PHARMACY

McKesson announces plans to acquire Oncology Therapeutics for $575 million

BY Adam Kraemer

SAN FRANCISCO McKesson Corp. announced plans Thursday to buy fellow cancer drug distributor Oncology Therapeutics network for $575 million, according to the Associated Press.

Based on IMS health data, McKesson expects annual sales of oncology drugs to double in the next four years to $60 billion. Oncology Therapeutics also distributes drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and hepatitis C, seeing about $3 billion in annual sales.

The acquisition would be McKesson’s second major purchase this year, the first being a $1.1 billion takeover of Per-Se Technologies, a health care administrator. Both purchases indicate an upswing for the company, which in January 2005 had to set aside more than $1 billion to resolve shareholder lawsuits revolving around a $12 billion acquisition of health-services software maker HBO & Co., which revealed only after the sale that it had been highly overvalued.

To help boost its stock price, the Associated Press reported, McKesson unveiled plans to spend an additional $1 billion in buying back its own shares. The company has already burned through $684 million of the $1 billion authorized in an earlier stock repurchase program announced in May.

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FDA increases potency of levothyroxine products

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration is strengthening the potency specifications for levothyroxine sodium to ensure the drug retains its potency over its entire shelf life.

The agency is increasing the specifications from a 90 to 110 percent potency range to a 95 to 105 percent range. The percent ranges were changed following concerns about the product by healthcare professionals and patients.

Data taken by the FDA showed that some of the levothyroxine products like blister packs degrade quicker than other package types. Also, some of the strengths have been shown to degrade more rapidly than others.

Manufacturers and marketers have two years to comply with the revised specification. Levothyroxine sodium products are used by over 13 million patients.

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FDA to review heart problems from osteoporosis drugs

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration is looking at new safety data on reports of atrial fibrillation in patients taking bisphosphonates.

Bisphosphonates are used to treat osteoporosis. The FDA is looking into the issue after a study in the May 3rd issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported increased rates of serious atrial fibrillation in patients taking Fosamax and Reclast.

The FDA has performed an initial review and found that there was not a large enough group of people who were at risk for atrial fibrillation and would not as of right now ask for healthcare professionals to change their prescribing habits or to tell patients to change their use of the drugs.

The agency is seeking additional data to perform an in-depth review of the issue that could take up to one year to conclude.

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