PHARMACY

NACDS reaches out to presidential hopefuls, elevating industry’s profile with new campaign

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is launching a new outreach and educational effort to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in an effort to enlist their involvement in and support of community pharmacy.

The first salvo in that new campaign is an open letter to all the presidential hopefuls, published as a full-page ad in today’s edition of The Washington Post. The letter, on NACDS letterhead, is a kickoff to a broad effort to emphasize the value of retail pharmacy to patients and the health care system. It seeks a partnership between the organization and presidential aspirants in their search for solutions to the nation’s increasingly expensive and challenging health care puzzle.

In its open letter, NACDS points out that “there is a community pharmacy, on average, within 2.36 miles of any resident in the United States,” and that “pharmacists are exceptionally accessible and convenient health care providers.

NACDS urges the candidates to “come to a point when government action reflects the health-boosting and money-saving value of medication management, and stops devaluing the services of those who are best equipped to provide it.

“Given the primacy of the issue of health care, campaigning for nomination and election requires a campaign for quality, affordability and accessibility of care,” the group adds. “Let’s work together to unleash the power of community pharmacy in a pro-patient platform.”

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson announced the outreach effort today at a health care forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We reached out to the presidential candidates today because health care is clearly the major domestic policy issue on the national stage,” he told Chamber members. “With state and federal governments making nearly half of all healthcare payments in the U.S., we want to be part of the health care vision of the future for public payers. But our scope is much larger than that: we want to engage public and private payers and all strategic healthcare stakeholders.”

In addition, said NACDS’ chief executive, “We also reached out to the presidential candidates because we believe that government needs to think anew about the health-boosting and money-saving value of the role of the community pharmacist in medication management. At the same time, government needs to stop devaluing their services.”

In line with the kickoff of the new outreach campaign, Anderson also unveiled a new report from Comstock Consulting Group, LLC, which outlines the value of pharmacist-delivered patient-care services to health plan payers and other stakeholders. The report, based on a survey of health plan payers, was conducted for NACDS’ Value of Pharmacy Committee with support from drug maker Sanofi-Aventis.

“The objective,” he said, “was to identify insights on how we can develop pharmacist-delivered services that are recognized and valued, and ultimately improve the quality of patient care.”

The report cites the need for collaboration between pharmacists, physicians and other health care stakeholders to improve patients’ prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, and notes that “community pharmacy needs to define its future role as a service provider as well as a product provider.”

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Scientists in Oklahoma are hopeful about Alzheimer’s vaccine

BY Allison Cerra

OKLAHOMA CITY Oklahoma City scientists have developed a vaccine that could restrain or even thwart Alzheimer’s Disease, according to The Oklahoman online.

The vaccine, designed to fight dementia in the brain via the human immune system, could reach human clinical trials in three to four years, according to officials at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

“These results are extremely exciting,” said Jordan Tang, OMRF researcher who led the laboratory study that resulted in the vaccine. “They certainly show that this vaccination approach warrants additional investigation as a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.”

The illness, a fatal, memory-robbing disease, affects several million Americans, including 70,000 Oklahomans. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

Results of OMRF’s vaccine research appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “This is the first time this type of Alzheimer’s vaccine has been produced anywhere. Other types of vaccines have been tried, but have failed,” OMRF spokesman Adam Cohen said.

Tang had pointed out that while the vaccine should be an addition to developments to cure the disease, rather than a substitution, the vaccine is still in its critical stages.

Back 2002, the pharmaceutical company Elan halted trials of a different vaccine after 15 patients suffered swelling of the central nervous system. OMRF president, Dr. Stephen Prescott, said he’s hopeful Tang’s work will avoid the pitfalls that weighed down Elan’s vaccine. “This vaccination stimulates the immune system more gently than previous Alzheimer’s vaccines, so we are optimistic about its prospects going forward,” he said.

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Avastin study on pancreatic cancer effects mixed results

BY Allison Cerra

ZURICH , Switzerland A new late-stage study of Roche Holding’s Avastin, and its effectiveness to slow down or avert pancreatic cancer in patients, had mixed results, the company said Tuesday.

The Swiss drugmaker said that although the addition of its drug to a Tarceva-chemotherapy combination failed to prolong the lives of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, certain subjects did have some benefits when using Avastin.

Roche said that the study, which included 607 patients, showed that adding Avastin prolonged the time patients lived without their cancer worsening, as well as adding safety benefits.

An earlier trial, the company said, utilizing the same experiment, concluded that the addition of Avastin had shown no benefit in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Roche, which sponsored the study known as AVITA, plans to further analyze the data to determine the extent of the benefit of adding Avastin to the Tarceva-chemotherapy combination. The new details that surfaced from the study will not be published, the drugmaker said.

Pancreatic cancer, deemed the most difficult form of cancer to treat, is frequently resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and tends to spread quickly to other parts of the body. It leads to the shortest life expectancy of any major tumor.

Avastin, which hinders the growth of tumors by restraining their blood supply, was jointly developed with Genentech, a U.S. biotechnology company (majority-owned by Roche), and is seen as one of Roche’s most important drugs.

Financial experts believe Avastin will eventually become Roche’s best-selling drug, according to Dow Jones, since the drug is expected to be approved to treat several types of cancers.

Avastin was first approved in the U.S. in 2004 for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer, and was approved for the treatment of lung cancer one year later. It is currently awaiting sanction for use in breast cancer. In Europe, it won approval for the treatment of advanced breast cancer and lung cancer earlier this year.

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