PHARMACY

Two strategies for managing anemia in hepatitis C patients work equally well, Merck says

BY Alaric DeArment

BARCELONA, Spain — Merck is testing two means of treating patients with chronic hepatitis C for anemia, a common side effect of certain treatments for the viral infection, the drug maker said.

Merck announced results of a phase-3 study comparing two strategies for managing anemia and how they affect the curing of hepatitis C in patients taking Victrelis (boceprevir) with Pegintron (peginterferon alfa-2b) and ribavirin.

The drug maker took a group of 500 patients and divided it roughly in half, giving one half the anemia treatment erythropoietin while reducing the ribavirin dosage of the other half. In both groups, patients had a viral cure rate of 71%.

"Chronic hepatitis C regimens with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin are commonly associated with the development of anemia, and this effect is further increased with the addition of Victrelis," Cedars-Sinai Medical Center chief of hepatology and liver transplantation Fred Poordad said. "The results of this study show there was no difference in [cure] rates among these anemia management strategies and that ribavirin dose reduction should be the primary strategy for managing anemia in patients taking Victrelis combination therapy."


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CDC: Measles on the rise

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA — Despite achieving measles elimination in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its "Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report" that a total of 222 measles cases and 17 measles outbreaks were reported to the CDC last year, compared with a median of 60 cases and four outbreaks reported annually during the 2001-2010 period.

In the United States, the incidence of measles has reached a 15-year high, the CDC said.

"The increase in measles importations and outbreaks during 2011 serves as a reminder that measles remains endemic in many parts of the world and unvaccinated U.S. residents continue to place themselves and others in their communities at risk for measles and its complications," the MMWR said. The report added that the importation of measles is caused by U.S. travelers, particularly to the World Health Organization European Region, which reported more than 30,000 cases of measles, including 27 cases of measles encephalitis, a complication that often results in permanent neurologic sequelae, as well as eight measles-related deaths in 2011.

The CDC also noted that healthcare providers play a critical role in preventing measles and should should encourage vaccination of all eligible patients, including children and adults.

Click here for the full report.


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Genzyme to present MS drug trials

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Drug maker Genzyme plans to present data from trial programs of two multiple sclerosis drugs at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in New Orleans, which starts this Saturday and lasts until next Saturday.

Genzyme, owned by French drug maker Sanofi, will present results of 12 trials of the experimental drugs alemtuzumab and teriflunomide, including the phase-3 "CARE-MS II" trial, which compares alemtuzumab with Rebif (interferon beta-1a), made by Pfizer and Merck KGaA.

"Genzyme’s robust development programs for alemtuzumab and teriflunomide were designed to understand how these therapies can best address significant unmet medical needs of people living with MS," Genzyme president and CEO David Meeker said. "We are committed to becoming a long-term partner to the MS community with the goal of raising the expectation of what life with MS can be."


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