PHARMACY

FDA approves Merck’s Gardasil for prevention of anal cancer

BY Michael Johnsen

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Merck on Wednesday announced that the Food and Drug Administration has approved Gardasil [human papillomavirus quadrivalent (types 6, 11, 16 and 18) vaccine, recombinant] for the prevention of anal cancer in males and females 9 to 26 years of age.

According to the company, Gardasil is the first HPV vaccine on the market available for use in both men and women, and the only one indicated  to help prevent cervical, vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers and pre-cancers, as well as genital warts, caused by certain types of HPV.

In the United States, an estimated 75% to 80% of males and females will be infected with HPV in their lifetime. For most, HPV will clear on its own. However, for those who don’t clear certain types, HPV can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and anal cancer and genital warts in men and women. 

There is no way to predict who will or won’t clear the virus. 

Anal cancer affects both men and women, with approximately 60% of cases occurring in women. According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that approximately 2,000 men and more than 3,000 women will have been diagnosed with anal cancer in 2010. 

There is no standardized screening recommended for the general population for anal cancer, and many people are diagnosed when the disease is more advanced.

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PHARMACY

Study: More research needed to improve patient medication adherence

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — The industry has a lot to learn in order to determine how to most effectively use electronic communications to improve patient medication adherence, as few studies show how health information technology can be leveraged to motivate patients to take medications as prescribed, according to research sponsored by CVS Caremark.

A new study that reviews more than four decades of medical journal articles about the impact of HIT and electronic communications on medication adherence concludes that while there is evidence to suggest that simple electronic reminders are an effective and low-cost means to improve adherence, there are few studies that show how HIT can be leveraged to more thoughtfully engage or motivate patients to take medications as prescribed.

The study was published this week in the American Journal of Managed Care and is the result of a research partnership between Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS Caremark — a three-year collaboration focused on developing a better understanding of patient behavior, particularly around medication adherence.

According to the researchers, the study findings "highlight the disappointing state of evidence on a topic of substantial health importance." The researchers concluded that as the United States "invests substantially in the broad implementation of HIT, innovative adherence interventions built on the capabilities of HIT are essential and must be rigorously tested to identify applicable best practices."

Researchers reviewed more than 7,000 articles published between 1966 and 2010 that discussed the use of HIT for treating cardiovascular disease and diabetes. After screening out articles that did not address how electronic communications can promote adherence, only 13 articles warranted full review, according to CVS Caremark.

"These findings show that our industry has a lot to learn in order to determine how we can most effectively use electronic communications to improve patient adherence," stated Troyen Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark and an author of the study. "As HIT-based interventions are developed and enhanced, we need to focus on how the interventions will help improve patient behavior related to taking their medications and reduce medical costs in order to justify growing technology expenditures."

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Assured Pharmacy sees spike in same-store sales

BY Allison Cerra

FRISCO, Texas — Same-store sales for specialty pharmacy group Assured Pharmacy rose 31.2% in November, compared with the year-ago period.

The company said the rise also represented a 6% increase over total sales in October.

"We are pleased with our November sales results and our continued patient growth with 3,182 patients serviced in the month of November," said Robert DelVecchio, Assured Pharmacy CEO. "As these sales figures reflect, we remain on track for increased sales and market share growth, improved earnings at the store level and stronger cash flow."

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