PHARMACY

Study: POS electronic safety check can reduce heart attack risk among diabetes patients

BY Alaric DeArment

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A point-of-sale safety check may reduce the risk of patients unsafely receiving a drug for Type 2 diabetes that may increase their risk of heart attack, according to a new study conducted by pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics and scheduled for presentation at the 23rd annual meeting of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy in Minneapolis.

The study found that a POS automated electronic safety edit designed to require prior authorization from a provider for patients using GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia (rosiglitazone) concurrently with an insulin or a nitrate reduced the chances of their receiving the drug, use of which with a nitrate could put them at risk of myocardial ischemia, a condition in which the arteries in the heart become blocked.

For the study, one of Prime’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield clients implemented an edit that required a prior authorization for Avandia if a nitrate drug supply already existed. As a result, between January and June 2009, 168 members had their Avandia claim denied at the POS. Researchers then compared those members with a control group of 222 for whom the safety edit was inactive. After six months, 78.6% of the 168 members in the study group were using a diabetes drug other than Avandia, compared with 25.6% of those in the control group. Thirteen percent of patients in the study group abandoned antidiabetic drug therapy altogether, compared with 15% in the control group.

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Sylatron OKed as add-on melanoma treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a treatment made by Merck for treating skin cancer, Merck said Monday.

Merck announced the approval of Sylatron (peginterferon alfa-2b) as an add-on treatment for treating melanoma with microscopic of gross nodal involvement within 84 days of surgery.

“Merck is pleased to offer patients with node-positive melanoma this new option to treat the disease,” Merck VP clinical oncology Eric Rubin said. “This is the first such therapy approved for the adjuvant treatment of melanoma by the FDA in more than 15 years.”

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Medco: Antidepressant use may boost adherence among hepatitis C patients

BY Alaric DeArment

BALTIMORE — Medication adherence among hepatitis C patients may improve when patients take antidepressants, according to a new analysis by pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions presented Monday at the International Conference on Viral Hepatitis.

In a new observational analysis, Medco found that when hepatitis C patients taking interferon treatments with the generic antiviral drug ribavirin also were treated for depression — a common side effect of interferon use — they more likely were to be compliant. Overall, 46% of patients with hepatitis C take antidepressants. Interferons are biotech drugs commonly used to treat hepatitis and include Genentech’s Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a) and Merck’s PegIntron (peginterferon alfa-2b).

“A common side effect of interferon is depression, but little research has been done looking at the impact of treating depression on a patient’s adherence with their hepatitis C medications,” Medco Advanced Clinical Science and Research Group director of clinical innovation Mary Cassler said. “These findings point to the need to proactively screen patients on interferon for depression and make sure that those who show signs of depression receive the proper interventions.”

According to the study, about 40% of patients with the virus who had been prescribed the drugs were not compliant, putting them at risk of the disease progressing due to their failure to eliminate the virus. At the same time, patients taking antidepressants had the highest rates of adherence. Among patients with hepatitis C and HIV, the rate of adherence was even higher, with 77.3% of those taking antidepressants complying with their interferon therapy.

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