PHARMACY

Sonus, Bayer ink agreement to develop new class of tumor drugs

BY Alaric DeArment

BOTHELL, Wash. A company in Washington State and a subsidiary of Bayer have signed an exclusive in-licensing agreement to develop cancer treatments, the Washington-based company announced Thursday.

Sonus Pharmaceuticals said that it will work with Bayer HealthCare to develop caspase activators, molecules that activate tumor cells’ capsase pathways, triggering programmed cell death. Many tumor cells lack the ability to undergo programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis.

Preclinical animal trials in which the drug is administered orally and intravenously have shown that the compound may be effective against tumors, including those resistant to taxane.

Under the agreement, Sonus has exclusive rights to develop two core compounds for use in humans, as well as rights to all other non-core compounds covered under the patents. Bayer retains rights to develop biological conjugates of the molecules, except for the two core compounds, and will not develop the non-core compounds for use in cancer patients.

Bayer will also receive an upfront licensing fee of $450,000, milestone payments and royalties on future sales. “Based on the current plans and resources, we would expect to move this compound into Phase 1 clinical development within 12-18 months,” stated Mike Martino, president and chief executive officer of Sonus.

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Novartis starts shipping flu vaccine to U.S.

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Novartis has begun shipping its Fluvirin Influenza Virus Vaccine to the United States. This comes just days after the Food and Drug Administration, with the recommendation of the World Health Organization, approved three new strains that would be included in the influenza vaccine composition for the 2008-2009 influenza season.

The company is producing up to 40 million doses of the vaccine, with expectations of at least 20 million doses being delivered by the end of September with the remainder to be shipped by Halloween.

“As one of the largest US suppliers of influenza vaccine, providing large quantities of Fluvirin early in the season supports public health efforts to vaccinate as many people as early as possible this upcoming influenza season,” said Joerg Reinhardt, chief executive officer of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.

Fluvirin is available for ordering for the US 2008-2009 influenza season via the company’s influenza vaccine online ordering portal, www.NovartisVaccinesDirect.com.

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Report shows more than 1,400 errors due to similar-sounding drug names

BY Drew Buono

ROCKVILLE, Md. The eighth annual national MEDMARX Data Report was released this week by U.S. Pharmacopeia and it revealed that more than 1,400 commonly used drugs are involved in errors linked to drug names that look or sound alike.

For the report, USP reviewed more than 26,000 records submitted to the MEDMARX database from 2003 to 2006. These records revealed that 1,470 different drugs are implicated in medication errors due to brand and/or generic names that looked or sounded alike.

In response to the findings, USP is calling on prescribers and pharmacists to include an “indication for use” on prescriptions. Indication for use is a phrase that signals why the patient is taking the drug (e.g. cough, infection, rash). To prevent medication errors, USP recommends that this powerful piece of information be conveyed at several points along the health care system.

“Errors resulting from look-alike/sound-alike drugs are a problem that spans the entire health care system,” said Darrell Abernethy, chief science officer at USP. “By recording and communicating not only the name of the drug, but also what it is being used for, prescribers, pharmacists and consumers can work together to dramatically reduce these types of medication errors.”

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