PHARMACY

Washington state health officials declare whooping cough epidemic

BY Allison Cerra

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state health officials have declared an emergency state action to slow the outbreak of whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

The state’s governor, Chris Gregoire, declared that emergency funds were made available Thursday to the state department of health to help curb the epidemic. According to disease investigators at the Washington department of health, 1,132 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the state through April 28, compared with 117 over the same time last year, with this year’s epidemic on pace to reach as many as 3,000 cases. There were 965 cases reported in 2011. No deaths have been reported.

In addition to the emergency funds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved using federal funds designated for other immunizations to buy more than 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccine for adults who are uninsured or underinsured. Since the outbreak, such retailers and Rite Aid, Albertsons/Sav-On pharmacies and MinuteClinic, the retail clinic operator owned by CVS Caremark, have increased the availability of the Tdap vaccine against whooping cough at its locations.

“I’ve been following the epidemic closely and the continued increase in cases has me very concerned about the health of our residents," Gregoire said. "I’m especially concerned about the vulnerable babies in our communities that are too young to be fully immunized. These actions will help state and local health leaders get vaccine into people’s arms so we can stem the tide."

Mary Selecky, the state’s secretary of health, declared a whooping cough epidemic in Washington last month.


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PHARMACY

Watson appoints new VP global investor relations

BY Alaric DeArment

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Generic drug maker Watson Pharmaceuticals has appointed Lisa DeFrancesco as its VP global investor relations, the company said Friday.

Succeeding Patricia Eisenhaur, who will leave the company on June 1, DeFrancesco will report directly to chief communications officer Charles Mayr. She will be responsible for investor relations programs and serve as the company’s principal spokeswoman and point of contact with the analyst and investment community.

DeFrancesco began working for Watson in 2009 as manager of investor relations, receiving a promotion to director of investor relations in 2010. She previously worked for companies like Virgin Mobile USA, Realogy, Cendant and Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield.


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Orphan drugs to see growth through 2018, report finds

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Drug makers could strike big with new treatments for rare diseases, according to a new report by a market research firm.

According to analysis by GBI Research, the orphan disease therapeutics market will see an increase in value through the decade, increasing from 2010’s $2.3 billion to $6 billion in 2018. Currently, there are more than 6,000 orphan diseases recognized in the United States, defined as diseases affecting 200,000 or fewer Americans and including such conditions as Gaucher disease and Fabry disease. European health authorities recognize between 5,000 and 8,000 of them. The report focused on the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

The report found that the need for an improved and expanded selection of drugs would boost research and development, some of which already has been taking place: On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved Elelyso (taliglucerase alfa), a treatment made by Pfizer and Protalix BioTherapeutics for Type 1 Gaucher disease. Genzyme, now a subsidiary of French drug maker Sanofi, historically has been a leader in developing drugs for orphan diseases, but some of its drugs have experienced shortages due to manufacturing problems in recent years.

 


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