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RXi Pharmaceuticals, medical school to collaborate for ALS cure

BY Alaric DeArment

WORCESTER, Mass. Three philanthropic organizations and a drug company will work together to fight a debilitating disease that leaves patients paralyzed for life.

The Angel Fund, the ALS Therapy Alliance and Project ALS announced they would provide funding for a research collaboration between RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp. and the University of Massachusetts Medical School to find treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Lou Gehrig’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that causes motor neurons in the central nervous system to die, diminishing the brain’s ability to send signals to the muscles, leading to paralysis and death from respiratory failure. The cause of ALS remains unclear, though University of Massachusetts neurology professor Robert Brown and a team of researchers discovered a gene linked to the disease in 1993, a protein antioxidant called superoxide dismutase, or SOD1.

Under the collaboration, RXi will provide its RNA interference technology and materials to Brown and his research team, which will test gene-silencing treatments on mice that have been given the SOD1 gene.

“We have been searching for an RNAi treatment for ALS for many years, and while this approach is very promising, the limiting factor critical to an effective therapeutic has been delivery,” Brown said in a statement. “I am impressed with RXi’s RNAi platform and believe that RXi’s sd-rxRNAs are the unique solution that could be the key to treatment neurological disorders such as ALS.”

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Kerr Drug evolves retail pharmacy with revamped community health center concept

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Pharmacogenomics in Aisle 1?

Not quite, but the continued evolution of Kerr’s Community Healthcare Center store concept certainly offers a glimpse into what role community pharmacy could play in the American healthcare system of the future — and it goes far beyond just MTM. Like the deal CVS Caremark announced last week with Generation Health, pharmacogenomics, the study of how genetics influence drug response, represents the new frontier of community pharmacy.

In fairness, pharmacogenomics has been a part of the specialty pharmacy business for some time; given the cost of many of these drugs, the investment in DNA testing to optimize therapy is a no-brainer. But, projects like Kerr’s pilot with UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, which will focus on patients taking Plavix, target the long-term savings generated by patients on traditional drug therapies getting the most out of those medications. These types of programs will be instrumental in demonstrating community pharmacy’s value beyond simply dispensing.

It is important to note that all of the stories about innovation in community pharmacy are not generated solely by the likes of CVS Caremark and Walgreens, though clearly they are the leaders. But the story of Kerr and its Community Healthcare Center concept are an important reminder of the innovation and leadership that also continues to come out of Chapel Hill, N.C.

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Study finds hypertension best treated by doctor-pharmacist collaboration

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK If anyone still doubted the extraordinary contributions that pharmacists can bring to the nation’s costly and overloaded healthcare system, the Nov. 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine should lay their doubts to rest. In a report on a new and innovative approach to treating hypertension, the publication highlighted the impact that a true working collaboration between doctors and pharmacists can have on successful patient outcomes.

The report, lead-authored by Barry Carter of the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, focused on a study of 402 people treated for high blood pressure at six clinics. Those patients were divided into two groups. Half the patients comprised a control group and were given a traditional treatment regimen for hypertension, where a prescription is written by an attending physician and the pharmacist’s role is simply to fill the script and provide basic initial counseling.

The other group was luckier. Those patients were ushered into a 21st-century style of medical practice and wellness. Their condition was managed and monitored by teams of physicians and pharmacists who were trained to adjust dosage regimens, and even the drugs dispensed, based on the patient’s ongoing condition.

The results were dramatic. After a six-month trial, 30% of patients in the control group were able to get their blood pressure down to recommended levels. More than twice as many of the patients who participated in a doctor-pharmacist team approach — 64% if them, to be exact — achieved the same improvement.

A few forward-looking health plans and insurers, such as Kaiser Permanente and the Department of Veterans Affairs — along with some of the most progressive university-affiliated medical centers, such as the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University — already pursue some collaborative-care programs. Hopefully, the results of the hypertension study will spur more such efforts.

 

Amid the nation’s urgent search for health reform and solutions to the unsustainable rise in chronic healthcare costs, it’s an idea whose time is long overdue.

 

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