PHARMACY

Pfizer sponsors re-examination of diabetes and obesity

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Pfizer has entered into an agreement with four major research universities—University of California, Santa Barbara; Caltech; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the University of Massachusetts—and the physiological modeling company Entelos, to re-examine the mechanisms of human energy metabolism. Pfizer is funding the three-year and $14 million Insulin Resistance Pathway Project to look at insulin signaling in fat cells to increase understanding of diabetes and obesity.

The first phase of the project will include an examination of insulin signaling in fat cells. Researchers at Pfizer, MIT and the University of Massachusetts will perform data collection and analyses, which will then be fed to the computational groups at MIT, Caltech and the University of California at Santa Barbara, led by Frank Doyle, professor of chemical engineering and associate director of the UCSB-MIT-Caltech Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies.

The conditions of the collaboration allow the academic partners to publish and/or patent any discoveries made in the areas of basic biology. If the first phase of the project proves successful, a second, two-year phase will extend these studies to other insulin-sensitive tissues – liver, muscle and possibly hypothalamic or beta cells.

“We are tremendously excited about this partnership as it represents just one of several leading relationships Pfizer has with world-class academic, public-sector and private-sector institutions in areas of emerging science that will help to shape our future in biotherapeutics and bioinnovation,” said Corey Goodman, president of Pfizer’s new Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation division. “We are hopeful that the research gathered from this consortium will provide new targets for this major unmet medical need and, ultimately, provide patients with new, better ways to treat these conditions.”

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PHARMACY

Wisc., Mont. face issues on contraceptive decisions by religious pharmacists

BY Drew Buono

MADISON, Wisc., and HELENA, Mont. The Thomas More Society, a law firm that represents abortion opponents recently asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a disciplinary action brought against a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control because of his religious beliefs, according to published reports.

The pharmacist, Neil Noesen, refused to fill a birth control prescription for a University of Wisconsin-Stout student in July 2002. He also declined to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.

The woman filed a complaint with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing’s Pharmacy Examining Board. The board adopted the findings of an administrative law judge that Noesen be reprimanded and that limitations be placed on his license. He also was ordered to take an ethics course and required to pay $21,000 in costs.

The decision was upheld by a circuit judge and by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, although the appellate decision ordered a review of the order that Noesen pay costs.

In related news, the Montana Board of Pharmacy took no action this week after hearing comments on the issue of pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives because of religious beliefs. Montana currently has no rule or statute that requires pharmacies to stock every drug on the market, and “we decided to leave it at that,” board president Jim Cloud said.

Board member Mark Meredith said that a decision on whether new regulations are necessary should come from state lawmakers, not the six-member pharmacy board.

Stacey Anderson, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Montana, who requested the meeting with the board, urged it to establish a rule that protects women’s access to birth control. She asked board members to be proactive in addressing the issue to “prevent future personal refusals and to clearly define the standard of care expected of licensed pharmacies.”

After the meeting, Anderson said her organization will continue to look for ways to make its case through “administrative and legal avenues.” She added that she doesn’t agree that the issue should be decided by the state’s lawmakers.

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FDA commissioner stresses importance of information technology

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON According to Food and Drug Administration commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, information technology is one of the top priorities in the agency, according to published reports.

Von Eschenbach spoke earlier this week before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, which is studying FDA actions to improve the safety of medical devices and products made with foreign components.

The FDA, von Eschenbach said, needs a modern information technology infrastructure to better use data it already has and to better coordinate various activities within the agency. Existing information systems, for instance, do not have the capability to automatically verify information submitted by foreign firms that ship components of regulated products into the United States.

“FDA plans to enhance its I.T. systems in ways that will enable the agency to better utilize risk-based information from the entire life-cycle of imported products,” von Eschenbach testified. “Many of these improvements will be implemented in the next two years; implementation of a few will extend beyond 2010. These projects will improve databases, enhance interoperability of systems within the agency and among other regulatory agencies, and provide better analytical function to assess and control risk.”

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