PHARMACY

Pfizer seeks to develop tropical disease treatments

BY Alaric DeArment

GENEVA The world’s largest drug maker plans to tackle rare tropical diseases.

Pfizer announced Wednesday a partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative under which the two will develop drugs to treat human African trypanosomiasis, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.

Those names may sound unfamiliar to people in North America, but they have devastating effects on people in developing countries. Chagas disease, for example, results from infection by a protozoan parasite spread by the kissing bug, a relative of the assassin bugs and stink bugs common in American gardens that feeds on people’s blood while they sleep. The parasite infects the heart and can cause death unless the patient receives multiple heart transplants over the course of his or her life.

“Despite considerable progress made in recent years, these three diseases continue to take a terrible human toll and represent a significant social burden for developing countries,” Pfizer Global Research & Development chief scientific officer for antivirals and VP Manos Perros said in a statement. “We are expanding our commitment to the fight against tropical diseases by joining forces with DNDi by sharing our collection of chemical compounds and the knowledge and expertise associated with these chemical entities.”

DNDi will have access to a library of 150,000 compounds that it will test against the three diseases, seeking compounds that work against the parasites. DNDi scientists will conduct the tests for human African trypanosomiasis at the Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, while tests for the other two diseases will take place at the Institut Pasteur Korea.

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FDA approves fifth H1N1 vaccine

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday announced that it has approved a fifth vaccine for protection against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, this one manufactured by ID Biomedical of Quebec, Canada, which is owned by GlaxoSmithKline.

As with the four previous H1N1 influenza vaccines licensed by the FDA on Sept. 15, ID Biomedical Corp. will manufacture its H1N1 vaccine using the established, licensed egg-based manufacturing process used for producing seasonal flu vaccine.

ID Biomedical’s H1N1 monovalent vaccine will be produced in multidose vials, in a formulation that contains thimerosal.

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PCMA responds to drug price increase

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON An article in The New York Times reporting that drug companies have dramatically increased the prices of drugs despite a decrease in the Consumer Price Index has prompted calls for biosimilars reform from an organization representing the nation’s pharmacy benefit managers.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association said that policy-makers should focus on creating a regulatory approval pathway for biosimilars instead of “shell games” to lower prescription drug costs. “Increased choice and competition generated by pharmacy benefit managers has been pivotal in driving prescription-drug trend to historic lows, while expanding consumers’ access to drug and pharmacy choices,” a statement by PCMA read.

The Times reported Sunday that while drug companies have promised to lower overall drug prices by $8 billion, wholesale prices of branded drugs increased by 9%, while the Consumer Price Index decreased by 1.3%.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America criticized the article Monday, saying that drug companies determined drug prices independently based on such considerations as patent expirations and research and development costs, and that many PhRMA member companies had experienced flat or negative sales growth.

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