HEALTH

Roundtable discusses importance of specialty pharmacy, drugs

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The subject of specialty pharmacy reached a whole new level of nuance as a wide variety of stakeholders gathered for a roundtable discussion on its role in health care Wednesday at The Chemists’ Club in New York.

The roundtable, titled “Slowing the Impact: The Role of Specialty Pharmacy in Managing Progressive and Chronic Diseases” and moderated by Health Affairs editor-in-chief Susan Dentzer, included perspectives of a pharmacy benefit manager, a healthcare company, a pharmaceutical company, a multiple-sclerosis advocate, an ethicist and an MS patient, all sharing their perspectives on the fast-growing field.

Specialty drugs have grown at a rapid pace over the years. According to AARP, 6-of-the-top-10 drugs in the country are expected to be biologics by 2014, compared with 1-out-of-10 in 2000; and IMS Health predicted that the specialty pharmaceuticals services segment will reach $160 billion by 2013.

“In addition to becoming a unique category of pharmaceuticals, specialty drugs are becoming mainstream,” said Jacqueline Kosecoff, CEO of Prescription Solutions, a PBM and part of UnitedHealth Group.

Another perspective was that of Ken Bandler, a multiple-sclerosis patient diagnosed in 1990, who stressed the importance of accessibility. “There must be an effort to ensure [specialty drugs] are affordable for the patients who take them,” Bandler said, acknowledging the expenses and other challenges that go into developing drugs, which fellow panelist and Bristol-Myers Squibb VP health services for the Americas Ross Maclean had spoken about earlier.

Other panelists included Lee Newcomer, UnitedHealthcare VP oncology in women’s health and genetics; The Hastings Center deputy director and research scholar Nancy Berlinger; and PJ Weiner, senior manager for advocacy programs of the New York City-southern New York chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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Sun Pharma gets FDA approval for ALS generic

BY Alaric DeArment

MUMBAI, India The Food and Drug Administration has approved a generic version of a drug for a devastating muscular disorder.

 

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries announced Tuesday the approval of riluzole hydrochloride in the 50-mg strength. The tablets are used to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

 

 

The drug is a generic version of Sanofi-Aventis’ Rilutek, which has sales of around $50 million, according to Sun.

 

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Cirrus targets ear-ringing with Tinnitex

BY Allison Cerra

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. Cirrus Healthcare Products has expanded its ear care offerings with a new product, slated to hit retail shelves in spring 2011.

Tinnitex is the first and only earplug to help relieve tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing in the ears, the company said. According to the Journal of Clinical Nursing, more than 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus.

“Tinnitex gives the suffering consumer an option to the inconvenience of ear drops or the excessive amount of pills that consumers are tired of taking. The Tinnitex earplug is easy to apply and comfortable to wear and, at about $10 at retail for six pairs, provides affordable relief,” said Cirrus CEO Drew O’Connell.

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