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PhRMA report lists 241 drugs under development for blood cancer

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — More than 200 drugs for blood cancers are under development, according to a new report by a drug industry trade group.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said 241 medicines were in clinical development or under review by the Food and Drug Administration, including 98 for lymphoma, 97 for leukemia, 52 for multiple myeloma and 24 for malignancies of the bone marrow, blood and lymph nodes.

"Complex diseases like blood cancer provide a daunting healthcare challenge for patients, their doctors and the biopharmaceutical research ecosystem," PhRMA president and CEO John Castellani said. "The more than 240 medicines in development for leukemia, lymphoma and other forms of blood cancer reflect biopharmaceutical research companies’ commitment to build on progress to date and help bring new treatment options to patients."

The group noted that according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the five-year survival rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma was 40% in the early 1960s, and the rate for leukemia was 14%; by the last decade, those rates had climbed respectively to 86% and 57%, thanks to improvements in treatment.

In other news, the group said it had raised more than $100,000 to establish a new grant for blood cancer research and that 60 of its employees would participate in this Sunday’s inaugural Nike Women Half Marathon D.C. to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program.

 

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Obama administration hopes to tackle prescription drug abuse

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — More than 1.3 million emergency room visits in 2010 were related to abuse of prescription drugs, and the problem has become widespread enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies it as an epidemic. In response, curbing abuse of prescription drugs has become a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s drug policy.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s 2013 National Drug Control Strategy, the fourth since 2010, included as a policy focus the prevention of prescription drug abuse, drawing praise from trade groups and government alike.

According to data from 2011, about 2.3 million Americans aged 12 and older used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes for the first time, with 1.9 million of them using pain relievers, mostly opioids. According to the strategy, there are indications that those who abuse opioids eventually turn to injected opiates and eventual use of heroin; according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Health Mental Health Services Administration and the non-profit group RTI International, the number of people who used heroin in the past year went from 373,000 in 2007 to 620,000 in 2011.

Still, the administration said, the number of people who abused prescription drugs decreased from 7 million in 2010 to 6.1 million in 2011.

The healthcare distribution trade group HDMA heralded the report.

"We applaud the efforts of the ONDCP in creating a ‘modern, balanced … policy’ to curb the prescription drug abuse epidemic in this country," HDMA president and CEO John Gray said. "HDMA supports ONDCP’s approach to this issue that involves a multilayered strategy, allowing for critical training and education for healthcare professionals; providing adequate funding and interoperability for state prescription drug monitoring programs; the establishment of prescription drug take-back and disposal programs that are safe, accessible and cost-effective; and coordinated law-enforcement efforts at the federal, state and local levels to remove ‘bad actors’ from the system."

The Food and Drug Administration also praised the report.

"We agree that our nation’s front-line healthcare professionals play a vital role in efforts to reduce the abuse and misuse of opioids," the agency said in a statement. "The FDA believes it is critically important to ensure that prescribers have adequate training in opioid therapy; know the content of the most current drug labels; and educate patients about the appropriate use of prescription drugs, their potential risks and proper disposal techniques."


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GNC expands Member Price Program nationwide

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH— GNC on Wednesday expanded nationwide its new Member Price Program, which will incorporate GNC’s current loyalty program boasting close to 7 million active members.

In new markets in which the Member Price Program is launching, GNC will offer free memberships for a limited time.

The rollout of the Member Price Program follows a successful test-market campaign of up to two years in key markets like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, New York and Chicago that produced higher store traffic and increased revenues. GNC anticipates that the program will expand membership to a larger base of consumers, including new and existing members, as well as lapsed Gold Card holders.

As a GNC VIP, customers save up to 50% on all products. The program’s simplified pricing also makes shopping easier, both in-store and online, GNC noted.


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