PHARMACY

Novo claims liraglutide as effective for diabetes as Byetta

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Novo Nordisk boasted on Thursday that its experimental type 2 diabetes treatment would be as effective as its anticipated rival.

The Danish drugmaker is considering marketing its drug, liraglutide, in the U.S. one year earlier than reported. It may trump the long-acting version of Eli Lilly’s Byetta, Novo’s finance chief, Jesper Brandgaard, said at the Reuters Health Summit in New York.

Brandgaard added that the supplementary sales muscle would also expand Novo’s ability to promote the drug to general practitioners. “We believe that the efficacy that you will see with Byetta LAR and from liraglutide are likely to be similar,” Brandgaard said.

While once-a-week Byetta LAR is less tedious than liraglutide’s daily injections at a scheduled time, Brandgaard said it might not be the competitive edge it appears—the super fine needles Novo’s liraglutide uses are less difficult to administer and the overall process is shorter, he said.

“The injection process is more cumbersome in that you have a powder and a solvent, and you first have to mix it to dissolve the powder and get it up into a syringe, and then inject yourself. Whereas with liraglutide, you have a pen, you dial a dose, you inject yourself, it’s done,” Brandgaard said.

The drug is preloaded into a small ballpoint-like pen device that delivers measured doses.

Liraglutide is an engineered version of the human GLP-1 molecule that stimulates release of insulin only when glucose levels become too high.

“We think the GLP-1 is a market that can move the injectables from previously really being late-stage type 2 treatment to become earlier to mid-stage type 2 treatment,” Brandgaard said.

Novo plans to file for an approval review for liraglutide in the United States and Europe toward the end of the second quarter of 2008 and will seek approval in Japan before 2009, while Byetta LAR will be reportedly filed toward the end of the first half of 2009.

Brandgaard pointed out that Novo’s competition in the market will be limited, since insulin products developed by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have faced significant obstacles.

This year, Novo increased its U.S. sales force from 1,200 to 1,900. The world’s largest diabetes care company said it could raise that by another 200 to 800 once liraglutide is added to its product arsenal. “There’s no easy way around having a competitive sales force,” he said.

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PHARMACY

Walgreens offers customers free help with Medicare plans

BY Drew Buono

DEERFIELD, Ill. Today marks the beginning of the open enrollment for Medicare Part D plans. It will last from now until Dec. 31 and will allow seniors to pick which plan will be best for him/her.

Walgreens is helping its customers out yet again this year, by offering free information about the plans. The information is given out by, pharmacists enter a list of a patient’s medications and the computer prints out information that gives a detailed list of plans and estimated annual costs including premiums and co-pays, coverage through the “doughnut hole”, savings with generics versus brand name drugs and 90-day supply allowances. This system also allows pharmacists to ask a few questions to determine whether someone may qualify for the Extra Help subsidy, where they pay lower co-payments.

“We understand this decision can be overwhelming, so we are working to make sure people don’t miss out on significant savings because they don’t know how to evaluate their options,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens senior vice president of pharmacy services. “We want seniors to know there’s a plan out there that will work for them, and we can help them find it.”

For more information on the personalized report and Medicare Part D counseling services available at Walgreens, contact your local store or go to Walgreens.com.

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NACDS reaches out to presidential hopefuls, elevating industry’s profile with new campaign

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is launching a new outreach and educational effort to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in an effort to enlist their involvement in and support of community pharmacy.

The first salvo in that new campaign is an open letter to all the presidential hopefuls, published as a full-page ad in today’s edition of The Washington Post. The letter, on NACDS letterhead, is a kickoff to a broad effort to emphasize the value of retail pharmacy to patients and the health care system. It seeks a partnership between the organization and presidential aspirants in their search for solutions to the nation’s increasingly expensive and challenging health care puzzle.

In its open letter, NACDS points out that “there is a community pharmacy, on average, within 2.36 miles of any resident in the United States,” and that “pharmacists are exceptionally accessible and convenient health care providers.

NACDS urges the candidates to “come to a point when government action reflects the health-boosting and money-saving value of medication management, and stops devaluing the services of those who are best equipped to provide it.

“Given the primacy of the issue of health care, campaigning for nomination and election requires a campaign for quality, affordability and accessibility of care,” the group adds. “Let’s work together to unleash the power of community pharmacy in a pro-patient platform.”

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson announced the outreach effort today at a health care forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We reached out to the presidential candidates today because health care is clearly the major domestic policy issue on the national stage,” he told Chamber members. “With state and federal governments making nearly half of all healthcare payments in the U.S., we want to be part of the health care vision of the future for public payers. But our scope is much larger than that: we want to engage public and private payers and all strategic healthcare stakeholders.”

In addition, said NACDS’ chief executive, “We also reached out to the presidential candidates because we believe that government needs to think anew about the health-boosting and money-saving value of the role of the community pharmacist in medication management. At the same time, government needs to stop devaluing their services.”

In line with the kickoff of the new outreach campaign, Anderson also unveiled a new report from Comstock Consulting Group, LLC, which outlines the value of pharmacist-delivered patient-care services to health plan payers and other stakeholders. The report, based on a survey of health plan payers, was conducted for NACDS’ Value of Pharmacy Committee with support from drug maker Sanofi-Aventis.

“The objective,” he said, “was to identify insights on how we can develop pharmacist-delivered services that are recognized and valued, and ultimately improve the quality of patient care.”

The report cites the need for collaboration between pharmacists, physicians and other health care stakeholders to improve patients’ prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, and notes that “community pharmacy needs to define its future role as a service provider as well as a product provider.”

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