PHARMACY

Analyst discusses expanding generic drug industry at NACDS Pharmacy

BY Alaric DeArment

BOSTON Even as such industries as housing and finance have been coasting down the hill of recession, the prescription drug industry has continued to grow, especially in the area of generics, an analyst told drug and retail pharmacy industry representatives Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2009 Pharmacy and Technology conference, IMS Health VP industry relations Doug Long showed that generic drugs had continued to see strong prescription and sales growth.

“I would say that the pharmaceutical business has been affected less and the OTC business has been affected less than some other businesses,” Long said.

According to IMS research, total prescription drug market sales growth for the 12 months ended in June was 3.2%. Of that, generics accounted for 10.2% of growth, compared with 0.8% for branded drugs, 5.1% for biotech drugs and 5.3% for drugs prescribed by specialists. In the first six months of 2009, generic drug prescriptions grew by 5.6% and accounted for 11.9% of sales growth, while branded drug prescriptions declined by 9.2% and accounted for 2.7% of sales growth.

Thanks to that growth, more than 70% of prescriptions dispensed are now generic, but they account for 17% of sales, despite generics sales having tripled since 2000 to exceed $51 billion. Long said he expected generics’ share of total prescriptions to reach 80% once Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) begins losing patent protection next year.

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois hits e-Rx milestone

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois announced Monday that physicians and healthcare providers in the Illinois E-Prescribing Collaborative reached a major milestone in their e-prescribing efforts: the one millionth e-prescription transmitted. The Illinois Blues program also recorded the significant benefits of expanded use of electronic prescribing technology.

“E-prescribing enhances patient care and prevents errors,” said Scott Sarran, M.D., BCBSIL’s chief medical officer. “E-prescribing reduces the potential for drug interactions, which can be extremely harmful, and even fatal in some cases, and it can eliminate the potential for errors that can occur if pharmacists can’t read hand-written prescriptions.”

Sarran said that since BCBSIL launched the e-prescribing program in April 2007, more than 119,000 possible drug interactions have been flagged. As a result, nearly 20% of prescriptions were changed or cancelled.

Based on national trends, more than 670,000 prescriptions will be changed and cancelled in 2009, due to drug interaction warnings, and more than 53,600 prescriptions will be changed or cancelled due to drug allergy warnings.

The Institute of Medicine reports that more than 1.5 million Americans are injured every year by medication errors and recommends that all prescriptions be written and received electronically by the year 2010, BCBSIL said.

Surescripts, a St. Paul, Minn.-based national electronic prescribing network, said e-prescribing accounts for about 4.5% of all prescribing in the United States. However, since 2007, e-prescribing has more than doubled to 68 million in 2008 from 29 million in 2007.

Sarran said BCBSIL providers using the technology have increased. He has seen growth in the number of scripts routed electronically. According to the 2008 Electronic Prescribing Progress Report, Illinois ranked 21st in the nation for total number of prescriptions routed electronically. In 2007, the state ranked 28th and was 27th in 2006.

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Watson Pharmaceuticals recalls fentanyl patches

BY Allison Cerra

MORRISTOWN, N.J. Watson Pharmaceuticals announced Monday that one lot of 100 mcg/hr Fentanyl Transdermal System patches sold in the United States is being voluntarily recalled from wholesalers and pharmacies.

Watson’s Fentanyl Transdermal System CII is indicated for the management of persistent, moderate to severe chronic pain that requires continuous, around the clock opioid administration for an extended period of time and cannot be managed by other means such as non-steroidal analgesics, opioid combination products, or immediate release opioids.

The recalled patches are from Lot Number 145287A, have expiration dates of February 2011 and were manufactured by Watson Laboratories, Inc. and distributed by Watson Pharma. The affected lot of patches was shipped to customers between April 2 and May 20 of this year. No other strengths or lots were affected and the company does not anticipate any product shortages as a result of this recall. The company has notified the Food and Drug Administration of the recall.

A small number of patches leaking fentanyl gel have been detected in this lot, potentially exposing patients or caregivers directly to fentanyl gel. Fentanyl patches that are leaking should not be used. No serious injuries have been reported in connection with the recalled lot. However, exposure to fentanyl gel may lead to serious adverse events, including respiratory depression and possible overdose, which may be fatal.

Patients using fentanyl patches who have medical questions should contact their healthcare providers.

Anyone who comes in contact with fentanyl gel should thoroughly rinse exposed skin with large amounts of water only; do not use soap. Immediately dispose of affected patches that may be damaged or compromised in any way by flushing them down the toilet, using caution not to handle them directly. Damaged and/or compromised patches that have leaked gel will not provide effective pain relief.

Any adverse reactions experienced with the use of this product, and/or quality problems should also be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Program by phone at 1-800-FDA-1088, by Fax at 1-800-FDA-0178, by mail at MedWatch, FDA, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852-9787, or on the MedWatch Web site at www.fda.gov/medwatch.

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