PHARMACY

Sanofi, Audion enter research collaboration for hearing loss treatments

BY Alaric DeArment

PARIS — French drug maker Sanofi has entered a collaboration with Audion Therapeutics to develop treatments for hearing loss.

Sanofi announced the collaboration Thursday, which will utilize technology that Audion co-founder Albert Edge developed at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in the Eaton-Peabody Laboratory. Sanofi will have the option of licensing technology rights from Audion related to research conducted under the collaboration.

“Our new relationship with Audion demonstrates our commitment to work with partners on conditions with unmet and growing medical needs, such as hearing loss,” Sanofi president for global research and development Elias Zerhouni said.

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FDA approves Nulojix

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for preventing organ rejection in kidney transplant patients, the agency said Wednesday.

The FDA approved Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Nulojix (belatacept), for preventing acute rejection in adult patients. The drug is approved for use with other immune system-suppressing drugs, specifically Novartis’ Simulect (basiliximab), Genentech’s CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) and corticosteroids.

“Nulojix is a new option for kidney transplant patients,” FDA Office of Antimicrobial Products director Edward Cox said. “This new medication, used in combination with other immunosuppressants, helps control the immune system and prevents organ rejection in patients receiving kidney transplants.”

According to BusinessWeek, analyst John Boris said that while Nulojix’s market is limited, he expects the drug to have sales of about $350 million in 2015. About 17,000 to 18,000 kidney transplants are performed in the United States per year, while more than 86,000 patients were awaiting transplants as of March 2010, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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NACDS, NCPA urge preservation of pharmacy access, choice for Tricare beneficiaries

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON — There are better ways to reduce expenses for Tricare beneficiaries than to restrict access to community pharmacy. What’s more, Congress should adopt alternative cost-saving strategies, including utilizing local pharmacists.

That was a key message in an op-ed co-authored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association and published June 13 in The Hill’s Congress Blog.

Tricare, the Department of Defense healthcare plan for military families and veterans, strongly encourages the use of mail order by allowing beneficiaries to obtain three times more medication from mail order as from retail for the same copayment.

Furthermore, the DoD has made it clear that come October, it will further encourage mail order by increasing copayments for retail pharmacy.

"Community pharmacy is part of the solution in containing costs and improving health. In fact, pharmacies have worked for years to save money in Tricare and other health programs, by promoting affordable alternatives, such as the appropriate use of generic drugs. Generic medications, on average, cost one-sixth as much as brand name drugs," NACDS and NCPA stated in the op-ed.

"One approach supported by NACDS and NCPA is to encourage Tricare beneficiaries to use generic medications from retail pharmacies. Another cost-saving approach is to better promote the prevention services offered by community pharmacies for people with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. Pharmacists can help patients take their medications in the most safe and effective ways — also known as medication adherence — which is an important benefit of having the opportunity to choose where to fill prescription medication," NACDS and NCPA stated.

NACDS and NCPA argued that the bill should offer Tricare beneficiaries "a level playing field in how they choose to receive their prescription medications," and recommends that Congress adopt alternative cost-saving strategies, such as leveraging the services and expertise of local pharmacists.

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