PHARMACY

Study suggests mercury-containing preservative not responsible for autism

BY Drew Buono

A new study released yesterday in the Archives of General Psychiatry state that rates of autism have increased in California despite the removal of the preservative thimerosal from childhood vaccines seven years ago, according to published reports.

Parents, however, are still operating under the belief that the preservative, which contains trace amounts of mercury, has a part in causing autism; the drug is still available in such other vaccines as flu shots which are given to pregnant women.

Cases of autism, a neurological disorder marked by profound communication problems and impaired social skills, have exploded in the past two decades, pushing the condition to the forefront of medical research. Autism was considered rare before the 1990s, afflicting as few as 5 children per 10,000 births, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated last year that as many as 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism now.

Now, with the disagreement, more money will have to be invested to prove if this study is correct or not. Some health care professionals, though, are upset that this study has not satisfied parents’ concerns with thimerosal and are claiming that the money should be spent on looking for solutions to the disease rather than on more tests for the preservative.

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Gardasil vaccine recipients report extreme pain, fainting

BY Drew Buono

MELBOURNE CITY, Australia New reports have shown that the Gardasil vaccine, which is given in three doses to females between the ages of 9 and 26 to prevent against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical and vaginal cancer, has been causing extreme pain and also has made girls faints, according to reports from Australia.

Officials at Merck, which makes the vaccine, attributes it partly to the virus-like particles in the shot. Studies showed more reports of pain from Gardasil than from placebo shots, and patients reported more pain when given shots with more of the particles. While many say the pain is short-lived, some say driving or sleeping on the injected arm is uncomfortable for up to a day after.

U.S. health officials have noticed a rise in reports of vaccine-associated fainting in girls. From 2002-04 there were about 50 reports of fainting; from 2005 until last July, there were about 230. About 180 of those cases followed a shot of Gardasil, which came on to the market in 2006.

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Pfizer, Taisho announce partnership to develop schizophrenia treatment

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK & TOKYO Pfizer and Taisho Pharmaceuticals have signed a definitive agreement to replace their letter of intent for the worldwide (excluding Japan) collaboration to research, develop and commercialize TS-032, a drug candidate for schizophrenia, as well as other central nervous system disorders that is currently in preclinical development.

Under the agreement, Taisho will receive an initial payment of $22 million from Pfizer. The company will also receive milestone payments related to progress of development, as well as royalties and milestone payments tied to sales if TS-032 is approved by regulatory authorities and launched.

“We are pleased to partner with Taisho in this important area of research. Schizophrenia is among the most chronic and disabling of mental health conditions and there still remains a significant need for novel treatment advances with improved efficacy and fewer side effects,” said Martin Mackay, president of Pfizer Global Research and Development. “Pfizer has a long-standing strength in developing and commercializing medications for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses, including Zoloft, Xanax and Geodon. This agreement highlights our commitment to pursue opportunities that align strategically with our key development priorities and strengthen our pipeline.”

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