PHARMACY

Novartis announces flu vaccine shipping

BY Adam Kraemer

BASEL, Switzerland Novartis announced that it has begun shipping seven million doses of its influenza immunization drug Fluvirin. The goal of the company will be to make over 40 million doses of the drug available during the 2007-08 influenza season.

Over 200 million people each year are recommended to receive an influenza vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that, “the best defense for people who want to reduce the risk of becoming ill with influenza, or of transmitting the disease to others, is to receive an annual vaccination.”

The company is providing the vaccine “as early as possible,” according to CEO of Novartis, Joerg Reinhardt, as a way of “contributing to ensure early immunization programs may be initiated nationwide.” All doses of the vaccine are expected to be delivered by the end of October.

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Patent office sends Pfizer “non-final” rejection letter for Lipitor

BY Adam Kraemer

NEW YORK The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has preliminarily rejected Pfizer’s request for the reissue of a patent for its Lipitor (atorvastatin) cholesterol drug that would preserve its U.S. market exclusivity until 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated in 2006 one of two patents at issue in a legal fight with generic competitor Ranbaxy, which moved up Lipitor’s June 2011 patent expiration and maintaining it instead to March 2010.

Ranbaxy had taken its case to the Supreme Court after the Federal U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the company’s request to rehear the decision. The Supreme Court refused a hearing, preserving the March 2010 date.

Pfizer applied to the patent office in January to have the 2011 patent reissued, and to correct a “technical defect” in the original patent. A reissue would extend Pfizer’s market exclusivity through June 2011.

A Pfizer spokesman told the Journal on Thursday that the company was awaiting a letter from the patent office explaining the decision. Because it’s not a final rejection, Pfizer still has an opportunity to persuade the patent office to reissue the patent.

“An initial rejection is not uncommon in reissue application proceedings,” said Pfizer spokesman Bryant Haskins. “Once we receive the decision we’ll review it and respond appropriately to address any issues that were raised by the examiner.”

Lipitor is the best-selling drug in the world, with $12.9 billion in sales last year. However, it has faced pressure not only from ongoing patent challenges worldwide, but also from competition from generic versions of other anti-cholesterol drugs.

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FDA cites Novartis for distributing ‘misleading’ promotional card

BY Adam Kraemer

WASHINGTON A promotional file card Novartis has put out is “misleading” and misbrands the company’s Alzheimer’s disease drug Exelon, “suggest[ing] that Exelon is safer or more effective than has been demonstrated,” according to a warning letter from the FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications.

According to the Aug. 8 warning letter, posted to the FDA’s website Aug. 14, the file card “makes unsubstantiated superiority claims for Exelon, overstates the efficacy of Exelon, includes misleading risk presentations, and recommends or suggests a combination use of Exelon that has not been approved by FDA.”

Exelon (rivastigmine tartrate) is approved to treat mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, but is “associated with numerous risks,” such as gastrointestinal adverse reactions including nausea, vomiting and weight loss; anorexia, dyspepsia, asthenia, peptic ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding; as well as effects on the cardiovascular, pulmonary and neurological systems (i.e., seizures), and risk of urinary obstruction, the warning letter said. The package insert also contains precautions for interactions with other drugs, and warns of potential problems if a patient is given anesthesia.

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