PHARMACY

Novavax to expand vaccine-making plants worldwide

BY Drew Buono

ROCKVILLE, Md. Novavax has plans to copy its new, small-scale vaccine-making plant and putting those copies in developing countries to fight influenza, with help from its new partner GE Healthcare, a division of General Electric, according to the Gazette.

The best way to control the deadly bird influenza virus that experts fear could threaten human populations may be a series of small-scale, efficient vaccine plants in developing countries, according to James M. Robinson, vice president at Novavax.

Novavax is on schedule to open a pilot-demonstration plant in a few weeks, making vaccines with its patented virus-like particle technology. Unlike conventional vaccine production using chicken eggs, Novavax’s method does not use a live virus and all manufacturing materials that touch the vaccine are disposable. The pilot plant can be easily adaptable to making pandemic flu vaccine, seasonal flu vaccine and other vaccines in its pipeline, Robinson said.

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Sugar may be helpful for those with diabetes and obesity

BY Diana Alickaj

BALTIMORE Researchers have found a new treatment that may be helpful in aiding those with diabetes and obesity, and it is most unusually a sugar.

The sugar is known as tagatose, which, according to published reports, is used in Europe to sweeten candy or orange juice. It is a naturally occurring version of fructose and is derived from the dairy byproduct whey. Tagatose has been shown to stop blood sugar spiking and is currently undergoing a one-year clinical trial to see if is, in fact, helpful in managing diabetes and weight-loss.

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 20.8 million people are diabetic and 9 out of 10 diabetics with Type 2 are overweight. Many researchers, such as Phillip Levin, an endocrinologist and director of diabetes center at Mercy, hope that tagatose can become a diet drug for patients experiencing obesity, one of the leading causes of diabetes. According to Levin, “Tagatose could be another tool for damage control. A lot of dealing with Type 2 diabetes is damage control.”

Other studies have shown that tagatose, if ingested before meals, would stop the rise in blood sugar, because it is absorbed poorly and therefore affects the way the sugar is stored. According to published reports, tagatose is said to be possibly the only diabetes drug that could raise good cholesterol and act as a cell-protecting antioxidant.

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FDA to take a closer look at Singulair

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration has warned health care professionals that it is investigating possible side effects in the asthma drug Singulair.

Possible side effects of the drug, a Merck product, include behavior/mood changes, suicidality and suicide.

The agency will need up to nine months to complete ongoing evaluations about the safety of the drug.

“Patients should not stop taking Singulair before talking to their doctor if they have questions about this new information,” the FDA said. “Until further information is available, healthcare professionals and caregivers should monitor patients taking Singulair for suicidality and changes in behavior and mood.”

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