PHARMACY

Roche says clinical trial did not meet goal

BY Alaric DeArment

BASEL, Switzerland A biotech drug used to treat advanced cancer did not reduce the risk of cancer returning in patients with early-stage colon cancer when combined with chemotherapy, according to results of a late-stage clinical trial.

Roche said Wednesday that a phase 3 study comparing Avastin (bevacizumab) combined with chemotherapy to chemotherapy alone did not meet its goal of disease-free survival in colon cancer patients who had just received surgery.

The Swiss drug maker said the study, called NSABP C-08, was the first trial of Avastin as an early-stage cancer treatment. The drug, developed by recently acquired Genentech, already has approval in the United States for treating advanced colorectal, breast and lung cancers.

“While we are disappointed the C-08 study did not meet its primary endpoint, our initial review of the data leads us to continue to believe Avastin may be active in patients with early-stage colon cancer and look forward to NSABP’s presentation at ASCO,” Genentech SVP development and chief medical officer Hal Barron said, referring to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which will take place from May 29 to June 2.

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Merck & Co. reports 8% Q1 worldwide sales drop

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck & Co. said its merger with Schering-Plough was “progressing as planned” in its first quarter 2009 financial report Tuesday.

That news coincided with worldwide sales of $5.4 billion, an 8% decrease from the same period last year, including a 3% decrease due to foreign exchange rates, reduced by a further 3% due to the loss of market exclusivity for the osteoporosis drug Fosamax (alendronate sodium). Net income for the quarter was $1.425 billion, compared with $3.3 billion in first quarter 2008.

The company reported augmenting its pipeline by signing agreements with Insmed, Cardiome, Santen, Medarex and Massachusetts Biologic Labs, but delayed filing for regulatory approval of the investigational migraine drug telcagepant.

“Our first-quarter results in part reflect the impact of the difficult global economy on patients, providers and payers, but we remain on track to meet our full-year earnings guidance,” president and CEO Richard Clark stated. “We believe our planned merger with Schering-Plough will accelerate Merck’s transformation into a global healthcare leader, built for sustainable growth and success.”

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N.Y. seeks to ban cigarettes at pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

ALBANY, N.Y. Smokers in New York state soon may find a narrower range of sources of their habit.

A bill introduced in the state’s legislature would ban the sale of tobacco at retail pharmacies and stores that operate pharmacies, including supermarkets and mass merchandisers.

The bill follows similar laws enacted in San Francisco and Boston, but would be the first statewide bill.

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