PHARMACY

Merck’s Zioptan receives regulatory approval

BY Allison Cerra

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a Merck drug designed to reduce elevated intraocular pressure in patients with certain eye conditions, the company announced.

Zioptan (tafluprost ophthalmic solution), a preservative-free prostaglandin analog ophthalmic solution, is designed to reduce IOP in those with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension, which respectively are the most common form of glaucoma and increases in pressure inside the eye.

“Prostaglandin analogs are often used as a first line of treatment to lower intraocular pressure in patients with open-angle glaucoma. The approval of Zioptan will provide a new, effective option to lower IOP,” said George Spaeth of the Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia, on behalf of Merck.

Zioptan will be available in the 0.0015% strength and is expected to hit the market in March.


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PHARMACY

Way beyond counting pills

BY Jim Frederick

Chances are, you didn’t enroll in pharmacy school to count out pills behind a counter. As part of the next generation of clinically driven PharmDs, you’re probably looking for a lot more.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have very limited career goals, you entered your PharmD program in search of a fulfilling career as a patient-focused, highly trained health professional. Whether or not you’re already licensed, you see yourself as fully capable of helping patients manage their conditions and medication therapy, in full collaboration with physicians, nurses, hospital systems, clinicians — and perhaps even with wellness coaches and nutritionists — in an integrated, electronically connected web of care focused on improved patient outcomes and a healthier population.

All well and good. But will the fractured U.S. healthcare system really allow for that kind of elevated pharmacy practice model? Will today’s newly emerging PharmDs really be allowed to do more than dispense prescriptions and make sure Mrs. Jones understands she needs to take her antibiotics with meals, as important as those activities are? In a word, yes. Let me know if you disagree, but from where I sit, the elevation of pharmacy already is well under way.

The change is being driven by the utter necessity of cutting the nation’s astronomical healthcare bill. How? By shifting the whole focus of health care from simply treating massively expensive diseases to preventing those conditions in the first place, or catching them early enough to reduce their impact on patients’ lives and America’s strained healthcare budget. At the very least, it means helping patients more effectively manage their conditions through better diets, better lifestyle choices, exercise and adherence to their medication regimens.

It’s happening now, in a growing tide of collaborative care initiatives around the U.S. by health systems, employer-sponsored and publicly funded health plans, pharmacists and other providers.

In early February, another plank was added to this new, integrated community health platform. Insurance network giant UnitedHealth Group announced that Safeway had joined its Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance, an initiative designed to help address the growing epidemic of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes [go to http://drugstorenews.com/article/diabetes-prevention-and-control-alliance-extended-safeway-stores-select-markets]. Safeway joins a growing cadre of retailers — including Albertsons, Kroger, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Winn-Dixie — whose pharmacies are participating in the huge prevention and disease management program, whereby pharmacists conduct blood-glucose, cholesterol and blood-pressure testing services for program participants and provide them with on-the-spot results.

That’s a lot more than counting pills.

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PHARMACY

Valeant to acquire Eyetech

BY Allison Cerra

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Valeant Pharmaceuticals is set to acquire a privately owned ophthalmic biotechnology company, the drug maker said Monday.

Valeant said it will acquire Eyetech upfront payment and potential future milestones. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close this week. Additional details were not disclosed.

"This acquisition of Eyetech will fit nicely with our existing ophthalmology business, which includes a preservative free Timoptic in Ocudose and Lacrisert, products obtained through our acquisition of Aton in 2010," Valeant chairman and CEO J. Michael Pearson said. "The ophthalmology market has similar characteristics to the dermatology space and is a natural extension of our development capabilities. We will continue to look for future opportunities to acquire additional products and gain important critical mass in this specialty space."


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