PHARMACY

Merck eyes Inspire

BY Allison Cerra

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Drug maker Merck is looking to boost its eye care portfolio by acquiring a company focused on developing and commercializing ophthalmic products. The deal carries a cash value of about $430 million.

Merck said Tuesday that through its subsidiary, it will commence a tender offer for all outstanding common stock of Inspire at a price of $5 per share in cash. The offer is a 26% premium to the closing price of Inspire’s common stock on April 4, Merck said. Upon the completion of the tender offer, Merck will acquire all remaining shares through a second-step merger.

Inspire’s president and CEO, Adrian Adams, said the deal will enhance the company’s "long-term potential." The company is known for such products as AzaSite, a bacterial conjunctivitis treatment.

"Merck continues to build upon its long-term commitment to improving therapeutic options for the treatment of eye diseases," said Beverly Lybrand, SVP and general manager of neuroscience and ophthalmology at Merck. "This acquisition combines the talented commercialization organization at Inspire with the excellent team already in place at Merck, thereby strengthening our ophthalmology business and positioning us for future growth with an expanded portfolio. This deal helps address the needs of patients and customers in ophthalmology and creates value for both companies."

The closing of the tender offer will be subject to certain conditions, Merck noted.

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PHARMACY

Independent pharmacies earn top scores from Consumer Reports readers

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — An overwhelming majority of Consumer Reports readers are highly satisfied with their independent pharmacy experiences, as compared with experiences at some of the national chains, a report to be published in the May issue found.

While customers said they generally were satisfied with their pharmacies, some were irked by long waits and lagging service at some big-box stores. "Chalk one up for the little guy," stated Tod Marks, senior editor of Consumer Reports. "We found that the independents made fewer errors, offered swifter service at the pharmacy counter and were more likely to have medications ready for pickup when promised."

More than 90% of Consumer Reports readers gave independent drug stores top scores across the board for pharmacists’ knowledge about drugs and other products, helpfulness and courtesy, speed, accuracy and personal service. Included in this group were McKesson’s HealthMart franchise group and Cardinal Health’s The Medicine Shoppe. Readers who shopped at independents were twice as likely as chain drug store shoppers to characterize their pharmacist as easy to talk to and able to give them a one-on-one consultation.

Almost 1-in-4 Consumer Reports readers fill their prescriptions at big-box stores, up from 14% in 2002, with price cited as an important reason for shopping there. One-in-4 mass merchant shoppers complained of a long wait at the service counter. And when a store was out of a drug, 33% waited for two or more days to get their prescriptions. Almost as many readers reported their pharmacy was out of stock on the medicine they needed at least once in the past year.

More than 1-in-5 cited slow service at the big-box counter as a complaint; and 15% of those surveyed complained that their medicine wasn’t ready for pickup when promised.

Convenience was a key factor in customer satisfaction — almost half of readers surveyed reported that the ability to get in and out quickly with medicine in hand was an important consideration when choosing a drug store.

The full report is available online at ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

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Takeda: Dexilant, Prevacid have less inhibiting effects on Plavix’s efficacy than counterparts

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW ORLEANS — Studies have indicated that proton-pump inhibitors, used for treating gastroesophageal reflux disease, reduce the efficacy of a popular blood-thinning drug, but Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America announced on Tuesday the results of a new study indicating that its own PPIs may have less of an effect.

The 160-patient study, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 2011 annual scientific session in New Orleans, indicated that Takeda’s Dexilant (dexlansoprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole) had less of an inhibiting effect on the efficacy of Sanofi-Aventis’ and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Plavix (clopidogrel) in healthy subjects than AstraZeneca’s PPI Nexium (esomeprazole).

“We conducted this study to look at the effect of select PPIs on Plavix and add to the growing body of evidence on the potential interaction between these drugs,” lead study investigator and Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics Alan Michelson said. “We found that in healthy subjects, the co-administration of Plavix with dexlansoprazole or lansoprazole reduced the antiplatelet effect of Plavix less than the co-administration of Plavix with esomeprazole.”

According to studies, PPIs may inhibit the liver enzyme CYP2C19, which is involved in the body’s metabolism of Plavix, thus reducing the drug’s effectiveness. In November 2009, the FDA warned against using Plavix with prescription and OTC formulations of AstraZeneca’s Prilosec (omeprazole) in response to the findings.

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