PHARMACY

Senator continues inquiry into Avastin question

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., is continuing his investigation into Genentech’s decision to limit the availability of its cancer drug Avastin.

The drug is used for the treatment of colorectal cancer. The company is restricting the availability of the drug so that doctors will have to use their—more expensive—medication, Lucentis. The drugs are chemically similar and since the price difference is so great, doctors have been using the cheaper Avastin.

Kohl said in letters to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Food and Drug Administration that Genentech’s decision to limit access to the medicine by pharmacies that repackage drugs “is of great concern.”

Now, Kohl is asking Genentech for documentation related to the company’s discussions with sponsors of a forthcoming study comparing Lucentis and Avastin. He is also looking for information about letters the company sent to patients warning them about using off-label Avastin and explaining its possible side effects.

Kohl also wrote to the Food and Drug Administration’s commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach asking for the agency’s official position on Avastin’s availability. This is in response to Genentech employees saying the FDA was opposed to compounding pharmacies being provided with the drug and the subsequent knowledge that the FDA had not, in fact, stated that the drug should be limited to those pharmacies.

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PHARMACY

RPCS to expand $3 generics program to Food Pyramid

BY Allison Cerra

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. A regional, employee-owned company is set to celebrate the successful one-year anniversary of its $3 generic drug program by expanding its services.

RPCS, based in Springfield, Mo., launched its $3 generics program last year at its 20 pharmacies located inside the corporation’s four regional chains: Ramey, Price Cutter, Price Cutter Plus and Smitty’s grocery stores.

For Black Friday this year, the company debuted a similar program at nine pharmacies in Food Pyramid stores in the Tulsa area.

The $3 price applies to specific generic drugs with up to a 30-day supply of commonly prescribed dosages. Quantities over 30 days or above recommended common dosages will be at usual and customary pricing.

Since its launch, RPCS’ pharmacists have filled more than 100,000 prescriptions.

“Senior citizens, as you would imagine, make up a large portion of customers taking advantage of the program,” Larry Storey, pharmacy administrator for RPCS, said. “However, we’ve found that everyone appreciates saving money. We’ve filled $3 generics for people from all walks of life and all age groups. We’ve actually saved the customer anywhere from $5 to $20 for each prescription on the list.”

The top five generics that customers are purchasing on the program are metformin, used to treat diabetes; hydrochlorothiazide, diuretic for cardiac patients; levothyroxine, for thyroid patients; lisinopril, to treat high blood pressure; and amoxicillin, an antibiotic.

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UCB files application with FDA for new pain reliever

BY Allison Cerra

BRUSSELS, Belgium Belgian pharmaceutical group UCB said on Thursday that it has filed a drug application with the Food and Drug Administration for its pain-relieving drug, according to Reuters.

Lacosamide, designed to treat epilepsy and pain associated with diabetic neuropaths, was filed to become an additional therapy in the treatment of partial onset seizures in adults with epilepsy and includes three formulations—tablets, syrup and intravenous injection, UCB said in a statement.

The drug’s proposed trade name is Vimpat.

UCB made a similar filing with the European Medicines Agency earlier this year, Reuters reported. The Belgian company already has blockbuster drug Keppra to treat epilepsy, although patent protection is set to expire in the United States by January 2009 and in Europe in May 2010.

Reuters also reported that the company’s other drug, with the proposed trade name Rikelta, is in Phase III trials to treat epilepsy and genetic epilepsy disorder Unverricht Lundborg Disease, while lacosamide is in Phase II trials for fibromyalgia, migraine prophylaxis and osteoarthritic pain.

UCB had also sought approval from the U.S. authorities for lacosamide to treat adults with diabetic neuropathic pain in tablet formation. The condition is often described as causing patients to feel a stabbing and burning sensation in the legs, feet or hands. Close to 7.7 million Americans suffer from the condition.

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