PHARMACY

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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Report: Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy could aid revival of Flint, Mich.

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — After decades of failed comeback initiatives following the exit of General Motors, it looks like Flint, Mich., may be poised for a revival, according to published reports.

In a slideshow presentation on its website titled “11 Comeback Cities for 2011,” Kiplinger magazine ranked Flint at No. 7, thanks in large part to Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy’s decision to move its headquarters to the city.

Diplomat completed its move to the former General Motors Great Lakes Technology Centre in January and plans to invest $12 million and hire new staff.

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