.

But the study, led by Janet Rowan of the Auckland City Hospital in New Zealand, found that the risk of complications such as respiratory distress, birth trauma and newborn hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, was no different for the 363 women who received metformin and the 370 given conventional insulin shots.

After delivery, nearly 77 percent of the metformin recipients said they would want to stay with the pill if they developed diabetes during pregnancy again, even though 46 percent still needed supplemental insulin injections at some point. On the other hand, only 27 percent of those who got insulin shots felt the same way.

But doctors may still be cautious, the researchers said. “Clinicians may remain circumspect about using metformin until follow-up data for offspring are available,” they wrote. The children born during the study are being tested when they reach their second birthday.

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