PHARMACY

PhRMA: 907 biotech drugs, vaccines under development

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Nearly 1,000 biotech drugs and vaccines for more than 100 diseases are currently under development, according to a new report.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America released the report Monday, highlighting a genetically modified virus-based vaccine for skin cancer; a recombinant fusion protein for treating Type 2 diabetes; a monoclonal antibody for asthma; and an antisense therapy for leukemia. These were among 907 new biologics under development that included 338 treatments for cancer; 134 vaccines for infectious diseases; 71 medicines for autoimmune disorders; and 58 treatments for cardiovascular disease.

"These medicines reflect the cutting-edge research being conducted across the country by biopharmaceutical companies in order to provide new treatment options for patients," PhRMA president and CEO John Castellani said. "In order to realize the full potential of novel biologics to improve human health, it is essential to maintain public policy and regulatory environments to support the research and development that drives biomedical innovation."

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Early detection of PML in multiple sclerosis patients treated with immune-suppressing drugs may improve survival

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN DIEGO — Early detection of a deadly brain infection that sometimes arises due to treatment of autoimmune disorders with immune-suppressing biotech drugs may improve survival, according to a new study.

The study, released Sunday and scheduled for presentation at the 65th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Diego, which starts next Saturday, found that early detection of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, may improve survival and disability levels.

The study examined 319 people with multiple sclerosis who had received treatment with Tysabri (natalizumab) and were diagnosed with PML; Elan Pharmaceuticals and Biogen Idec, the companies that developed and market the drug, supported the study. The study compared people who had symptoms of PML when they were diagnosed with people who did not have symptoms but were diagnosed via brain scans and spinal fluid tests. The level of disability was assessed before the PML diagnosis, at diagnoses and again six months and then one year after diagnosis. PML results from the JC virus, a virus that lies dormant in most adults, but can be activated when the immune system is suppressed due to treatment with immune-suppressing drugs or in later stages of AIDS.

A total of 21 people had no symptoms at diagnosis, while 298 people did, and preliminary data from the study suggest that people without symptoms may have improved survival and less disability than those who had developed symptoms before diagnosis.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, all of those 21 people were living, compared with 77 people with PML symptoms who had died, according to the study.

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Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy launches redesigned website

BY Alaric DeArment

FLINT, Mich. — Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy has launched its new website, the company said Monday.

Diplomat said the website design had been in beta testing for the past several months, overseen by VP technology and marketing Jennifer Cretu.

"Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy has experienced explosive growth since the last significant updates were made to the website in April 2010, when the company announced its headquarters move to Flint and an expected 1,000 new jobs filled through 2015," Cretu said. "Our website is an entree to Diplomat, and we needed a modern, easy-to-navigate site that employed a simplified and more open design."

New features include an overview of the company’s services, support and advocacy resources for patients; information on financial assistance; an explanation on the expanding role of pharmacists; information on Diplomat’s partnerships with hospitals, health providers, drug makers and retail pharmacies; and health news and research summaries on the company’s blog. The company is also active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+.

"Patients who use Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy services are being treated for complex, chronic conditions and life-threatening illnesses and often have questions about their clinical treatment plans, drug interactions, side effects and other topics related to their specialty pharmacy prescriptions," Cretu said. "We connect with them using social media as a complement to our industry-leading call centers, which handle over 50,000 calls each month. The easier it is for patients to reach out and connect with us, regardless of the medium, the greater the opportunity to meet our goals for patient compliance and adherence — and keeping patients healthier."

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