PHARMACY

Longs Drugs to provide flu vaccines this season

BY Allison Cerra

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. As a way to help consumers remain healthy and combat the annual flu season, Longs Drug Stores announced Monday that it will be providing a flu immunization program at more than 400 stores in three Western states.

Longs Drugs joins several other retail drug store chains in keeping customers healthy during the flu season. The company said it is offering several convenient options this flu season to better meet its customers’ needs.

At the selected Longs Drugs, clinics will be held in the stores from the beginning of October through the middle of November that will administer flu vaccines to adults 18 years of age and older, as well as children between the ages of 9 and 18 years of age (with parental consent). Select Longs Drugs pharmacies also will supply vaccinations to adults over the age of 18 by appointment.

FluMist, a nasal mist flu vaccine, also will be available to eligible patients at select Longs Drugs by appointment, from early October to the end of January, while supplies last.

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Democrats vow to re-examine Medicare provisions, Baucus says

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Cuts in Medicare payments to private health insurers won’t be included in a children’s health bill, leaving the program at a standstill, a Wall Street Journal article reports.

Unless Congress and the White House agree to the funding of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expires at the end of September, approximately five million children will be left uninsured. To mitigate this, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees Medicare, has debated with the idea of cutting payments to Medicare Advantage insurers and increasing taxation on tobacco products to balance the lack of funding.

Baucus also said that the Medicare committee wishes to improve other aspects of the program, including improvements in having health insurers pay retail pharmacies immediately following the dispensing of medications.

Senate Democrats, led by Baucus, have passed a bill by a margin of 68 to 31 to increase funding by $35 billion. The House Democrats’ bill, sponsored by Michigan’s John Dingell, passed 225 to 204 and increases that amount to $50 billion.

President Bush, on the other hand, wishes to increase the budget of the children’s health bill by a comparatively small $5 billion over five years, and treat the federal-state health insurance policy the same way the government treats food and housing—which is, making it available to low-income families only.

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U.S. goverment to sponsor 10 ImClone cancer trials

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The U.S. government will sponsor 10 clinical trials of ImClone Systems’ compound IMC-A12 to treat cancer in the breast, bones, liver, lung, pancreas, and other organs. The compound blocks a receptor on tumor cells that are needed for their development, by acting against a protein called insulin-like growth- factor type 1 receptor, which stops the cells from growing and dividing.

According to Eric Rowinsky, ImClone’s chief medical officer, “Because the insulin-like receptor appears to be active in so many cancers, the co zmpany plans to test IMC-A12 in at least eight types of cancer. The fact that the cancer institute will also conduct 10 trials doubles our capacity right off the bat.”

The company is years away from seeking approval for the drug, but did just begin the second stage of human tests for colon cancer with it.

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