HEALTH

Walgreens positions itself as a go-to for pertussis concerns

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The heartbreaking news is that California is battling an unnerving whooping cough epidemic that unfortunately already has claimed the lives of nine babies. But the silver lining — if there is one — lies in the fact that this gives rise to another opportunity for retail pharmacy to demonstrate the critical role it plays in public health crisis management.

(THE NEWS: Calif. health officials address ‘whooping cough’ outbreak. For the full story, click here)

As state health officials are urging Californians to be immunized in hopes of stemming the pertussis outbreak that is sweeping throughout the state, more than 4,000 cases have been reported — nine deaths have been reported of which eight were Hispanic infants. Eight fatalities were infants less than 2 months of age at the time of the disease’s onset and had not received any doses of pertussis-containing vaccine; the ninth was 2 months of age and had received the first dose of DTaP only 15 days prior to the disease onset, according to the California Department of Public Health. Most of the infant cases in 2010 have occurred in infants younger than 3 months of age. Meanwhile, the majority of adolescent cases are in 10- to 11-year-olds.

Because children are most vulnerable to this highly contagious disease, health officials are urging anyone who is in contact with children to be immunized, and for those children of proper age to be immunized.

As we’ve seen with regard to the seasonal flu, H1N1 and other public health concerns, retail pharmacies are in an ideal position to assist in such matters given their convenient locations and hours of operation. This fact once again is evident, as Walgreens has announced that its pharmacists in select California stores can administer whooping cough vaccines.

Currently, 150 Walgreens locations are offering the vaccine, but the retailer has 575 stores throughout the state and will be working to add more stores to the list. As of 2009, the number of pharmacy outlets in California stood at 1,957 independents, 2,174 traditional chains, 645 supermarkets and 557 mass merchandisers, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Once again, retail pharmacy is positioning itself along the frontlines of health care.

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House committee to hold hearing over J&J recall

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Ed Towns, D-N.Y., on Thursday announced that the committee will hold a hearing Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. to examine the circumstances surrounding Johnson & Johnson’s recall of more than 135 million bottles of infant and children’s medicines produced by Johnson & Johnson/McNeil Consumer Healthcare, including children’s Tylenol, infant’s Tylenol, children’s Motrin and children’s Benadryl.

 

The hearing also will examine the circumstances surrounding a “phantom recall” of a particular Motrin product, which became public as a result of the committee’s hearing on May 27.

 

 

“This is about the safety of trusted medication that our children and grandchildren use,” Towns stated. “The evidence we have uncovered since our first hearing is extremely troubling.” 

 

 

Witnesses invited to testify include Bill Weldon, J&J chairman and CEO, and Colleen Goggins, J&J worldwide chairman, consumer group.

 

 

The hearing will be webcast on the committee’s website, Oversight.house.gov. 

 

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Forest Pharmaceuticals pays $313 million in settlement deal

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. Drug maker Forest Pharmaceuticals will pay more than $300 million to the federal government as part of a plea agreement over alleged improper drug distribution and obstructing a Food and Drug Administration inspection.

The FDA said Wednesday that Forest Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of New York-based Forest Labs, had entered a plea agreement whereby it would accept criminal responsibility for distribution of an unapproved drug, distribution of a misbranded drug and obstruction of an FDA inspection. The total payment of $313 million includes $164 million in criminal penalties.

One charge centered around the marketing of Levothroid (levothyroxine sodium), an unapproved drug used to treat hypothyroidism. A 1997 Federal Register notice announced that Levothroid is a “new drug,” and that manufacturers who wish to continue marketing it would have to obtain approval from the FDA by August 2000.

 

The company also is charged with alleged off-label promotion of the antidepressant Celexa (citalopram) for use in children; the drug is only approved for use in adults. The charge of obstructing an FDA inspection relates to an alleged 2003 incident in which Forest employees made false statements to the agency.

 

 

“We are pleased to bring closure to this long-running investigation,” Forest chairman and CEO Howard Solomon said. “We remain dedicated to ensuring that we operate in full compliance with all laws and regulations and that our employees uphold the highest principles of integrity, honesty and ethics.”

 

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