PHARMACY

Pfizer to develop cancer drug with Debiopharm

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Two drug makers have entered an agreement to develop a drug designed to treat melanoma.

Pfizer said that it would resume the development of its drug tremelimumab with the help of Swiss drug maker Debiopharm. As part of the agreement, Debiopharm will conduct a phase 3 trial of the drug, while Pfizer will retain responsibility for worldwide commercialization of the compound.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, occurs in about 69,000 patients in the United States each year, and results in about 9,000 deaths. The number of melanoma cases worldwide is increasing faster than any other cancer.

Pfizer’s investigational drug, tremelimumab (CP675,206), currently in phase 2, is a fully human igG2 monoclonal antibody which has been in development for the treatment of advanced melanoma. In April 2008, Pfizer announced that it had discontinued a phase 3 clinical trial for patients with advanced melanoma after the Data Safety Monitoring Board review of interim data showed that the trial would not demonstrate superiority to standard chemotherapy.

“The continuation of the clinical development of tremelimumab with our partner, Debiopharm, is a demonstration of our commitment to personalized medicine for cancer patients,” said Garry Nicholson, president and GM of Pfizer’s Oncology Business Unit. “Debiopharm is a successful company which has achieved impressive results on a global scale. This co-development partnership is an opportunity to leverage the combined expertise of both companies in this innovative endeavor.”

Financial terms of the co-development agreement between Debiopharm and Pfizer have not been disclosed.

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Cardinal Health selected as exclusive pharmaceutical distribution partner for AAP

BY Allison Cerra

DUBLIN, Ohio Cardinal Health has been selected to be the exclusive pharmaceutical distributor for American Associated Pharmacies’ nearly 2,000 independent pharmacy members nationwide.

The American Associated Pharmacies is the parent company of Associated Pharmacies Inc. and United Drugs.

Cardinal Health previously had separate, exclusive distribution agreements with API and United Drugs, prior to their Sept. 1, 2009 merger. The new, multi-year agreement, effective last week, solidifies Cardinal Health as the primary pharmaceutical distributor for the combined entity’s nationwide pharmacy members. The new contract signifies a long-term partnership between Cardinal Health and AAP and better positions both companies to help independent retail pharmacies improve cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

“Since API and United Drugs joined together in September of this year, we have been very active establishing our new parent company, AAP, while also focusing on ways to strengthen our well-established relationships with Cardinal Health,” said Jon Copeland, CEO of AAP.  “Throughout the entire process, we’ve had only one goal: The greater success of our members. Now, with AAP’s new agreement with Cardinal Health, we’ve made a giant step toward achieving that goal.”

As part of the agreement, AAP members will have access to an extensive portfolio of branded and generic pharmaceuticals from Cardinal Health. They will also have access to a broad array of Cardinal Health solutions and services designed to help independent pharmacies improve profitability and efficiency. AAP members will also have access to select Cardinal Health services and solutions, including customized reimbursement consulting services, reconciliation services that ensure payors pay reimbursements in full and tools that help retailers market and increase non-prescription sales to drive diversified revenue growth.

“Cardinal Health, Associated Pharmacies, Inc. and United Drugs share a passionate commitment to supporting the growth of independent pharmacies,” said Mike Kaufmann, CEO of Cardinal Health’s pharmaceutical segment. “Through Cardinal Health’s strong generics program and our powerful, customized portfolio of supply chain, operational and financial performance solutions, we’ll work hand-in-hand with AAP to help their nearly 2,000 independent pharmacy members improve cost effectiveness and efficiency so they can focus on what they do best – care for patients.”

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Independent pharmacy lobbyists renew call for health-reform relief

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Weighing once again into the health-reform fray on Capitol Hill, the National Community Pharmacists Association Wednesday reiterated a long-standing plea to Congress for relief as the U.S. Senate and House work to craft a compromise on the health-reform bill to send to the White House.

The appeal came in a letter, sent by NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Among NCPA’s top priorities: a reasonable minimum payment system for Medicaid prescriptions, new curbs on pharmacy benefit managers and a pass on new Medicare restrictions governing the sale of durable medical equipment and diabetic supplies.

The independent pharmacy lobby is asking the House and Senate leadership to include those elements in a final version of health-reform legislation. Although Congress has yet to reconvene later this month, Pelosi and Reid have maintained a high-profile effort to reconcile the reform bills passed late last year by both houses of Congress.

“Community pharmacists are ready and willing to help improve health outcomes and lower costs,” said Roberts. “We greatly appreciate the bipartisan backing in both chambers for reforms that support community pharmacists.

“The recommendations we present here will make a good thing even better for patients,” he asserted in his appeal to both leaders. “We will continue working with Congress in hopes of enacting these proposals.”

Among NCPA’s specific requests:

  • A reform of Medicaid’s Average Manufacturer Price (AMP) reimbursement system for generic drugs, and the adoption by Medicaid of the Senate’s proposal for a federal upper limit of no less than 175% of the weighted average AMP. “Anything less could force many independent community pharmacies, which care for an extraordinarily high number of Medicaid patients, out of the program,” noted the group.
  • The adoption of both House-passed transparency provisions for pharmacy benefit managers operating in the proposed health insurance exchange, and Senate language extending the reporting requirements to Medicare Part D drug plans;
  • Inclusion of the Senate’s proposal to exempt retail pharmacies from Medicare’s “burdensome, duplicative accreditation requirements” for the sale of durable medical equipment and supplies, including diabetes testing kits.

Roberts also urged Congress to “support all House- and Senate-passed provisions expanding the community pharmacist’s ability to provide medication therapy management services,” according to today’s letter. Pharmacist-administered MTM, he noted, would help “maximize the patient’s adherence and therapeutic benefit while lowering the cost of inappropriate prescription drug use — estimated at $290 billion annually.”

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