PHARMACY

TNF companies comply with FDA investigation

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration’s safety review of tumor necrosis factor blocker drugs that may be associated with lymphoma and other cancers has received support from pharmaceutical companies. The drugs in question are Amgen and Wyeth’s Enbrel, Abbott’s Humira, Centocor and Schering-Plough’s Remicade and UCB Pharma’s Cimzia.

Amgen said it provided the FDA with information from its adverse events database and Wyeth’s database and is continuing to work with the agency to evaluate the overall risk-benefit ratio of Enbrel in pediatric patients. Immunex, a subsidiary of Amgen, manufactures Enbrel, which Amgen and Wyeth market in North America and Wyeth markets elsewhere.

Last week, the FDA said it was investigating approximately 30 reports of cancer, submitted to its Adverse Event Reporting System, in patients taking the blockers for juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Crohn’s disease and other diseases during a 10-year period ending April 29.

The FDA cited a possible risk to children and young adults who take TNF blockers along with such other immuno-suppressive medications as methotrexate, azathioprine or 6-mercapturine.

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NCPA aims for 75 percent community pharmacy membership

BY Antoinette Alexander

ALEXANDRIA, Va. With the Presidential campaign and Senate bill 3101 looming overhead, the National Community Pharmacists Association has reached a “historic juncture,” according to Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the NCPA. Looking to give independent pharmacy a greater voice, the association has announced an aggressive membership campaign.

“We have the opportunity to define this industry in a positive way and for us all to sit back in the years to come and say we really made a difference,” said Roberts. “We can’t do that with just a small subset of the industry carrying the load. So we are going to make a major push to get the community pharmacists engaged in membership—we need to have the support of all of the industry.”

The organization currently has a membership of about 50 percent—or 12,000 members—of independent community pharmacy. The goal: To have, one year from now, about 75 percent of pharmacy owners as “engaged” members of the association.

As part of the campaign, the association will work to contact every non-member nationwide “in every possible way” including email, snail mail and telephone. The association will also work with current members, buying groups, wholesalers, etc. to reinforce the importance of being a member and encourage participation among non-members.

NCPA also plans to improve member benefits. Specific details were not disclosed but the improvements are expected to have a direct impact on members’ bottom line, and will help members attract quality employees, and attract and retain new customers.

“The one thing we will be doing beyond just asking folks to be members is we want to get them engaged. We have to have community pharmacists around the country engaged in a significant way,” said Roberts.

Serving as a slice of evidence of the success that can be achieved if community pharmacy works together is Senate bill 3101. The legislation includes provisions requiring prompt payment to pharmacies in Medicare Part D as well as a delay to the new AMP reimbursement.

“Just on this Senate bill we facilitated over 7,000 phone calls from pharmacists to Congress over the course of the last 24 hours,” said Roberts. “So for me, and the reason I become so passionate about this, is because I have seen the tremendous success we have had in just the little bit of work we have done and I can only image how successful we can be if we can get to that goal of having 75 percent of community pharmacists in the country as members—not only as members but engaged.”

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Interferon may assist with weight loss

BY Alaric DeArment

AMARILLO, Texas Researchers at Amarillo Biosciences made a surprising discovery during tests of the autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia drug interferon, the company announced Wednesday.

In a study of 582 women, given one of five low doses of oral interferon or a placebo, a significant number of women given two of the doses experienced at least 5 percent weight loss. In response, Amarillo has filed a patent with the Patent and Trademark Office for the use of oral interferon to treat obesity.

Amarillo announced that it plans to conduct further studies. The Amarillo, Texas-based company is also researching the use of low-dose, oral interferon to treat chronic cough, influenza and opportunistic infections in people with HIV.

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