PHARMACY

Report: Sandoz has as many as 10 follow-on biologics in works

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Sandoz is developing as many as 10 new follow-on biologics, according to published reports.

Reuters, citing an interview with Sandoz head Jeff George in the German newspaper Handelsblatt, said the generics arm of Swiss drug maker Novartis had eight to 10 new biosimilar molecules in development.

Follow-on biologics, also known as biosimilars and sometimes as biogenerics, are copycat versions of biotech drugs. Unlike generic pharmaceutical drugs, which are identical to their branded counterparts, the specially grown cell lines and complex molecular structure of biologics makes it much more difficult to develop follow-on versions, and follow-on biologics may not be identical to the originals, even if they have the work the same way.

Sandoz is one of the leading developers of follow-on biologics for the European market, along with Israeli drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world’s largest generic drug company, and U.S.-based Hospira.

The healthcare-reform law, signed into law by President Barack Obama last year, created a regulatory approval pathway for follow-on biologics in the United States, though Republicans in Congress and several state attorneys general have sought to overturn the law in the legislature and the court system.

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PCMA: Sebelius should continue push for cost cuts among state Medicaid programs

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — A group representing the nation’s pharmacy benefit managers said Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius should continue encouraging state Medicaid programs to explore affordable pharmacy solutions despite opposition from the independent drug store lobby.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association said the current "old-school, fee-for-service" approach used by state Medicaid programs "exposes state governments to political pressure from the independent drug store lobby to set artificially high payment levels," arguing that the focus is on profits instead of patients.

“Medicaid can no longer afford to spend more on pharmacy benefits than Medicare and commercial payers. States should have the flexibility to use the tools other programs use to reduce costs,” said PCMA president and CEO Mark Merritt. “State Medicaid programs can no longer afford to pay pharmacies double or triple what other programs pay.”

The statement from the PCMA followed a document released last week by Sebelius, who urged all 50 state governors to find ways to cut costs through various approaches.

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Upsher-Smith launches new Nexa vitamin

BY Allison Cerra

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — Upsher-Smith has amplified its Nexa prenatal vitamin line with the launch of Nexa Select Rx.

The company said the Nexa Select Rx prenatal vitamin, which comes in gel capsules, is an advanced formulation that contains 325-mg of plant-based docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. The company noted that Nexa Select Rx contains more DHA in each capsule than any other single-gel capsule, prescription prenatal vitamin taken once a day. DHA supports a baby’s prenatal and postnatal brain and visual development, Upsher-Smith said. Nexa Select Rx also contains 800 IU of vitamin D3, as well as 1.25 mg of folic acid and 29 mg of iron. In addition, each capsule also contains other essential vitamins and minerals that are important for the overall health and well-being of mother and baby, including calcium and vitamins B6 and C — as well as the gentle stool softener docusate sodium for added comfort.

"There is no more important time to eat a nutritious diet than during pregnancy. Even the most conscientious mothers-to-be can benefit from the added nutritional support that prenatal vitamins provide," said Wesley Mark Todd, senior director of medical affairs at Upsher-Smith. "While Nexa Select includes numerous vitamins and minerals to support a healthy pregnancy, the folic acid and plant-based DHA in a single capsule are especially appealing to many moms-to-be."

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