HEALTH

Sanofi Pasteur announces U.S. government order of H1N1 vaccine

BY Michael Johnsen

SWIFTWATER, Pa. Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, on Monday announced it has received the first of what is expected to be a series of orders from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to commence production of a vaccine to help protect against the novel H1N1 influenza virus. The order is in the amount of $190 million.

“This initial order for A(H1N1) vaccine received [today] under our existing contract is part of a major effort by Sanofi Pasteur to support global public health efforts to prepare the world for the possibility of an influenza pandemic,” stated Wayne Pisano, president and CEO of Sanofi Pasteur. “Production of a new vaccine is not a simple task and there are a number of necessary and complex steps that must be taken before a vaccine can be made available to the public, but we have experience on our side. Previously, we developed and licensed the first pre-pandemic vaccine for H5N1, and we look forward to further demonstrating our experience and expertise in vaccine development as we prepare for this new threat from A(H1N1).”

The dosage requirements for the new vaccine are yet to be determined and will be based on clinical trials, which could begin as early as August, the company stated. Final formulation, filling and distribution of the vaccine also have not been established at this time.

Sanofi Pasteur is awaiting receipt of the seed virus to be used for vaccine production from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could be delivered as early as the end of May, according to a CDC press conference held Friday.

Sanofi Pasteur is prepared to commence commercial scale production in June following certification of the working seed by the Food and Drug Administration. The company currently estimates it will have the first bulk concentrate vaccine in a few months. However, the company will be better able to determine the timing once the seed virus is received and development of working seed is underway.

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Northwestern U. students win Diabetes Mine Design Challenge

BY Michael Johnsen

EVANSTON, Ill. Two Northwestern University teams took home the top two prizes awarded earlier this week in the Diabetes Mine Design Challenge, which asked teams to create new tools for improving life with diabetes.

The top winners were Eric Schickli, a graduate student in the Master of Science in Engineering Design and Innovation program in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Samantha Katz, a graduate student in the MMM program, a joint MBA and Master of Engineering Management program between the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

For their efforts, they received a $10,000 prize.

The competition — run by the diabetes information Web site www.diabetesmine.com — was open to anyone, and judges received more than 150 entries, many from top universities across the country.

Schickli and Katz’s winning design was called the LifeCase and LifeApp system, a combined hardware and software system for iPhones that combines a lancer, test strips, a glucose meter, wireless insulin pump management and disease management software all in one package.

“I was looking for an independent study project, and my mother is a Type 1 diabetic, so I knew this would be a way I could help diabetics like her,” Schickli said. “She also had a network of people that we could tap for user interviews.”

By interviewing diabetics and researching diabetic products, the two quickly learned the main complaint about diabetic devices.

“Diabetics have to carry around cases filled with multiple devices to test their blood glucose, and it’s so cumbersome,” Katz said. “They were all looking for devices that could improve their lives and make diabetes take up less of their day,” Schickli added. They decided that an interface that combined aspects of diabetes management into one convenient device would be ideal.

Their final design is a modified iPhone case, complete with a glucose meter, lancer and strip storage. The software interface combines diabetes management software, insulin pump management software, and logs of meals and glucose readings.

The Most Creative award ($5,000) was won by an undergraduate team of Design for America students: Kushal Amin, Can Arican, Hannah Chung, Rita Huen, Mert Iseri, Kevin Li, Justin Liu, Yuri F. Malina, Katy Mess, and Sourya Roy. Involvement in the project crossed the borders of McCormick — students from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education and Social Policy also participated.

Their design, “Jerry the Bear with Diabetes,” is an interactive stuffed toy and web-based play space for children with diabetes. Design for America is a new student-led initiative that creates social impact through human centered participatory design.

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IRI study: Consumers not worried about catching H1N1 virus

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Almost half of Americans (45%) are not concerned about getting a contagious disease like the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus, according to a new consumer survey conducted by Information Resources Inc.

However, that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t looking to actively protect themselves from catching the flu — 54% reported that they would wash their hands more frequently, 24% suggested they would venture out into the public less often and 20% said they would buy more alcohol-based or antibacterial hand cleaners in an effort to prevent infection.

“This epidemic announcement has caught the shoppers’ attention,” Thomas Blischok, president of consulting and innovation, IRI, told Drug Store News. “And their immediate [reaction] was to buy more hand sanitizers [and] any sort of ‘safety’-related products.”

Sales in those hand sanitizers and related products — like N95 masks, for example — spiked in the immediate aftermath of the H1N1 announcement but have dropped since. That could change this fall if the story of an H1N1 return to the U.S. dominates news broadcasts, as is likely, Blischok suggested, and retailers need to be prepared. For the retailer developing a strategy around this now, Blischok said, “it might be good to begin analyzing their data and understand exactly about people who were concerned about [H1N1] changed their purchase behaviors.”

Many of those products — hand sanitizers, facemasks, thermometers, even prescription antiviral medications — were reported out-of-stock when news of H1N1 first broke, Blischok noted. Now, retailers have a few months to prepare for an expected resurgence in demand around those products.

“I can even see the development of a ‘flu avoidance’ endcap,” Blischok said. “Information [and communication] will be key; understanding what people will buy will be key; [and] being very clear that you have the right assortment to support flu prevention will be key.”

Another important issue, especially for pharmacy operators, is the dissemination of information, Blischok said. Once alerted to the potential of a pandemic, Blischok said, consumers turned to their healthcare resources, such as the pharmacist, for more information.

“The clinics inside the drug stores have a great opportunity to really over-communicate things you can do to prevent flu, to avoid flu,” Blischok added. “The stores that have clinics can really win here, because they can do some diagnostics, etc., and really help people understand exactly the kinds of behaviors they should be undertaking to give themselves the greatest chance of not getting the flu.”

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