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Genentech seeks to make Avastin a combination cancer therapy

BY Alaric DeArment

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. Biotech company Genentech is hoping to squeeze another use out of a cancer drug.

The biotech company, a subsidiary of Roche, announced Tuesday that it had submitted two applications to the Food and Drug Administration seeking approval of Avastin (bevacizumab) as a treatment for advanced breast cancer in combination with docetaxel, taxane, anthracycline-based or capecitabine chemotherapy in patients who have not received chemotherapy. The drug already has approval as a first-line treatment for advanced breast cancer in combination with paclitaxel chemotherapy.

“We look forward to working with the FDA to evaluate the data from more than 2,600 women with advanced breast cancer who participated in these studies that showed Avastin in combination with various chemotherapies helped them live longer without the disease worsening,” Genentech EVP global development and chief medical officer Hal Barron stated.

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CVS, Allina align clinics to get more from a ‘Minute’

BY Antoinette Alexander

MINNEAPOLIS —CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic has formed a partnership with Allina Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota and western Wisconsin, a collaboration that further demonstrates the growing acceptance of the retail-based clinic concept and could further pave the way for greater expansion into chronic disease monitoring.

MinuteClinic, which has 24 locations in the Twin Cities area and about 500 locations nationally, is now offering a direct link to Allina Hospitals & Clinics integrated healthcare delivery system.

Under the agreement, Allina and MinuteClinic are aligning their clinical care operations, including medical oversight and informing patients of each party’s services. In addition, Allina and MinuteClinic will develop interfaces between their electronic medical records systems to streamline communication around all aspects of a patient’s care. They also will explore the development of new services in the market.

Allina offers a full range of primary and specialty care services and, through its EMR system, provides coordinated care in 11 hospitals and more than 90 clinics.

Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association, said such alliances are a “win-win” for the convenient care industry as “these relationships can facilitate continuous and consistent care among all levels and types of providers. It also represents the continuing evolution of the model and the greater acceptance of the concept of placing health care in retail settings among the established medical community.”

“Alliances with local hospitals reflect the desire of retail medicine operators to assure adequate coverage for complicated patient problems that are inappropriate to treat in the retail clinic setting,” said Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. “Hospitals provide diagnostic tests, medical review and triage referrals from the clinic. And alliances build the confidence of local citizens that the health services provided in the retail setting are comparable to services they’d get in more traditional settings,” he added.

Furthermore, such partnerships can reduce the pressure at overflowing emergency rooms as non-emergent patients could be diverted to the clinics for treatment, and it establishes a ready source of referrals—both to and from the clinics.

There’s also the issue of required physician oversight for the clinics, which varies by state; however, aligning with a healthcare system can alleviate some of this burden, Hansen-Turton said.

“Hospitals have a built-in network of providers that [clinics] can rely on to provide oversight and to receive referrals, though it may take time for hospitals to generate broad support among the physicians who work for them,” Hansen-Turton said.

While MinuteClinic president, Andrew Sussman, did not elaborate in the company-issued statement on what new services might be brought to market as a result of its new partnership with Allina, one could surmise that chronic disease monitoring and more long-term interventions could make sense.

“The clinics do not need to expand the scope of services because the hallmark of the clinics remains convenience and, in any case, they will refer to a primary care or specialty doctor if a patient comes in with something outside of the clinic’s scope,” Hansen-Turton said. “If anything, it does facilitate greater expansion into chronic disease monitoring and more long-term interventions.”

Hansen-Turton added, “Hospitals can ‘own’ patient relationships but rely on clinics to provide episodic treatments for, for example, management of chronic diseases. Hospitals can build relationships in their communities by providing satellite care through convenient care clinics.”

According to Keckley, “In some cases, alliances with hospitals result in expanded services, e.g., diagnostics and lab work done through the clinic by the hospital, or extended patient counseling or coaching for routine noncomplicated conditions. However, it’s too soon to see a consistent pattern.”

In separate MinuteClinic news, the clinic operator has become a participating provider with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma provides healthcare benefit plans for more than 600,000 Oklahomans.

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Drew new president at Value

BY Michael Johnsen

Altoona, Pa. —Greg Drew last month joined Value Drug Co. as president, the wholesaler pharmacy announced.

Established in 1934, Value Drug Co. was formed as a cooperative by 19 local independent pharmacists, and now represents more than 1,200 independents. The wholesaler generated approximately $732 million in 2008 revenue.

Drew will be responsible for Value Drug’s long-term business development, as well as all operations and management of the company, reporting to John Letizia, Value Drug chairman and CEO. Drew, a 26-year drug retailing veteran, most recently served as a consultant through his company Pharmacy Expertise, founded about one year ago. Pharmacy Expertise provided insights into a number of pharmacy-centric issues, including retail clinical initiatives, medication therapy management development and developing a managed care strategy.

In all, Pharmacy Expertise provided assistance for many pharmacy market segments, including pharmaceutical managed markets, managed care organizations, employers and pharmacy delivery channels. The firm specialized in providing evaluation of potential synergies between the providers, payers and distributors of pharmaceuticals.

Prior to founding Pharmacy Expertise, Drew served as VP pharmacy health services for Rite Aid and as general manager of Rite Aid Health Solutions, the chain’s pharmacy benefit management arm. Drew first joined Rite Aid in 1994, serving until 1999 in various positions for Rite Aid’s former PBM company, Eagle Managed Care. He then was named director of pharmacy contracting for Rite Aid, and later was promoted to VP pharmacy health services in June 2000. In 2005, Drew helped develop the Rite Care program, Rite Aid’s medication therapy management offering that started out as a pilot across four stores in Pittsburgh and has since branched out into virtually all of Rite Aid’s markets.

Value Drug is a cooperative company providing wholesale drug distribution and other services to its members.

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