HEALTH

Report says winter weather may cause vitamin D deficiency

BY Michael Johnsen

MAYWOOD, Ill. According to a review article in Circulation, many people may experience a decrease in vitamin D levels over the winter months, when they are less exposed to sunligh, which can play a role in heart disease.

“Chronic vitamin D deficiency may be a culprit in heart disease, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome,” said Sue Penckoferstudy author and professor, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Loyola University Chicago, in a press release issued Monday.

The review article cited a number of studies that linked vitamin D deficiency to heart disease. These studies found rates of severe disease or death may be 30 to 50 percent higher among sun-deprived individuals with heart disease.

Penckofer and colleagues concluded that diet alone is not sufficient to manage vitamin D levels. Treatment options to correct this level, such as vitamin D2 or D3, may decrease the risk of severe disease or death from cardiovascular disorders. “Most physicians do not routinely test for vitamin D deficiency,” Penckofer said. “However, most experts would agree that adults at risk for heart disease and others who experience fatigue joint pain or depression should have their vitamin D levels measured.”

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Drugstore.com teams with Medco to offer members expanded online health store

BY Michael Johnsen

BELLEVUE, Wash. Drugstore.com on Thursday announced a strategic alliance with Medco Health Solutions, under which Medco will offer its members access to an integrated online store featuring a wide range of non-prescription consumer health products, including over-the-counter medicines, expected to begin in mid-2009.

“We look forward to developing this exciting new offering with Medco, which provides pharmacy benefits for over 60 million Americans,” stated Dawn Lepore, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of drugstore.com. “The alliance supports our strategy to leverage the drugstore.com ecommerce health, beauty and wellness platform and extend our leadership in consumer health merchandising, marketing, fulfillment, and customer care.”  

Drugstore.com will provide technical development and operation services, consumer health products and OTC merchandising, fulfillment capabilities and customer care for the non-prescription-drug offerings in the Medco branded online store.

“We envision this collaboration with drugstore.com will, over time, enable Medco to efficiently develop and deliver a broad spectrum of new consumer-based products and services that complement our prescription drug expertise and extend the continuum of care for the approximately one in five Americans we serve nationwide,” John Driscoll, president of new markets for Medco Health Solutions, said.

Through the agreement, Medco will provide its members access to a comprehensive portfolio of health-related products that complement prescription drug care—especially for patients with chronic and complex conditions. Members will be presented with a tailored set of non-prescription products aligned with their known health condition, and access to a broader set of consumer health items that provide convenient one-stop shopping. Members will also benefit from an advanced safety net to help ensure that for certain OTC medicines they are informed of interactions with the prescription drugs that they may also be taking—a growing issue in the retail pharmacy environment as more medicines transition from prescription to OTC availability.

Flexible spending account services for Medco clients and members will be supported through the drugstore.com SIGIS certified system to identify and approve FSA-eligible over-the-counter products. FSA debit cards are accepted and FSA-only receipts may be printed for reimbursement.

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Pfizer drops application to switch Viagra to OTC

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Pfizer has withdrawn its application to switch 50 mg Viagra tablets from prescription to OTC in the European Union, the drug maker announced Thursday.

The company said it considers Viagra a suitable candidate for OTC availability and meets the European Commission’s criteria for OTC switches.

However, in a letter to the European Medicines Agency, Pfizer said it would withdraw the application to fully consider comments from the EMEA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, recognizing that there were concerns regarding the proposed supply of the tablets without prescription in the EU. Pfizer said the withdrawal would allow evaluation of further information and additional data that may be required to allow any future assessments.

“Viagra has a proven safety profile that has been well-established in extensive post-marketing studies and in more than 120 clinical trials,” Pfizer vice president of medical and regulatory affairs Rory O’Connor said in a statement. “We will continue to work with regulators in Europe to improve the availability of our medicines to patients and physicians and the benefits they get from our therapies.”

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