PHARMACY

Japanese health and welfare ministry accuses AstraZeneca of paying off endorsers

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare alleges that Swedish-British drug maker AstraZeneca’s Japanese subsidiary gave up to almost $200,000 to three members of the Japan Lung Society, which endorsed a drug blamed for 734 deaths.

The three members of the society who received the donations, which ranged from $7,587 to $189,645, were among the 10 physicians who were rewriting guidelines for the lung cancer drug Iressa (gefitinib). The ministry had appointed the physicians to a task force to examine the drug’s safety after several people using it died shortly following its 2002 approval.

Iressa had global sales of $238 million in 2007, according to AstraZeneca financial data.

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Walgreens reports increase in sales for September

BY Jenna Duncan

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens today reported that its sales for the month of September totaled $4.85 billion, up 10 percent from the same month last year. Calendar year-to-date, sales totaled $44.35 billion reflecting an increase of 9.9 percent from last year’s total of $40.36 billion.

The company also said that comparable-store sales, covering stores open for at least one year, increased by 4.7 percent. Front-end comp-store sales increased 1.3 percent, the company reported. Walgreens credited front-end sales numbers to strong beauty and consumables sales.

According to Walgreens, pharmacy sales comprised 67.2 percent of total sales for September. September pharmacy sales increased 11.2 percent, while comparable pharmacy sales increased 6.5 percent. Comparable pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 2.4 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months. Total prescriptions filled at comparable stores increased 3.5 percent.

In September, Walgreens cut the ribbon on 36 stores, including three relocations, and acquired three stores.

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FDA approves new treatment for HIV

BY Alaric DeArment

PRINCETON, N.J. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new combination therapy for HIV from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bristol announced Wednesday.

The treatment, which combines 300 mg of the drug Reyataz (atazanavir sulfate) with 100 mg of ritonavir, is for people with untreated HIV, also known as treatment-naive patients.

“Boosted Reyataz provides healthcare professionals a newly approved, once-daily dosing option as part of combination therapy for patients naive to HIV therapy,” said Dr. Elliott Sigal, Bristol’s executive vice president, chief scientific officer and president for research and development.

The treatment is based on the 48-week CASTLE study, which demonstrated that the once-daily combined therapy was similar in efficacy to the twice-daily combination of lopinavir and ritonavir.

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