PHARMACY

Reps. ask drug makers to limit DTC ads

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON Democratic House Reps. Bart Stupak and John Dingell of Michigan have written a letter to chief executives at Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Schering-Plough to voluntarily limit direct-to-consumer advertisements, including withholding any ads for new products for two years until certain studies are completed, according to Reuters.

The representatives are investigating whether companies are misleading potential patients through television commercials and other direct-to-consumer advertisements.

“To date, we have not received adequate assurances that the leading pharmaceutical companies share our commitment to providing consumers with accurate information about drug therapies,” Dingell, head of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The letters come less than two weeks after the committee’s health panel questioned lower executives from the drugmakers about aggressive marketing tactics for two cholesterol drugs—Pfizer’s Lipitor and Merck and Schering-Plough’s Vytorin joint venture. The committee also probed ads for Johnson & Johnson’s anemia drug Procrit.

At the hearing, Stupak called on the companies to rein in their campaigns or face tighter restriction and possibly an advertisement ban.

Kassy McGourty, spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson’s OrthoBiotech unit, which makes Procrit, said the company received the letter and would cooperate with the committee. The other three companies have yet to comment on the letter.

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PHARMACY

GSK survey finds asthma sufferers lax in controlling condition

BY Drew Buono

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., and TORONTO According to a new survey conducted by GlaxoSmithKline, nearly half of adult Americans and more than a quarter of children with asthma do not have their disease well controlled.

The Asthma USA survey examined over 81,500 households by using the Asthma Control Test, which assessed asthma control using a questionnaire. Of the more than 10,000 adults that took the ACT, 41 percent had a score of 19 or less, which indicates asthma that is not well controlled.

Children were given the Childhood Asthma Control Test and the ACT to determine their level of asthma control. According to the findings, of the 3,000 children that responded, 31 percent of the children between the ages of 4 and 11 and 25 percent of those between 12 and 17 did not have well-controlled asthma.

The survey also found that asthma that wasn’t well controlled had significant medical consequences. Adults with uncontrolled asthma were more likely to require treatment with oral corticosteroids, visit the emergency department or be admitted to the hospital than those whose asthma was well controlled. Children with uncontrolled asthma were also more likely to require urgent medical care.

“We have made quantum leaps in asthma treatment in the last decade, but the Asthma USA results demonstrate that enormous numbers of patients are living with asthma that is still not well controlled, putting them at significant health risk,” said David Stempel, director of clinical medicine for GlaxoSmithKline. “These findings remind us that improvements in care have not been uniform and underscore the critical need to improve education for both patients and healthcare providers in the management of asthma.”

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FDA warns against use of CellCept and Myfortic during pregnancy

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration has again warned that Roche’s CellCept and Novartis’ Myfortic which are prescribed to organ transplant patients can cause miscarriages and birth defects when used by pregnant women, according to published reports. The drugs are used to suppress the body’s immune system to avoid organ rejection in transplant patients

Last October the agency said it had received reports of miscarriages and infants born with ear and mouth birth defects after their mothers took CellCept. At the time, FDA added a black-box warning to CellCept and Myfortic.

The FDA said most of the reported problems came from mothers who were taking CellCept before their pregnancies were detected. Some of the patients were taking the drug for conditions it was not approved to treat including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

A spokesman for Roche said it has not received any new reports of miscarriages or birth defects since updating the drug’s labeling. The company previously reported 25 miscarriages among 77 women exposed to the drug between 1995 and 2007.

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