PHARMACY

Biogen Idec names billionaire as board member

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Biogen Idec appointed a nominee of billionaire investor Carl Icahn to its board Monday, the Swiss drug maker announced.

Biogen Idec appointed Icahn Partners nominee Eric Rowinsky and Stephen Sherwin, selected by the company as part of its effort to find new directors, to its board of directors.

On the same day, Bloomberg quoted Icahn as saying that he would like to see Biogen Idec sold to a larger drug maker, on account of its pipeline, and also split into two business units, one for neurology and one for cancer.

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PHARMACY

Safeway launches Safeway Health

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Safeway is looking to expand its health plan initiative with the introduction of additional incentive-based programs.

Safeway Health, a new subsidiary of the grocery chain, will provide an incentive plan that includes such features as “greater transparency of provider and drug pricing,” said Ken Shachmut, Safeway SVP and EVP of Safeway Health.“Existing healthcare players are not well equipped to deliver the Safeway results.”

Safeway Health will provide analytics, plan design or redesign assistance, Shachmut said during a keynote address in Washington at the Business Health Agenda 2010 sponsored by the National Business Group on Health. As compensation, Safeway Health receives 25% of the savings generated over a five-year period, according to a Business Insurance report.

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Merck responds to FDA warning of simvastatin use

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck & Co. has responded to a warning by the Food and Drug Administration about potential safety risks in patients taking the highest dose of a drug used to lower cholesterol.

“Simvastatin, when used as a supplement to a healthy diet, can help reduce LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of death form cardiovascular disease in patients at high risk of coronary events,” Merck chief medical officer Michael Rosenblatt said in a statement. “We support the FDA’s recommendation that patients continue their medication as prescribed by their physicians and that patients speak to their physician if they have symptoms or questions.”

The FDA warned patients and healthcare professionals Friday of the risk of muscle injury, also known as myopathy, in patients taking simvastatin in the 80-mg strength. Though muscle injury is a side effect common among all statins, the agency said patients taking higher doses of simvastatin run a higher risk. Of particular concern is the risk of rhabdomyolysis, a severe form of myopathy that can lead to kidney damage, kidney failure and sometimes death.

Merck originally marketed the drug under the brand name Zocor, though it now is available as a generic and is included as an active ingredient in several drugs, including Merck’s Vytorin (ezetimibe and simvastatin) and Simcor (niacin and simvastatin), marketed by Abbott and Solvay Pharmaceuticals. Vytorin is available with 80 mg of simvastatin, though Simcor is only available with 20 mg.

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