PHARMACY

Hutchinson to depart SureScripts; Ratliff will take acting CEO post

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Electronic prescribing pioneer SureScripts today announced that president and chief executive officer Kevin Hutchinson would leave the company at the end of January 2008.

SureScripts’ chief operating officer, Rick Ratliff, will serve as acting chief executive officer.

Hutchinson joined SureScripts in August 2002, where he has led the effort to build a neutral nationwide network for e-prescribing and electronic transmission of patient health data. Under his watch, the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange has gone from concept to launch to its current position as the most successful and widespread network for electronic prescribing and pharmacy integration.

Hutchinson will leave the pharmacy-sanctioned e-prescribing platform provider at a propitious time. In 2007, more than 35,000 prescribers electronically connected to more than 40,000 community pharmacies and generated more than 35 million electronic prescription transactions. In 2008, SureScripts predicts that e-prescription transaction volume will nearly triple.

“I am leaving on the heels of a breakthrough year for e-prescribing, and while the wind is clearly at our backs, there remains much work to be done,” said Hutchinson. “E-prescribing must remain a national priority, and I am looking forward to an opportunity to continue to impact change in healthcare through the use of information technology.”

As more and more doctors become convinced that the benefits of e-prescribing and electronic patient records outweigh the costs of conversion, conditions appear to be ripening for a massive, nationwide transition away from paper prescribing and into a new era of electronic storage and transmission of patient records. Hutchinson, as much as anyone, has championed that conversion.

“Kevin sees e-prescribing as hitting or about to hit its tipping point, so he feels now is a good opportunity to look for another chance to build,” SureScripts spokesman Rob Cronin told Drug Store News today.

Among the industry leaders who praised Hutchinson for his leadership are CVS Caremark chairman and chief executive Tom Ryan. “At the beginning, middle and end of each day, it’s all about the patient,” Ryan said. “Kevin and the SureScripts team have played a pivotal role in … pharmacy’s efforts to electronically link and bring together physicians, payers and pharmacists to better serve patients with safer and more cost efficient care.”

Added Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association and co-chairman of SureScripts, “Electronic prescribing would not be where it is today without Kevin’s leadership over the past five-plus years.”

Hutchinson, for his part, said SureScripts was in good hands with his interim successor, Ratliff. “Rick has co-led this effort with me from the beginning and leads a strong management team that stands ready to guide SureScripts through its continued growth,” he said.

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PHARMACY

New Jersey adds flu vaccine to list of childhood innoculations

BY Adam Kraemer

PHILADELPHIA The state of New Jersey announced that, starting in September 2008, children entering day care or preschool will be required to have had flu vaccinations, despite some parents’ fears that the trace amounts of mercury in the vaccines could trigger autism.

The flu vaccine is an addition to the list of communicable diseases for which children in the state already are required to have before they can enter such social settings as day care or preschool, both situations in which contagious diseases are easily spread. “This is a public-health policy that is aimed at protecting children and the community at large,” Eddy Bresnitz, state epidemiologist and a deputy health commissioner, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Some parents, however, have expressed concern and even written letters to the Public Health Council in opposition to the change, mainly over safety concerns. While no scientific studies have found a link between thimerosal—a mercury-containing preservative once used in vaccines—and the triggering of autism in young children, some vaccines still contain trace amounts of the chemical and it’s enough to alarm parents.

“It is our feeling that parents have the right to make medical decisions for their families,” Sue Collins, a parent and leader of the New Jersey Alliance for Informed Choice in Vaccination, told the paper. “I don’t want trace amounts of mercury in my body or my children’s bodies under any circumstances. We know it is a dangerous toxin and yet we keep injecting it into our kids.”

“Thimerosol-free preparations are available, and the trace amounts in some preparations are truly tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny amounts,” said Craig Newschaffer, chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Drexel University School of Public Health.

The new rules follow recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Jersey does allow exemptions based on medical and religious grounds, but not for “philosophical” reasons. “Flu is turning out to be a stealth killer,” said Robert Field, chair of the department of health policy and public health at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. “Seasonal flu, which most people can shrug off as an inconvenience for a week or two, is truly a threat to people at high risk, particularly the very old, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems.”

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Tibotec awards Medivir $24 million for drug development milestone

BY Drew Buono

STOCKHOLM, Sweden Medivir has received $24.54 million from Tibotec related to the development of the drug candidate TMC435350, which recently advanced into Phase II clinical trials at the end of November, according to published reports.

The money has come in two different payments. The first payment was for a clinical milestone reached by Medivir under the terms of the research and license agreement between the two companies; that amounted in $7.21 million for Medivir. The second payment is due because Medivir opted not to obtain the marketing rights to an approved product in the Nordic countries, which resulted in $17.32 million.

“Our goal is to achieve revenues from sales of licensed pharmaceuticals in the Nordic market in the coming 12 months,” explains Medivir’s chief executive officer Lars Adlersson. “A robust financial position will facilitate the creation of a Nordic sales and marketing organization and strengthen us in coming partnership negotiations.”

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