PHARMACY

Ebola scare prompts healthy response from pharmacy industry

BY Michael Johnsen

 

The response to the current global Ebola scare from both the pharmaceutical and pharmacy industries has been nothing short of remarkable. Precautionary preparations have been made to address the Ebola concerns in the United States; several pharmaceutical manufacturers have been working around the clock toward an Ebola vaccine and treatment; and there has been an outpooring of goods that have been directed to help with the outbreak in West Africa. 
 
Ebola is not a problem in the United States, at least not yet (nor hopefully will it ever be), but the pharmaceutical community is stepping up to help around the world. And in the U.S., there is much being done to help the pharmacy world prepare.
 
As of Oct. 27, there have been a total of four Ebola cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Ebola only spreads from people who have symptoms of the disease," Tom Frieden, CDC director, reported during a press conference. "I understand that people are afraid, Ebola is unfamiliar, it is a severe disease, but it is not highly contagious. And it requires direct contact with someone who is sick from Ebola or with their body fluids."
 
Highly contagious or not, Ebola still represents a slight concern for pharmacists, who are quite literally on the front lines of health care. And it doesn't help matters that the Ebola scare is coming at the very beginning of flu season. Flu can present with similar symptoms in the beginning. "In all of history until this outbreak, there were less than 3,000 cases of Ebola. In the current outbreak [in West Africa] there have now been more than 10,000 cases of [Ebola], including the first four ever diagnosed in this country," Frieden said. "As we learn more about Ebola, we understand how it spreads, we understand how it presents, we understand how to treat it and we understand what can be done to prevent and control it better."
 
Rx Response, which helps coordinate and maintain pharmaceutical care in the event of a disaster, last week moved to alert status in response to the concern about Ebola in the United States. Rx Response developed a pharmacy checklist to help screen patients who have had a point of contact with West Africa and who are presenting with many of the Ebola symptoms – a fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, severe headache and/or muscle pain, vomiting and/or diarrhea and unexplained hemorrhaging.  
 
"Over 270 million Americans visit a pharmacy every week, making pharmacists an accessible healthcare provider to help patients assess their particular health situation," stated Thomas Menighan, CEO for the American Pharmacists Association. "The current public health concern is a lesson for all health care providers, including pharmacists, who may be the first to encounter a patient with symptoms that are consistent with a particular infectious disease. Asking the right questions provide the pharmacist with the opportunity to counsel and refer patients to appropriate care." 
 
To address public concerns about preventing the spread of Ebola in their own homes or businesses, both the makers of Lysol and Clorox have posted Ebola information on their web sites. While neither company lays claim that their product kills this particular strain of Ebola, both companies note that their respective products meet CDC recommendations on how to sanitize an area against Ebola. And GoJo, in an effort to raise awareness around the importance of hand hygiene in handling potential Ebola cases, has supplied more than 21,000 Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer and hand hygiene materials to more than 100 facilities. 
 
Johnson and Johnson has made a commitment of up to $200 million to accelerate and significantly expand the production of an Ebola vaccine program in development at its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. And GlaxoSmithKline is also quickly developing an Ebola vaccine, targeting completion by the end of the year. And Tekmira Pharmaceuticals has commenced limited manufacture of a new therapeutic specifically targeting the Ebola-Guinea variant, which is the viral variant responsible for the Ebola epidemic currently prevalent in West Africa. Supply of this new product will be available in early December for potential use by various collaborators. Earlier this month, Chimerix  announced that brincidofovir has been provided for potential use in patients with Ebola virus at the request of treating physicians.
 
In addition to doubling down on the development of vaccines and treatments, and in addition to industry preparations that address Ebola concerns across the front line of healthcare, the industry as a whole has been donating a significant amount of supplies to West Africa. RetailROI is presently coordinating supply and monetary donations from the retail industry to help battle Ebola in Liberia. Cardinal Health donated more than 1 million products to AmeriCares Emergency Response Program to help contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And McKesson donated four million pairs of latex gloves to World Vision. 
 
Members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America are also helping to deliver aid in West Africa to take care of affected patients, including donating medicines, providing funding to relief organizations for infrastructure improvements, medical products and protective equipment for health care workers and donating funds for disease education and prevention efforts within the region.
 
 
 

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Survey: Stemming tide of Ebola in West Africa best way to prevent spread to U.S.

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO — As many as 62% of attendees at the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine annual conference this week said that the most important factor in stopping Ebola in the United States is controlling the virus and caring for afflicted patients in West Africa.
 
In addition, if properly protected, 30% of respondents would go to West Africa to care for Ebola patients; 68% are willing to care for U.S. Ebola patients in United States; and 87% would care for U.S. patients, if required by their employer.
 
“Healthcare providers went into medicine to serve, and this poll shows that they stand ready to do so," stated Mimi Guarneri, AIHM president. "For properly trained and protected healthcare practitioners, caring for patients and averting a public health crisis outweighs the risk of personal exposure to a life-threatening disease. In the case of Ebola – where the risk of infection is relatively low but public fear is high – the healthcare profession must take the lead in acting responsibly to the potential threat while not overreacting.”
 
A total of 754 healthcare practitioners took the poll — 78% of whom are physicians — at the AIHM annual conference in San Diego on Oct. 27 and 28.
 

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Mylan launches generic Viramune XR

BY Ryan Chavis

PITTSBURGH — Mylan on Friday announced the launch of nevirapine extended-release tablets in 400-mg strength, a generic version of Viramune XR from Boehringer Ingelheim. The drug is a combination antiretroviral treatment for HIV-1 infection in adults and in children six to less than 18 years of age, the company said. 
 
Nevirapine extended-release tablets in 400-mg dosage strength had sales in the United States of $61.9 million for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2014, according to IMS Health data. 

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