HEALTH

McKesson appoints chief technology officer

BY Allison Cerra

SAN FRANCISCO A McKesson executive is moving up the ranks.

McKesson Corp. announced that Randy Spratt, EVP and CIO, has been promoted to the newly-created position of chief technology officer, while retaining his responsibilities as the company’s CIO.

As chief technology officer, Spratt will guide the overall technology direction for the company’s healthcare technology products, and provide support and guidance for application development processes companywide. The position will serve as a support arm to the management teams within McKesson’s technology businesses, working collaboratively with each business to optimize the quality, interoperability, and transparency of McKesson’s software development operations.

“As our healthcare system increasingly looks to technology to improve both the quality and efficiency of care delivery, we see a tremendous opportunity to accelerate our progress in providing integrated, interoperable technology solutions,” said John Hammergren, chairman and CEO of McKesson. “Randy has an outstanding track record in establishing processes that have streamlined how we plan, build and deploy our technologies internally, and I am confident that he can apply the same level of focused guidance to the development and deployment of our customer-facing solutions. At McKesson we are committed to ensuring the highest levels of customer satisfaction and to delivering a high return on investment for our customers. This decision will support world class results in both areas.”

Spratt has served as McKesson’s CIO since 2005, with responsibility for all internal technology initiatives within the Corporation. Spratt has been with McKesson for more than 18 years, most recently as chief process officer for McKesson Provider Technologies, the company’s medical software and services division based in Alpharetta, Ga.

“I am excited to be involved in the product side of our business again, and I am looking forward to working with the leaders of our software development businesses to establish broad technology plans, improve interoperability of our technology solutions, and optimize our development processes and activities,” said Spratt. “We are committed to developing best-in-class, integrated solutions that improve our customers’ business and clinical performance, and provide a more connected healthcare system that benefits us all.”

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FDA to require NSAID manufacturers to revise labeling

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule Tuesday that requires manufacturers of over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers to revise their labeling to include warnings about potential safety risks, such as internal bleeding and liver damage, associated with the use of these drugs.

Products covered by the FDA action include acetaminophen, and a class of drugs known as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen.

The revised labeling applies to all OTC pain relievers and fever reducers, including those that contain one of these ingredients in combination with such other ingredients, as cold medicines containing pain relievers or fever reducers.

“Acetaminophen and NSAIDs are commonly used drugs for both children and adults because they are effective in reducing fevers and relieving minor aches and pain, such as headaches and muscle aches, “ stated Charles Ganley, director of FDA’s Office of Nonprescription Drugs in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “However, the risks associated with their use need to be clearly identified on the label so that consumers taking these drugs are fully aware of the potential harm they can cause. It is important that they know how to take these medications safely to reduce their risk.”

Under the final rule, manufacturers must ensure that the active ingredients of these drugs are prominently displayed on the drug labels on both the packages and bottles. The labeling also must warn of the risks of stomach bleeding for NSAIDs and severe liver damage for acetaminophen.

The new rule requires all manufacturers to relabel their products by April 28, 2010.

However, many analgesic manufacturers are already in compliance with the new labeling rules, Barbara Kochanowski, VP regulatory affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, stated Tuesday.

“CHPA member companies voluntarily have begun implementing many of the label changes included in the final rule that will publish April 29, 2009, well ahead of the April 28, 2010, implementation deadline,” she said. “These label changes are designed to provide consumers with a greater understanding of some of the risks that could be associated with the misuse of these medications.”

An FDA Advisory Committee meeting will convene on June 29 and 30 to discuss further steps the FDA could take to reduce the risk of liver damage associated with acetaminophen overdoses.

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World Health Organization announces flu pandemic alert change

BY Michael Johnsen

GENEVA The current situation regarding the outbreak of swine influenza A(H1N1) is evolving rapidly, the World Health Organization stated in a press release Monday.

“As of 27 April, the United States government has reported 40 laboratory confirmed human cases of swine influenza A(H1N1), with no deaths. Mexico has reported 26 confirmed human cases of infection with the same virus, including seven deaths. Canada has reported six cases, with no deaths, while Spain has reported one case, with no deaths,” WHO stated.

In responose, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from the current phase 3 to phase 4. The change to a higher phase of pandemic alert indicates that the likelihood of a pandemic has increased, but not that a pandemic is inevitable.

In Phase 3, an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus has caused sporadic cases or small clusters of disease in people, but has not resulted in human-to-human transmission sufficient to sustain community-level outbreaks. Limited human-to-human transmission may occur under some circumstances, for example, when there is close contact between an infected person and an unprotected caregiver. However, limited transmission under such restricted circumstances does not indicate that the virus has gained the level of transmissibility among humans necessary to cause a pandemic.

Phase 4 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.

Phase 5 indicates an imminent pandemic and phase 6 signifies an actual pandemic.

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