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Natural medicine education on the rise

BY Michael Johnsen

Along with the rise in available consultative pharmacy services being provided today, pharmacy education opportunities that address natural health-related areas are increasing as well, enabling health practitioners to have a more robust conversation around a patient’s health.

One-of-5 botanical research centers supported by the National Institutes of Health, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy recently accepted a five-year, $2.1 million grant to train graduate and postdoctoral students in natural product drugs and dietary supplements. The grant, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is in support of studying the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements and for the discovery of new therapeutic agents from natural product sources.

“In terms of botanical supplements and all other areas of pharmacognosy and natural products research, there’s renewed interest,” observed Richard van Breemen, director of the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research. “Those few schools that have always carried out botanical research are enjoying more exciting research and activity than they have in decades.”

The UIC research center does help inform the educational curriculum for pharmacists at the college, van Breemen said, especially with regard to botanical-drug interactions, which is another research track pursued by UIC. “We chose [that track of research] because we thought it was an emerging issue in 2010,” van Beemen said. “NIH programs officers and others are recognizing that [botanical dietary supplements] is an important area.”

The lectures delivered by UIC’s botanical researchers are popular among pharmacy students, van Breemen added. “Our courses are all team-taught,” he said. “We’re able to give some real experiential examples — it’s more interesting to students. … Then, during the question and answer period, we can talk about our experience and our own research.”

Already, the majority of community pharmacists are talking to their pharmacy patients about supplements overall, including botanical supplements. In fact, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, 93% of pharmacists recommend supplements to the patients they counsel.

Pharmacists also noted in the survey that when they did speak to customers about supplements, two-thirds reported that customers had initiated the conversation. With regard to which supplements pharmacists were most often asked about, the top three mentioned by respondents were omega-3/fish oil (mentioned by 73%), calcium (73%) and glucosamine/chondroitin (70%).

 

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Four middle-schoolers win first-ever Alka-Seltzer Rocket Contest

BY Michael Johnsen

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — A team of middle school students from Philip G. Vroom School in Bayonne, N.J., took the top prize in Bayer’s first-ever Alka-Seltzer Rocket Contest at Liberty Science Center with a rocket that soared to 15.3 ft., Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care announced Monday.

Former astronaut Mae Jemison, the competition’s master of ceremonies, joined with executives from Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care as they awarded the $1,000 prize and first-place certificate to eighth graders Bryant Davis, Fady Rezkalla, David Markos and Anthony Toledo. They were joined by partner organizations Liberty Science Center and Stevens Institute of Technology.

Jemison, Bayer’s national spokesperson for its Making Science Make Sense program, led more than 500 potential New Jersey rocket scientists from some 30 middle schools around the state. 

“As a science-based company with a rich history supporting experiential science education and fostering science literacy for all students, Bayer’s Alka-Seltzer Rocket Contest is the latest demonstration of this long-standing commitment,” stated William Dodero, VP and assistant general counsel, Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care. “The contest shows students, teachers and parents just how fun and exciting science is, and also reinforces science as something that is all around us in everyday life — whether it’s in the kitchen or medicine cabinet, the schoolyard, science center or the launch pad.”

The contest is part of Bayer’s MSMS program, which advances science literacy across the United States through inquiry-based, hands-on science learning, employee volunteerism and a national public education campaign led by Jemison. 

“These students are America’s next generation of inventors and innovators — aerospace engineers, astronauts and scientists — something they cannot fully realize without the kind of quality … education that builds a foundation to support and encourage ongoing science learning,” Jemison said. “Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense program promotes this critical learning both inside and outside the classroom with hands-on curricular enrichment programs like this Alka-Seltzer Rocket Contest.”

Bayer, Liberty Science Center and Stevens also awarded second- and third-place prizes. The team from Wallace Primary School in Hoboken was named second-place winner with a $750 prize, and the third-place winning team from Clifton Avenue Grade School in Lakewood received $500.

 

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Amag licenses cancer-treatment side effect drug for $3.3 million

BY Alaric DeArment

LEXINGTON, Mass. — Drug maker Amag Pharmaceuticals has licensed the U.S. commercial rights to a treatment for a common side effect of cancer treatments from another company, Amag said Monday.

Amag said it licensed the rights for MuGard, used to treat oral mucositis, a condition that affects about 400,000 cancer patients each year. The drug is an oral mucoadhesive that works by creating a gel coating over the oral mucosa to shield the membranes of the mouth and tongue.

"Oral mucositis can be a frequent and problematic side effect of both chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer patients," Amag chief commercial officer Greg Madison said. "We believe that MuGard could become a category leader in the hands of our skilled sales force, and that our experienced commercial team, our relationships with hematology and oncology practices and our partnerships with key group purchasing organizations can help drive significant growth of this brand."

Under the deal, Amag will pay Access $3.3 million upfront in exchange for exclusive commercial rights to the drug in the United States.

 

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