PHARMACY

Acorda announces availability of MS treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

HAWTHORNE, N.Y. A new drug by Acorda Therapeutics for treating multiple sclerosis has become available, Acorda announced.

The drug maker announced Monday the availability of Ampyra (dalfampridine) extended-release tablets in the 10-mg strength. The drug received approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 22.

“The majority of people with MS experience a decline in their walking as their disease progresses,” Acorda president and CEO Ron Cohen. “The availability of Ampyra therefore gives people with MS and their physicians an important new therapeutic option.”

The company is offering a patient-assistance program for the drug, managed by an unspecified third-party organization, and people who meet certain income requirements may receive the drug for free, while those with Medicare Part D coverage may be eligible for financial assistance. In addition, Acorda has created a co-payment program whereby many eligible patients with private insurance pay $40 for a one-month prescription.

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Bristol-Myers Squibb discusses pipeline with investors

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Aims of becoming a leader in biotechnology headlined a meeting Thursday between Bristol-Myers Squibb and investors as the drug maker highlighted a pipeline of late-stage and early-development drugs.

Like many big drug companies, Bristol has focused on beefing up its pipeline as it faces big patent expirations over the next few years, particularly for the anti-clotting drug Plavix (clopidogrel). The company has particularly high hopes for investigative compounds to treat Alzheimer’s disease and hepatitis C.

“I am fully confident in our ability to deliver on our three major strategic imperatives – driving our performance in the next few years, improving our earnings base in 2013 and sustaining growth in 2014 and beyond,” said Bristol president and COO Lamberto Andreotti, who will soon replace James Cornelius as CEO. “We have important strategic, operational and financial levers which will allow us to fully realize our potential as a biopharma leader, and to deliver on our near-term and long-term growth opportunities.”

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NCPA survey finds pharmacists helped customers weather the (winter) storm

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A recent survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association indicated that local pharmacists stepped up to the plate to make sure that patients’ healthcare needs were met during the 2009-2010 winter season.

NCPA polled 85 community pharmacies in 26 snow-plagued states over a seven-day period in February, while much of the East Coast was still digging out from snow storms and some areas braced for additional winter precipitation.

The survey findings reveal a deep commitment to continue serving patients despite the trying circumstances:

  • 79% managed to maintain normal business hours, with some pharmacies opening early or staying late as necessary. Some used generators to supply power and remain open. Others extended phone services to meet emergency needs
  • 36% expanded their pharmacy’s home delivery service area to accommodate additional patients. Sometimes this included traversing unplowed roads in four-wheel-drive vehicles or picking up groceries for homebound patients
  • 45% witnessed an increase in the number of patients needing emergency fills due to the lack of mail service. Meeting this need usually required either contacting the physician or a lengthy phone call to the insurance company or pharmacy benefit manager for an override. In other cases, pharmacists provided a short-term supply at no cost to the patient and without reimbursement to the community pharmacy.

“These community pharmacists truly stepped up when the patient need was greatest,” said Joseph Harmison, NCPA president. “That commitment is one reason why pharmacists are consistently among the public’s most-trusted professions.”

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