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Flu shot clinics open early in anticipation of high demand

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK —In the aftermath of the H1N1 flu pandemic that dominated airwaves during last year’s cough-cold-flu season, retail flu shot clinics appear to be opening their doors to all patients one month early again this year—with many retailers looking to deliver influenza inoculations as early as September.

If the general public heeds the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there may be an increase in demand for the vaccine this year, as the CDC now is suggesting that everyone over the age of 6 months should be given the flu vaccine.

Perhaps as a reflection of those widened flu shot guidelines, there will be a record number of total influenza triumvirate inoculations available this year—more than 170 million doses in all. And this year, the H1N1 flu strain has been included in the seasonal flu shot, which ought to eliminate the confusion generated last year—should a person interested in protection from the flu get the seasonal flu shot, the pandemic flu shot or both?

Last season, by mid-January children had been more likely than adults to get both H1N1 and seasonal vaccinations, while adults were more likely to get seasonal vaccination only. Overall, 53% of children and 47% of adults had received an influenza vaccination of either type, said James Singleton, chief of the assessment branch of the immunization services division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a presentation delivered earlier this spring.

In a consumer survey conducted by CVS/pharmacy this spring, more than half (59%) of respondents said they are likely to get a flu shot in 2010, and more than one-third (37%) of those who did not get a flu shot in 2009 said they are more likely to get one this year.

To help maintain awareness around the role a flu shot plays in preventing the flu, the CDC aims to help continue airing its public service announcements encouraging the public to get their shot this year.

The three largest drug chains already have kicked off flu shot awareness campaigns. CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic launched an informational campaign online and in CVS retail stores and clinics on this year’s “all-in-one” flu shot in anticipation of increased interest in protecting against the flu. Walgreens recently introduced a flu vaccination gift card—a gift of wellness for $29.99—that’s redeemable at any Walgreens or Take Care Clinic. And Rite Aid already has begun taking advance reservations for seasonal flu shots for delivery across more than 3,000 stores in September. The Pennsylvania pharmacy operation has added more than 800 clinics to its flu vaccine calendar and has increased the number of in-house immunizing pharmacists to 7,000.

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BioMarin Pharmaceutical acquires ZyStor Therapeutics

BY Alaric DeArment

NOVATO, Calif. BioMarin Pharmaceutical has acquired privately owned biotechnology company ZyStor Therapeutics for $22 million, BioMarin said.

The drug maker said it also would pay ZyStor up to $93 million in milestone payments. The main gem in the deal was ZC-701, ZyStor’s investigative treatment for the lysosomal storage disorder Pompe disease and a potential competitor to Genzyme Corp.’s Pompe disease treatment Myozyme (alglucosidase alfa). A phase 1/2 clinical study of ZC-701 in late-onset Pompe disease is expected to begin in first quarter 2011.

“The acquisition of ZyStor gives us the opportunity to introduce a superior product to fulfill an unmet medical need and is a perfect fit in our core business,” BioMarin CEO Jean-Jacques Bienaime stated. “It not only provides us with a promising product candidate for Pompe disease, but also an exciting new platform technology.”

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Nurse practitioners are vital to a healthy U.S. healthcare system

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The USA Today article highlighting nurse-managed centers as one “innovative” program that could help fill the primary care physician void is important because it underscores the important role that nurse practitioners play in delivering quality healthcare services.

(THE NEWS: Nurse-managed centers may fill primary care physician void. For the full story, click here)

It is no secret that the healthcare system has been, and will continue to be, under great strain as healthcare costs soar and a shortage of primary care doctors largely contributes to the bottle-necking taking place within emergency rooms.

According to numbers provided by the Convenient Care Association, as few as 2% of medical students coming out of U.S. medical schools intend to pursue a career in general primary care. Also, between 30% and 60% of convenient care clinic patients reported not having a primary care physician. Plus, as many as 40% of convenient care clinic patients said they would have sought costlier care or would have foregone care completely if there had not been a convenient care clinic available.

Clearly, there’s a gap that needs to be filled, and convenient care clinics and such clinics as the Family Practice and Counseling Network in Philadelphia highlighted in the USA Today article, are striving to help fill that gap.

The good news is that the importance of nurse practitioners, as well as the retail-based clinic setting, is not going unnoticed. In fact, Senators Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Thad Cochran, D-Miss., in July introduced the Senate resolution officially designating Aug. 2 to 8, 2010, as National Convenient Care Clinic Week.

Now, with about 30 million uninsured gaining healthcare coverage under healthcare reform and patients making fewer physician visits, either because they can’t afford it or can’t get an appointment in a timely fashion, the U.S. healthcare systems needs “innovative” programs and needs nurse practitioners.

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