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Study examines azithromycin, levofloxacin use and risks of cardiac arrhythmia and death

BY Antoinette Alexander

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Using azithromycin and levofloxacin increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmia and death, according to a study of U.S. veterans.

The research was published in the March/April issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

Azithromycin use has been associated with increased risk of death among patients at high baseline risk, but not for younger and middle-aged adults, researchers stated. The Food and Drug Administration issued a public warning on azithromycin, including a statement that the risks were similar for levofloxacin. This prompted researchers to conduct a study among U.S. veterans to test the hypothesis that taking azithromycin or levofloxacin would increase the risk of cardiovascular death and cardiac arrhythmia compared with those taking amoxicillin.

Researchers studied a cohort of U.S. veterans (mean age 56.8 years) who received an exclusive outpatient dispensation of either amoxicillin, azithromycin or levofloxacin at the Department of Veterans Affairs between September 1999 and April 2012. Azithromycin was dispensed mostly for five days, whereas amoxicillin and levofloxacin were dispensed mostly for at least 10 days.

According to researchers, they found that, compared with amoxicillin, azithromycin resulted in a statistically significant increase in mortality and arrhythmia risks on days one to five, but not six to 10. Levofloxacin, which was predominantly dispensed for a minimum of 10 days, resulted in an increased risk throughout the 10-day period.

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Research: Global epilepsy therapeutics market to reach $4.5B by 2019

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — The epilepsy therapeutics market value in the eight major countries — the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan — will increase from $3.4 billion in 2012 to $4.5 billion by 2019, at a compound annual growth rate of 3.9%, according to a new report from business intelligence provider GBI Research.

According to the report, the United States will grow at a higher CAGR of 4.8%, climbing from $1.9 billion in 2012 to $2.6 billion by 2019. Meanwhile, the five European countries and Canada will achieve a combined, smaller CAGR of 3.1% during the forecast period.

GBI Research attributes the anticipated market expansion to new anti-epileptic drugs that have been approved during the last five years. However, further growth will be limited by the recent patent expiration of key AEDs, such as Keppra (levetiracetam) and Lamictal (lamotrigine).

“The epilepsy treatment arena has historically been dominated by Gamma Aminobutyric Acid modulators and ion channel blockers, although a sizeable proportion of patients don’t respond to these existing treatment options,” said Vijaya Vulapalli, senior analyst for GBI Research.

“Second-generation AEDs, including levetiracetam, zonisamide and Vimpat (lacosamide), have signalled a shift in this trend in the last decade, with improved tolerability and safety through the use of new mechanisms of action. Recent approvals of Fycompa (perampanel) and Trobalt (retigabine) have continued this innovation by focusing on new molecular targets.”

With most of the molecules being approved in the last few years, the current epilepsy pipeline is weak, GBI Research said. Phase III trials account for 18% of the overall pipeline, but the majority of these late-stage molecules are reformulations or line extensions of existing drugs.

“Furthermore, the recent epilepsy pipeline does not boast drugs with novel mechanisms of action, which are considered by most prescribers as an urgent need in epilepsy therapeutics today,” Vulapalli added.

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Intel announces winner of Science Talent Search 2014

BY Ryan Chavis

WASHINGTON — Intel and the Society for Science and the Public recognized winners of the Intel Science Talent Search, a pre-college science and math competition.  

Eric S. Chen, 17, of San Diego took home the top award of $100,000 for his research of potential new drugs to treat the flu. His approach combined computer modeling with structural study and biological validation, with a focus on drugs that inhibit endonuclease — an enzyme essential for viral reproduction. Chen said he hopes his work will lead to a class of new medications to control flu outbreaks during a pandemic.

“Society for Science and the Public proudly joins Intel in congratulating Eric Chen for his impressive research toward potential new drugs for influenza,” said Rick Bates, interim CEO and chief advancement officer of SSP. “By linking technology and science to the problems of the world they see around them, Eric and all the Intel Science Talent Search finalists are tomorrow’s problem solvers.”

 Eric S. Chen, 17, of San Diego, Calif. (center) wins the first-place prize of $100,000 in the Intel Science Talent Search.

The honor of second place (along with $75,000) went to Kevin Lee, 17, of Irvine, Calif. Using a mathematical model, Lee described the shaped of the heart as it beats using the principles of fluid mechanics. His model could provide insights into arrhythmia, which might mean better treatments for the disease.

“We at Intel celebrate the work of these brilliant young scientists as a way to inspire the next generation to follow them with even greater energy and excitement into a life of invention and discovery,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation. “Imagine the new technologies, solutions and devices they will bring to bear on the challenges we face. The Intel Science Talent Search finalists should inspire all of us with hope for the future.”

The Intel Foundation awarded $1.25 million for the Intel Science Talent Search 2014. This year’s finalists come from 33 schools in 14 states. Out of the 1,794 high school seniors who entered the talent search, 300 were announced as semifinalists in January. Of those, 40 were selected as finalists and invited to Washington to compete for the top 10 awards. The finalists join the ranks of some impressive company. Science Talent Search Alumni have have gone on to win eight Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, five National Medals of Science, 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and an Academy Award for Best Actress.

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