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Delayed allergy season may be longer, worse

BY DSN STAFF

While cough-cold season 2012-2013 will go down in the record books as one of the better seasons in recent memory, the spring allergy season has been delayed into May thanks to recent storm systems traveling across the central United States into the Northeast that have triggered a "faux spring." Temperatures rose briefly and dipped, causing pollen counts to grow and then fall.

For the 52 weeks ended April 21, sales of the three leading allergy tablets were all down: Zyrtec down by 3.8%; Claritin down 1.2%; and Allegra down 14.9%.

"This is a late-developing allergy season," explained Scott Hanslip, director of sales for IMS Consumer Health, to DSN. Through the beginning of May, incidence of allergy was down 12.6%. "[And] certain pockets are way off where they should be," Hanslip added. North Central allergy incidence was down 28% for the spring season, for example.

But the same weather conditions that have delayed allergy incidence may be setting the stage for a stronger and extended spring allergy season, noted the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. "Severe weather patterns can bring higher temperatures, higher pollen levels and increased exposure to outdoor mold, resulting in spring allergies that can peak stronger and last longer," stated Bill Berger, spokesman for the Allergy and Asthma Associates of Southern California.

As part of the AAFA’s annual ranking of projected nasal allergy problem areas, allergies may become more severe across the South as the season progresses. Overall, 15 of the top 25 cities on this year’s ranking are in the South, AAFA stated.

Expectations are that allergy sales heading into the summer season will swing positive, pushing category sales for that period as much as 5% higher than last year.

The article above is part of the DSN Category Review Series. For the complete Allergy Buy-In Report, including extensive charts, data and more analysis, click here.

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Push for greater immunization authority

BY Alaric DeArment

When it announced its fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2013 earnings in April, Rite Aid noted that it performed 2.4 million flu vaccinations, as well as 400,000 vaccinations for pneumonia, shingles and whooping cough. Walgreens administered more than 6.5 million immunizations in 2012, and CVS’ totals reached more than 3.5 million.

Suffice it to say, pharmacy retailers have grown rapidly to become a popular destination for a medical service that was once limited to physician offices and clinics. But while pharmacists in all 50 states can administer vaccinations, local regulations vary — some restrict pharmacist-administered vaccinations by age, while others can vaccinate against diseases like hepatitis A and B, under certain conditions.

In late April, Pharmacy Choice and Access Now marked World Immunization Week and urged expansion of immunization authority for pharmacists as a way to increase access to them for patients. In March, Wyoming’s state senate passed a bill to allow pharmacists to prescribe and administer vaccinations to patients ages 7 years and older. In May, legislation in Pennsylvania to expand the range of vaccinations pharmacists can give got support from doctors.

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SCOTUS, biosimilars focus in 2013

BY Alaric DeArment

The year is only halfway done, but 2013 is already proving to be a year of particular importance for generic drugs as the industry awaits two important decisions from the Supreme Court and continues to wait for federal biosimilar regulations while fending off efforts to limit the scope of their use at the state level.

The patent cliff has continued, with the expiration of Purdue Pharma’s patent on the long-acting opioid painkiller OxyContin (oxycodone), though companies looking to make generic versions have to include anti-tampering features; however, generic versions of another commonly abused opioid, Endo Pharmaceuticals’ Opana ER (oxymorphone), won’t need to include anti-tampering features.

The Food and Drug Administration is still working on regulations for biosimilars, as mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which created an abbreviated regulatory approval pathway for them. 

In addition to progress on the biosimilar front, the Supreme Court will soon reach decisions on two important generic drug industry cases. Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis, which DSN covered in its April issue, will decide the legality of patent settlements between branded and generic drug companies in which generic companies agree to hold off product launch in exchange for payment or the branded company agreeing to not launch an authorized generic. Another case, Mutual Pharmaceutical v. Bartlett, will decide if a generic drug company can be held liable for injuries caused by its products when those products are identical to their brand-name counterparts. 

A lot will happen this year to affect the generic drug industry. The question is how will they play out?

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