PHARMACY

Pfizer unveils anti-AIDS drug at medical conference

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO HIV patients may have the chance to stay healthy for a longer period of time with the development of a new anti-AIDS drug, Pfizer announced Tuesday.

At an annual medical conference in Chicago, Pfizer presented its new drug, called Selzentry, which was claimed as the latest oral HIV medicines to be placed on the market in more than 10 years. The announcement comes just one month after the FDA’s approval of the drug.

According to the company’s Web site, Pfizer conducted a 48-week trial and found that patients receiving the drug combined with traditional medication recorded almost undetectable levels of HIV virus. The drug helps prevent the virus from entering the body’s T-cells, rather than fighting the virus once it has already infected the cells.

Selzentry, which is now available for purchase in the U.S., may eventually be available to any person that needs it. Pfizer said in a statement that it is working with private and public insurance companies to secure coverage and compensation, and has made the medication a part of their patient-assistance program. The company is also seeking permission for worldwide sales.

“The safety and durability of response seen with Selzentry … in our study is reassuring. This drug is an important new weapon for clinicians who treat HIV,” said Jacob Lalezari, director of Quest Clinical Research, at the University of California.

The drug does not, however, cure HIV infection or prevent it from being passed to another person, the company warned. The side effects are similar to those experienced with other anti-AIDS drugs, including nausea, fatigue, headaches and diarrhea. 

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New York joins state lawsuits over Vioxx

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK New York has become the seventh state to file a lawsuit against Merck over its controversial painkiller Vioxx, according to a Financial Times article on MSNBC.com.

The state is alleging that the company misrepresented dangers associated with the drug and are therefore looking to recover public funds spent on prescriptions. The lawsuit is the first to be filed under the new state law, which allows damages to be rewarded of up to three times the sum spent by a state, which according to New York is more than $100 million.

“Even as evidence was piling up showing just how dangerous this drug was, Merck put profits above all else and put thousands at risk by continuing to push Vioxx inappropriately on doctors and patients,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied a lawsuit brought about by insurance and healthcare companies against Merck concerning Vioxx.

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Rendell selects Rite Aid as site for CHIP information in Pa.

BY Michael Johnsen

HARRISBURG, Pa. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell on Tuesday chose Rite Aid to be the conduit for information on the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program—Rite Aid stores throughout south central Pennsylvania will host registration booths Sept. 27 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“We’re working hard to make sure every parent understands that no family earns too much for their children to be covered by CHIP,” Rendell stated. “Through Cover All Kids, CHIP is now available to thousands of uninsured children whose parents who may have earned too much to qualify for coverage under the old guidelines.”

Under the new guidelines, some families qualify for free CHIP coverage while others may receive coverage at a low cost based on family income. CHIP enrollment increased to 164,485 in September, a growth of more than 11 percent since September 2006. More than 4,200 children who are now in CHIP would not have previously been eligible.

Participating Rite Aid Store locations include: 4299 Union Deposit Rd., Harrisburg; 2604 Linglestown Rd., Harrisburg; 3601 Walnut St., Harrisburg; 1137 Market St., Lemoyne; 5277 Simpson Ferry Rd., Mechanicsburg; 40-42 West Market St., York; 3615 East Market St., York (Springettsbury); 115 Leader Heights Rd., York; 4135 North George St. Extension, York (Manchester); 1200 West Market St., York; 59 North Queen St., Lancaster; 1130 Cumberland St., Lebanon.

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