PHARMACY

Retail pharmacy emerging as healthcare necessity

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT One of the chain pharmacy industry’s top advocates is pushing hard to thaw the frozen, century-old public perception of community pharmacists as little more than pill dispensers. And she’s getting a receptive hearing about pharmacy’s critical role among business and healthcare leaders, consumer advocates and the mainstream media.

(THE NEWS: Profession is in ‘revolutionary’ times, says NACDS’ top pharmacy official. For the full story, click here)

The message is being delivered by Edith Rosato, SVP pharmacy affairs for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and head of the NACDS Foundation. On Jan. 19, Rosato addressed a daylong meeting of the Massachusetts Health Council on the fast-changing environment for pharmacy practice, sharing a bill with other experts from the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other agencies.

Her message: Retail pharmacy is undergoing a transformation — and emerging as a key resource in a more outcomes-oriented, patient-centered, community-based healthcare system. The profession must “adapt our protocols and practices to better position pharmacy in medication adherence activities, which improve health outcomes for patients while also reducing overall healthcare expenditures,” she told the gathering.

Considering Rosato’s audience — the council is composed of more than 300 leaders in health care, business, government and consumer health — it was probably well worth NACDS’ time and expense to deliver that message. Ironically, it came on the day that voters in the state effectively rejected some of the Obama administration’s health-reform efforts by electing Scott Brown, a Republican who has vowed to fight health reform legislation, to succeed Edward M. Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

Rosato was also featured recently in a Washington Post article that highlights the growing role community pharmacists play in the nation’s troubled healthcare system as accessible patient-care providers. In that article, she dubs pharmacists “the face of neighborhood healthcare,” and cites the “metamorphosis” in the profession over the past two decades “as health care has become more complicated and the use of medications has exploded.”

Quoting Lynnae Mahaney, president of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, the Post article also introduces to the newspaper’s readers the concept of pharmacists as “physician extenders” who provide a critical link between patients and their doctors.

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PHARMACY

Roche seeks to make injectable device for Herceptin

BY Alaric DeArment

BASEL, Switzerland Roche is investing 190 million Swiss francs (U.S. $182 million) into production of a new device that will allow self-administration of one of its breast cancer drugs, the Swiss drug maker announced Wednesday.

The company said the device uses Halozyme Therapeutics’ “Enhanze” technology to allow patients taking Herceptin (trastuzumab) to administer a formulation of the drug themselves without infusion by injecting it into the tissue under the skin. The drug is normally administered by infusion. Infusion takes an hour, but subcutaneous injection takes around five minutes.

Roche said the money would go into production sites in Kaiseraugst, Switzerland, and Mannheim, Germany. A phase 3 clinical trial evaluating the formulation is ongoing.

“We always strive to improve our products and manufacturing technologies, which in turn benefit our patients,” Roche Pharma Global Technical Operations head Pat Yang said. “This innovative formulation and the associated new device are designed to simplify patients’ lives.”

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Clinical trial finds Novartis drug reduces progression of MS

BY Alaric DeArment

BASEL, Switzerland An investigational drug for treating multiple sclerosis reduced progression of disability by more than 30%, according to results of a late-stage clinical trial recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Novartis conducted two phase 3 trials of FTY720 (fingolimod), an oral treatment for MS, administering 0.5-mg and 1.25-mg doses to more than 2,300 patients. The Swiss drug maker applied for approval of the 0.5-mg dose with the Food and Drug Administration in December on account of its posing lower risk to patients.

In one study, which enrolled 1,272 patients and lasted for two years, patients taking the 0.5-mg dose experienced reductions in the risk of three-month and six-month confirmed disability progression by 30% and 37% compared with placebo, respectively, and got similar results from the 1.25-mg dose. In the one-year study, which enrolled 1,292 patients, the 0.5 mg dose reduced relapses by 52% compared with Biogen Idec’s Avonex (interferon beta-1a), while the 1.25-mg dose reduced them by 38%.

“Innovative science leading to new medicines for MS patients is greatly needed,” National Multiple Sclerosis Society EVP research and clinical programs John Richert said in a statement. “The positive results published in The New England Journal of Medicine showing benefit of fingolimod on the clinical and MRI outcomes assessed is very encouraging to MS patients, their families and their physicians.”

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