PHARMACY

Patients taking oral cancer drugs may risk drug interactions, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Pills for treating cancer have created numerous alternatives to spending hours in a clinic or at home receiving chemotherapy infusions, but risks of drug interactions remain, according to a new survey by the research arm of pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions.

The survey, released Friday by the Medco Research Institute, found that 23% to 74% of patients taking one of nine oral cancer drugs also were on a drug that had the potential to reduce the cancer drugs’ effectiveness or increase its toxicity. The drugs studied belong to a class known as oral kinase inhibitors and included Novartis’ Gleevec (imatinib) and Tarceva (erlotinib), made by Roche and Astellas Pharma.

"Oral cancer drugs represent a huge advancement in oncology treatment, but make no mistake — these are powerful drugs," Medco Oncology Therapeutic Research Center national practice leader Milayna Subar said. "These high-cost medications can have severe side effects and need to be actively monitored for proper use and adherence."

The study also found that 43% of the 4,617 patients receiving Gleevec were prescribed a drug that might diminish its efficacy, while 68% were taking a drug that could raise its level of toxicity. The other drugs were found to have their efficacy potentially impaired 23% to 57% of the time, and 24% to 74% of patients were using medicines that might raise their toxicity.

"Since these are drugs launched in the past decade for fairly small patient populations, we are learning more bout how they are used in real-world settings as compared to traditional clinical trials that test safety and efficacy in a tightly controlled environment," Medco Research Institute senior director and therapeutic area research lead and study co-author Steve Bowlin said. "Oncologists are not always aware of other medications prescribed by other doctors and vice-versa, which can pose a real hazard for their patients on oral cancer therapies."

The study was based on pharmacy claims from about 11,600 patients using one of nine oral kinase inhibitors.


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Survey: WAG-ESI dispute sends customers to independent pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Many Walgreens customers are "flocking" to independent pharmacies amid the dispute between the retail pharmacy chain and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, a trade group representing the PBM industry said.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association announced results of a survey conducted by North Star Opinion Research, touting the results as evidence of preferred pharmacy networks’ benefits to independent retail pharmacies and customers.

According to the survey, 72% of independent pharmacists with a Walgreens store in their areas have seen former Walgreens customers fill prescriptions at their stores, while three-fifths of those with a Walgreens in their area said former customers of the chain were more satisfied with their stores. Meanwhile, independent pharmacists said they had benefited from the Walgreens contract dispute by a 2-to-1 margin, and nearly all said customers had adequate access to pharmacies in their area.

"Since there are now more pharmacies than McDonalds, Burger Kings, Taco Bells, Pizza Huts and Starbucks combined, public and private payers can offer drug benefits that weed out drug stores that overcharge," PCMA president and CEO Mark Merritt said. "That’s good news not only for consumers, but for local drug stores."

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Amerigen joins Bystolic patent challenge

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Another generic drug maker has joined efforts to challenge the patent on a drug made by Forest Labs for treating hypertension.

East Brunswick, N.J.-based Amerigen Pharmaceuticals announced that it had filed with the Food and Drug Administration for approval of a generic version of Bystolic (nebivolol). Amerigen’s announcement followed news that Forest and Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica NV had sued Glenmark Generics, Hetero USA, Torrent Pharmaceuticals and Watson Labs on Tuesday over their filing for approval of their own versions. Watson also confirmed Wednesday that it had challenged Forest’s patent on Bystolic and sought to market a generic version of the drug in the 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg and 20 mg strengths.

Forest alleged that the companies named in the suit had infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,545,040, which is scheduled to expire in December 2021. Bystolic had sales of $391 million during the 12-month period ended in January, according to IMS Health.

 


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