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Merck KGaA suspends cancer vaccine trial

BY Alaric DeArment

DARMSTADT, Germany A mid-stage clinical trial program to investigate a Merck KGaA cancer vaccine has been put on hold due to patients’ experiencing adverse side effects, the German drug maker announced Tuesday.

Merck KGaA, which is separate from the U.S.-based Merck & Co. and operates in the United States under the name EMD, said it temporarily suspended recruitment and treatment of patients in the phase 2 trial for Stimuvax (BLP25 liposome vaccine) after a patient with the bone marrow cancer multiple myeloma developed encephalitis. Merck said it made its decision under in alignment with a Food and Drug Administration hold placed on its investigational new drug application for Stimuvax.

The patient who developed encephalitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain, was in an experimental arm of the clinical program and taking Stimuvax in combination with low doses of the cancer drug cyclophosphamide, which was not used in the other Stimuvax studies.

Another program, a phase 3 trial involving patients with non-small cell lung cancer and breast cancer, is affected as well, though Merck did not say exactly how.

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Shingles drug may capture half the market, Decision Resources predicts

BY Alaric DeArment

WALTHAM, Mass. A once-a-day formulation of a Pfizer drug potentially could capture half of the market for a painful complication related to shingles, according to a report by market research firm Decision Resources.

The report found that Pfizer’s drug Neurontin (gabapentin) could take 50% of the market for postherpetic neuralgia, also known as after-shingles pain, which causes pain in patients who have had shingles, a disease that often occurs later in life among people who have had chickenpox. The report was based on surveys of neurologists in the United States and Europe, where those surveyed said it would capture a 40% share of the market.

The report also found concern among experts regarding the pain associated with use of the drug Qutenza (capsaicin), by NeurogesX and Astellas Pharma, which Decision Resources said prevented that drug from earning its clinical gold-standard status.

“Although experts recognize the long-term efficacy of a single administration of Qutenza as a significant advantage, they cite the need to manage the transient path associated with the drug’s administration as a significant disadvantage,” Decision Resources analyst Sami Fam said. “In the balance of these attributes however, experts consider Qutenza a therapeutic option that compares favorably with Lidoderm.”

Lidoderm, known generically as lidocaine, is made by Endo Pharmaceuticals.

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Food Lion, Bottom Dollar Food recognize regional store managers

BY Allison Cerra

SALISBURY, N.C. An operator of more than 1,300 supermarkets in southeast and mid-atlantic states and a regional supermarket chain recently recognized the regional winners of the companies’ Store Manager Excellence Award.

Food Lion and Bottom Dollar Food said Friday that 24 store managers were honored at a recent leadership event at the companies’ Customer Support Center. From the group of regional winners, eight district winners were honored and then, an overall winner, Emory Turner of Vidalia, Ga., a store manager with Harveys Supermarkets (a banner owned by Food Lion), was selected as the overall company winner of the Store Manager Excellence Award.

The Store Manager Excellence Award selection includes nine areas of focus, including associate development, leadership, strategic decision-making, cross-organizational collaboration and teamwork, executional excellence, extraordinary results, great customer experiences, community involvement and diversity and inclusion.

Regional winners are selected from a group of nearly 100 district winners.

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