PHARMACY

OptimizeRx, Cegedim Dendrite announce exclusive partnership

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON OptimizeRx Corp. and Cegedim Dendrite, which offers sales and marketing data for pharmaceutical companies, have announced plans to enter into an exclusive relationship to offer a Web-based savings and patient-support program for prescription and healthcare brands.

The partnership “brings together two leaders in an emerging industry segment that aims to help patients begin and maintain their therapies,” according to Cegedim officials.

OptimizeRx gives patients a central way to access and enroll in over 150 savings and support programs. Cegedim Dendrite, through its Opus Health division, offers adjudicated patient support cards to the marketplace and now has more than 45 million money saving “loyalty” cards in circulation, distributed by physicians and pharmacies to patients.

OptimizeRx is targeted to consumers with traditional, employer-provided health insurance who are facing increasing deductibles and co-payments.

OptimizeRx lists deals for about 180 prescription drugs used to treat a range of medical problems, from allergies to sleep disorders. Each offer has different eligibility standards, but there are limitations for patients covered under government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The offers vary. Some are free trials of varying lengths, such as two weeks or 30 days. Other offers are redeemable only once per person, but others can be used on multiple prescription fills. Many of the offers listed on the site are available directly through pharmaceutical companies, but others are custom-made for the site according to David Harrell, chief executive officer of OptimizeRx. Patients go the site, www.optimizerx.com, sign up for free and then access the list of medications that offer deals.

Company officials say the partnership will allow existing Cegedim Dendrite customers to integrate a Web search tool into their marketing mix, while “getting consistent messaging and reporting across all marketing channels.”

Meanwhile, for healthcare brands without existing patient programs, the partnership supports the launch of OptimizeRx’s proprietary system, OffeRx, a turnkey product designed to integrate the development, promotion and management of customizable patient-offer programs.

Under the partnership, Opus Health will manage the loyalty cards generated through OffeRx. To help administer the program, Opus Health will use contracted relationships with more than 61,000 pharmacies.

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PHARMACY

Contaminated heparin affects 11 countries

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration has announced that the contaminant found in the blood thinner heparin has been discovered in China and has now affected 11 countries including the United States, Canada, Japan, China, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.

Heparin is made from the mucous membranes of the intestines of slaughtered pigs that, in China, are often cooked in unregulated family workshops. The contaminant, identified as oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, a cheaper substance, slipped through the usual testing and was recognized only after more sophisticated tests were used.

But a Chinese official disputed the assertion that the contaminant found in the drug, heparin, caused any deaths and insisted that his country’s inspectors be allowed to inspect the American plant where the finished heparin vials were made. He said any future agreement to allow American inspections of Chinese firms should be mutual. The agency had announced plans to open inspection offices in three Chinese cities, but the agency has yet to get permission from the Chinese government.

Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s drug center, said that German regulators uncovered a group of illnesses among dialysis patients who took contaminated heparin. She said Chinese officials had said that heparin produced in their country contained a contaminant, though they say it was not connected to the illnesses.

Bills to require far more aggressive inspections of Chinese products and companies are being proposed by members of Congress. Hearings are scheduled for today in the House and Thursday in the Senate.

Woodcock said the Chinese had agreed to test heparin lots before allowing them to be exported. But Dr. Moheb Nasr, director of the drug agency’s office of new drug quality assessment, said that the Chinese test might not be sensitive enough to identify the contaminant.

Woodcock assured patients, however, that all heparin supplies in the United States had been tested with the most sensitive tests and had been found to be uncontaminated.

Baxter International, which bought heparin ingredients from Changzhou SPL, the Chinese plant identified as the source of contaminated heparin, sold the finished drug in the United States, and said that its tests confirmed that the contaminant could cause illness. It disputed the FDA’s analysis that its product was linked with 81 deaths, saying it had identified only 5 in which its product “may have contributed to the adverse outcome, though there is not yet enough medical data available to draw a firm conclusion that the reaction caused the death.”

Deaths linked to the drug may have been concentrated in the United States because American doctors may be more likely to use large, quickly infused amounts of the drug, said drug officials.

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FDA approves Cimzia for Crohn’s disease

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration today approved Cimzia, a new drug by UCB to treat Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease. It has no cure and its cause is unknown. Crohn’s can cause diarrhea, fever, rectal bleeding, malnutrition, narrowing of the intestinal tract, obstructions, abscesses, cramping, and abdominal pain. It also can lead to abnormal connections (fistulas) leading from the intestine to the skin or internal organs.

Patients treated with Cimzia will receive an injection every two weeks for the first three injections. Once benefit has been established, Cimzia should be given once every four weeks.

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