PHARMACY

Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Ornella Barra assumes seat on AmerisourceBergen board

BY Michael Johnsen

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. – AmerisourceBergen on Friday announced that Ornella Barra, EVP Walgreens Boots Alliance and president and CEO of global wholesale andinternational retail has been elected to its board of directors, effective immediately. Barra has been appointed by the board to fill the vacancy created by Gregory Wasson’s resignation from the company’s board on Jan. 9 following Wasson’s retirement from Walgreens Boots Alliance. 
 
“We are very pleased to have Ornella join the AmerisourceBergen board of directors,” stated Richard Gozon, chairman of the board of AmerisourceBergen. “Her extensive experience in wholesale pharmaceutical distribution and international health and pharmaceutical retail industries and strategic insight will be an asset to our board, particularly as we continue to grow our global operations. Ms. Barra also provides a valuable perspective on our strategic relationship and collaboration with Walgreens Boots Alliance.” Commenting on Wasson’s resignation from AmerisourceBergen’s board, Gozon said “Mr. Wasson has garnered tremendous respect from the board during his tenure and the board wishes to thank him for his contributions to the continuing success of AmerisourceBergen.”
 
“[Ornella] has a deep understanding of the needs of our customers, including pharmacists, and the demands of running a global enterprise," added Steven Collis, president and CEO AmerisourceBergen. "I am confident that Ornella will contribute in countless ways as we continue to advance AmerisourceBergen’s strategic goals and objectives.”
 
Prior to here role at Walgreens Boots Alliance, she was CEO Wholesale and Brands of Alliance Boots. Barra had previously been CEO of the Pharmaceutical Wholesale Division of Alliance Boots (from January 2009 to September 2013), and before that, Wholesale & Commercial Affairs director. In her role, she was responsible for the Pharmaceutical Wholesale Division as well as the overall development of International Health & Beauty and Brands of Alliance Boots. Barra is chairman of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers and is also a member of the board of directors of Assicurazioni Generali. Barra began her career as a pharmacist in Italy and is Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham School of Pharmacy.
 
Walgreens Boots Alliance is entitled to designate a director — including any successor director to fill an unexpired term — to the AmerisourceBergen board of directors as part of its strategic long-term relationship with the company.
 
Barra has not been appointed to serve on any committees of the AmerisourceBergen board.
 
 
 
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FDA approves AbbVie’s Duopa

BY Ryan Chavis

NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. — AbbVie earlier this week announced that the Food and Drug Administration approved its Duopa (carbidopa and levodopa) enteral suspension, which is used to treat motor fluctuations for people with advanced Parkinson's disease. 
 
The drug is administered through a small, portable infusion pump. The pump delivers carbidopa and levodopa directly into the small intestine for 16 continuous hours by way of a procedurally placed tube. Duopa was given an orphan drug designation by the FDA. 
 
“There is unmet need for treatment options for patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease. As the disease advances, it can be difficult to control motor features,” said C. Warren Olanow, M.D., professor, department of neurology and department of neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and lead investigator of the Duopa pivotal trial. “In clinical trials, Duopa was shown to significantly reduce the amount of off time advanced Parkinson’s disease patients experienced.”
 
In the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease, patients may experience bouts of poor mobility, slowness and stiffness. The spontaneous emptying of the stomach becomes delayed and unpredictable for patients with the disease, which can affect the timing of when orally administered medicines leave the stomach and are absorbed in the small intestine, the company stated. Duopa delivers the same active ingredients as orally administered arbidopa and levodopa, but is delivered in a suspension that goes directly into the small intestine. 
 
“The FDA approval of DUOPA is another significant milestone for AbbVie’s pipeline,” said Michael Severino, M.D., EVP, research and development and chief scientific officer at AbbVie. “This advancement is important for patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease and their care teams, as it provides a new therapeutic option to help manage motor symptoms.”
 
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CDC: Flu shots this year reduce risk of seeing a doctor by 23%

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — A report published in the Jan. 16 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report estimates that getting a flu vaccine this season reduced a person’s risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by 23% among people of all ages.
 
Since the CDC began conducting annual flu vaccine effectiveness studies in 2004-2005, overall estimates for each season have ranged from 10% to 60% effectiveness in preventing medical visits associated with seasonal influenza illness. The MMWR report says this season’s vaccine offers reduced protection and this underscores the need for additional prevention and treatment efforts this season, including the appropriate use of influenza antiviral medications for treatment.
 
“Physicians should be aware that all hospitalized patients and all outpatients at high risk for serious complications should be treated as soon as possible with one of three available influenza antiviral medications if influenza is suspected, regardless of a patient’s vaccination status and without waiting for confirmatory testing,” stated Joe Bresee, branch chief in the CDC’s Influenza Division. “Healthcare providers should advise patients at high risk to call promptly if they get symptoms of influenza.”
 
One factor that determines how well a flu vaccine works is the similarity between the flu viruses used in vaccine production and the flu viruses actually circulating. During seasons when vaccine viruses and circulating influenza viruses are well matched, VE between 50% and 60% has been observed. H3N2 viruses have been predominant so far this season, but about 70% of them have been different or have “drifted” from the H3N2 vaccine virus. This likely accounts for the reduced VE.
 
Flu viruses change constantly and the drifted H3N2 viruses did not appear until after the vaccine composition for the Northern Hemisphere had been chosen.
 
Another factor that influences how well the flu vaccine works is the age and health of the person being vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best in young, healthy people and is less effective in people age 65 and older. This pattern is reflected in the current season early estimates for VE against H3N2 viruses. VE against H3N2 viruses was highest — 26% — for children age 6 months through 17 years. While not statistically significant, VE estimates against H3N2 viruses for other age groups were 12% for ages 18-to-49 years and 14% for people age 50 years and older.
 
The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine even during seasons when drifted viruses are circulating, because vaccination can still prevent some infections and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death. Also, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against three or four influenza viruses and some of these other viruses may circulate later in the season. Flu activity so far this season has been similar to the 2012-2013 flu season, a “moderately severe” flu season with H3N2 viruses predominating.
 
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