PHARMACY

Novartis to develop, market hepatitis C drug

BY Alaric DeArment

BASEL, Switzerland Novartis has gained exclusive rights to develop and market a hepatitis C drug that is the first of its kind, the Swiss drug maker announced Tuesday.

Novartis acquired control of Debio 025 (alisporivir) from Debiopharm Group. The drug is the first of a drug class known as cyclophilin inhibitors, which target host proteins involved in the growth of the virus. The drug is currently in phase 2b clinical trials.

Under the terms of the agreement, Novartis will pay unspecified upfront and milestone payments to Debiopharm, as well as royalties on sales, in exchange for the exclusive right to develop and market the drug worldwide, except in Japan.

“Hepatitis C is sometimes referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ because the virus can lie dormant in the body for years or even decades before the symptoms become apparent,” Novartis Pharmaceuticals Division CEO David Epstein said. “Novartis is dedicated to developing medicines that will reduce the impact of this disease on patients, and we believe that Debio 025 could prove an important step forward by significantly enhancing the efficacy of existing therapy that forms the standard of care for hepatitis C.”

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FDA approves expanded use of Crestor

BY Alaric DeArment

WILMINGTON, Del. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new use for a cardiovascular drug made by AstraZeneca, the drug maker announced Monday.

The FDA approved Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium) for reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack and surgical restoration of blood flow – known as arterial revascularization – in patients without obvious coronary heart disease but an increased risk of cardiovascular disease based on age, presence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and quantities of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in the blood of 2-mg per liter or more. Crestor already had approval for treating other cardiovascular health risks when used along with changes in diet.

“Not only is this approval a significant milestone for AstraZeneca, but it is also important for the patients who could now benefit from Crestor therapy under this approved indication,” AstraZeneca chief medical officer Howard Hutchinson stated.

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CMS: U.S. health spending hits $2.5 trillion as Rx costs reach $246 billion

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Healthcare spending in the United States climbed 5.7% to $2.5 trillion in 2009, despite the impact of a struggling economy, according to projections issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and published in the journal Health Affairs.

Healthcare expenditures now comprise 17.3% of the nation’s total gross domestic product, CMS estimated. Over the next decade, the agency predicted, health spending will jump at an average rate of 6.1% a year, versus a projected average annual gain of 4.4% for the overall GDP.

With more Americans losing their insurance and Medicaid enrollments rising, public spending for health care will continue to grow faster than health spending in the private sector, the government predicted.

The rise in total health costs was not quite matched by the growth of prescription drug spending, CMS economists estimated. Total prescription drug spending rose a projected 5.2% last year, the agency reported in Health Affairs, to a U.S. total of $246.3 billion.

That marks an accelerating trend for drug spending, according to the journal, which cited “an increase in per person use of drugs, driven by the need for antiviral drugs to treat H1N1, and by higher price growth in brand-name drugs.”

Long-term growth of both overall healthcare expenditures and the prescription drug market will continue at a steady clip, government analysts predict. CMS pegs total drug expenditures at $457.8 billion by 2019, Health Affairs reported, “with spending growth expected to accelerate over the projection period due primarily to increases in drug prices.”

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