Latelines for May 20, 2002



Media refuse to carry AARP's message

AARP has not had much success getting retail pharmacies and the major TV networks to help spread its drug messages to seniors, said John Rother, policy director for the association. AARP had asked drug chains to place on their store counters brochures it had developed advising seniors to shop around for the best drug prices, but the retailers have refused to do so, he said. Similarly, ABC, CBS, and NBC have turned down a TV spot AARP had prepared urging seniors to not let an ad convince them to buy a drug they don't need. In both cases, retailers and the TV networks balked to preserve their self-interest, he explained. The AARP executive spoke at a legislative conference sponsored by PCMA in Washington, D.C., this month.

VA approves BPS specialty exams

The Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized five certification exams administered by the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties (BPS). The approval means individuals on the G.I. Bill can obtain VA reimbursement for the cost of BPS certification and recertification exams taken in or after 2001. The BPS exams in nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pharmacotherapy, and psychiatric pharmacy won the VA stamp of approval.

Safeway tops in disease state management

Safeway pharmacy customers gave the supermarket chain top marks in 10 out of 35 disease states in a survey conducted by Wilson Health Information, a consumer research firm in New Hope, Pa. Medicine Shoppe International was highest-ranked in eight disease categories. Consumers using National Prescription Administrators reported the highest level of treatment satisfaction among PBMs.

New starting doses approved for atorvastatin

The FDA has approved new recommended starting doses for atorvastatin (Lipitor, Pfizer), the manufacturer announced. The recommended starting doses are 10 mg, 20 mg, or 40 mg, taken q.d. For patients who require a reduction in LDL-cholesterol of more than 45%, the 40-mg dose is recommended. Patients requiring further cholesterol reduction can have their dosage titrated up to 80 mg q.d. Atorvastatin labeling has also been revised to support the implementation of national cholesterol guidelines calling for early and intensive treatment.

Rival Medicare drug bills proposed in Congress

This being an election year, both Democrats and Republicans have proposed their own Medicare outpatient drug benefit, even though conventional wisdom has it that such an expensive program can't possibly pass this year. The GOP bill was unveiled May 1 by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R, Ill.), who predicted that it would pass by Memorial Day. The competing Democratic legislation was introduced by Sens. Zell Miller (D, Ga.) and Bob Graham (D, Fla.). The features of the two proposals vary, with the Democratic version considered more generous to patients. Since the GOP bill was unveiled, it has drawn dissent from some House Republicans concerned that the drug benefit would be financed in part from cutbacks in reimbursement to hospitals and other healthcare providers. As a result, it's now believed the bill will not be passed before Memorial Day.

Combivir product tampering reported by GSK

GlaxoSmithKline has received four reports of suspect bottles containing 60 tablets of Combivir (lamivudine plus zidovudine) that contained a different medicine, Ziagen (abacavir sulfate) tablets. The company has determined that counterfeit labels for Combivir tablets were placed on two bottles of Ziagen, and labels on another two bottles are suspect. Both medicines are used as part of combination regimens to treat HIV infection. Pharmacists, physicians, and patients should immediately examine the contents of each Combivir bottle to confirm it does not contain Ziagen tablets or any other medication. Combivir is a white capsule-shaped tablet engraved with GX FC3 on one face; the other side of the tablet is plain. Ziagen is a yellow capsule-shaped tablet engraved with GX 623 on one face; the other side is plain.

New drug approved for infertility

The FDA recently granted marketing approval for urofollitropin for injection, purified (Bravelle, Ferring Pharmaceuticals), for the treatment of infertility. Urofollitropin is a highly purified, human-derived follicle-stimulating hormone (hFSH). In conjunction with human chorionic gonadotropin, it is indicated for ovulation induction following pituitary suppression. In a multicenter trial, urofollitropin was compared with follitropin beta, a recombinant FSH. Following pituitary suppression, patients were randomized to receive urofollitropin intramuscular, urofollitropin subcutaneous, or follitropin beta subcutaneous. No significant differences were observed among the treatment groups in terms of efficacy and safety.

PDR goes mobile

The mobilePDR, a free handheld version of the Physicians' Desk Reference, has been launched by Thomson Medical Economics. The software works on both the Palm operating system and Pocket PC platforms. The mobilePDR drug database can be searched by brand or generic name, indication, or therapeutic class. Users can check for drug interactions and view drug updates and critical information through a "What's New" link, according to the Montvale, N.J., publishing firm that's part of The Thomson Corp.

Organon gives free month of contraception ring

Organon Inc. will offer women in the United States vouchers for one free month of the etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring (NuvaRing) for contraception. The etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring will become available in pharmacies this summer, at which time women will be able to register for their free voucher at . The voucher and a physician's prescription should be presented at the pharmacy. Patients will also receive educational materials in the mail or by e-mail.

Illinois coalition opposes state's Medicaid cuts

A coalition of Illinois healthcare providers, including pharmacists, appealed for restoration of Medicaid cuts to the state's fiscal 2003 budget. The coalition charged that the cuts will jeopardize the state's healthcare delivery system, which will affect patients, families, businesses, and communities.

Rite Aid sells off shares

Rite Aid has sold nearly 6.8 million of its drugstore. com shares to a group of investors in the Internet retail company. The group includes director Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft Corp. founder and chairman Bill Gates. Rite Aid sold an additional 1.2 million shares to unspecified buyers in late April for some $3 million.

Press and breathe pirbuterol inhaler recalled

Healthcare professionals have been notified by 3M Pharmaceuticals of a voluntary recall of its pirbuterol acetate inhalation aerosol (Maxair Inhaler). The lot numbers involved are 000644, 000756, 000947, 001009, 001110, 001111, 010025, 010195, 010283, 010413, 010414, 010482, 010580, 010708, 010709, and 011210. The press-and-breathe metered-dose aerosol inhaler may stick intermittently, and patients may not receive the expected dose (puff) of medication. The Maxair Autohaler (pirbuterol acetate inhalation aerosol), a breath- actuated metered-dose inhaler, is not affected by the recall. Pharmacies are not required to call patients; they will be notified through a press release. Patients will be advised to return their pirbuterol press-and-breathe inhalers to their pharmacy. They can either be reimbursed by 3M or have their pharmacist substitute the same medication in the breath-actuated Maxair Autohaler. A dedicated toll-free number is being provided by 3M to respond to patients who call. The number is (800) 390-1132, and it is available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT, seven days a week.

CVS exceeds fundraising goal

CVS/pharmacy has exceeded its fundraising commitment of $500,000 for fighting colon cancer. From March 15 to April 20, more than 4,000 CVS locations sold paper Caring Star icons for customer donations, raising nearly $506,000. The funds will be used to help find a cure, as well as finance new treatments, for colon cancer.


Latelines. Drug Topics 2002;10:7.

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