PHARMACY

Study shows healthcare costs expected to drop

BY Alaric DeArment

A survey released Aug. 21 by Segal Group indicates that increases in healthcare costs will be lower next year than this year.

Whether the downward trend will continue after next year remains unclear, however.

The survey found that trend rates for point-of-service health plans without prescription drugs for employees and retirees younger than 65 drowill have declined by 3.3 percent between 2003, when they were 13.7 percent, and 2009. Retail prescription drug trends will have experienced a larger decline, from 19.7 percent in 2001 to 9.1 percent in 2009.

To conduct the survey, Segal contacted managed care organizations, pharmacy benefit managers and administrators.

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PHARMACY

Rx Response mobilizes to respond to Hurricane Gustav

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON With Hurricane Gustav barely missing New Orleans, several retail pharmacy, pharmaceutical and medical industry organizations have mobilized to respond.

Rx Response’s purpose is to provide a single point of contact between emergency management officials and the pharmaceutical supply system. It uses a network that allows the officials to communicate with it concerning issues that might affect the supply system, such as pharmaceutical needs. For example, public health officials in Louisiana and Alabama have asked it for a list of pharmacies that closed when Gustav made landfall so that they could direct patients to operating pharmacies.

The organization began almost two years ago in response to Hurricane Katrina and the threat of pandemic influenza. Its members include the American Hospital Association, the American Red Cross, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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Old anti-itching drug may become new hepatitis treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

STANFORD, Calif. Researchers at Stanford University have found a possible new way to combat hepatitis C, according to a report published online in the Aug. 31 issue of Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers found that clemizole hydrochloride, an anti-itching drug, hindered a protein in the hepatitis C virus called NS4B, which is crucial to the virus’ replication without harming cells similar to those found in the liver, which the virus targets.

“We’re excited about this, and we’re actively moving forward toward clinical trials,” said Dr. Jeffrey Glenn, an associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford.

Glenn said that if it proves effective in human trials, clemizole could become an essential component in a new class of multi-drug treatments for hepatitis C.

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