February 2007 Archives

Former FDA Commissioners Suggest Changes For Agency

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FDA Recent problems at FDA can be attributed to the lack of consistent, long-term leadership; insufficient resources; and not enough authority to address safety issues, according to four former FDA commissioners who participated Wednesday in a panel discussion at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.

David Kessler, who served as commissioner from 1990 to 1997, criticized the pharmaceutical industry's use of mass-marketing techniques and direct-to-consumer advertising. "The notion that you can come up with a new drug and millions and millions of people take it safely -- the blockbuster -- that is what got us in trouble," Kessler said.

China to tighten drug safety checks

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chinaChina will tighten the inspection of pharmaceutical products to prevent drug safety accidents, the country's drug watchdog said Tuesday, disclosing that the licenses of 353 medicines have been revoked since August 2006.

Wu Zhen, deputy director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), said about 3,049 applications for producing new drugs were turned down since last August to fend off shoddy manufacture of medicines.

Attending an online interview hosted by the central government's website, Wu said the administration has required its officials to leave offices to check whether the production conditions meet the description of the applications filed to the SFDA.

Common Pain Relievers Increase Blood Pressure Risk in Men

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ibuprofen(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Common pain relievers may increase the risk of high blood pressure in men.

Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin are among the most commonly used drugs in the United States. Two recent large studies have suggested a link between pain relievers and an increased risk of high blood pressure in women. But the association has not been studied extensively in men.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston followed 16,031 male health professionals who did not have a history of high blood pressure (hypertension). The average age of participants was about 65.

Drug safety recommendations lacking scientific evidence

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drug safetyDuring the past several years, there has been a perceived drug safety crisis in the United States. The Institute of Medicine (IOM), recently released its final recommendations for reforming the U.S. drug safety system, but an editorial published in Health Economics by Tomas Philipson and colleagues at the University of Chicago finds little evidence of a drug safety crisis and no scientific evidence to back up the IOM's recommendations.

The current drug controversy is largely due to the withdrawal of Vioxx from the market, but the decrease in drug approval times thanks to the Prescription Drug User Fee Acts (PDUFA), and undue influence from the pharmaceutical industry that these acts may have invited have also played a role. Yet the scientific basis that too many unsafe drugs enter the market is lacking.

Novartis diabetes drug hits FDA snag

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novartisZURICH (Reuters) -- U.S. regulators have asked for more data on Novartis AG's diabetes drug Galvus, potentially delaying any approval of the possible blockbuster by a year and sending shares tumbling.

The Food and Drug Administration has requested a further clinical study to show Galvus's safety and efficacy in patients with kidney impairment, Novartis (Charts) said Monday, but the drugmaker remains confident of getting approval for the medication.

"There are no details on the study requirements, but we would expect this study to take a minimum of 12 months to complete, taking likely U.S. approval beyond August '08," JPMorgan analyst Craig Maxwell said in a note.

GSKPharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is being forced to recruit overseas because there is such a dire lack of science graduates in the UK, the drugs company has warned.

Dr Jackie Hunter, a senior vice-president at GSK, who leads one of the firm’s global drug development centres, said the UK was suffering from an acute shortage of qualified scientists, the Times reports. 

The situation meant GSK had to recruit from France, Spain, Germany and India.

 

FDA Drug Approval Process under Scrutiny

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FDAThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is facing renewed criticism over the process by which it approves drugs for market. Recent reports indicate many drugs are approved before they are proven safe, and problems with the agency's structure and processes prevent it from fulfilling its mission. Subsequently, Congress has started using its oversight powers to scrutinize the agency, and the clamor for FDA reform is growing louder.

The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act requires FDA to ensure the safety of new drugs before the agency approves the drugs for market. However, operating within a provision of the law, FDA often approves drugs before safety is established. The agency then requires drug manufacturers to further study drugs while they are on the market. These "post-marketing commitments" serve to streamline the drug approval process.

Health care spending seen doubling in 10 years

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health careU.S. spending on prescription drugs, hospital care and other health services is expected to double to $4.1 trillion over the next decade, up from $2.1 trillion in 2006, a government report released on Wednesday found.

Despite relative stability in recent years, nearly 20 cents of every dollar spent in 10 years will go toward health care, National Health Statistics Group economists said in their projections looking at 2006 to 2016.

Last year's health spending should make up about 16 cents for every dollar spent, they wrote in the journal Health Affairs.

Lead author John Poisal told reporters a major factor was an aging population as the "leading edge of the baby boom generation becomes eligible for Medicare," the nation's insurance program for those age 65 and older.

heartThe American Heart Association says nearly all US women are in danger of heart disease or stroke and should be more aggressive about lowering their risk.

The Dallas-based association says the steps women need to take include asking their doctors about daily aspirin use.

It's the first time guidelines have urged all women to consider aspirin for preventing strokes, although specialists warn that it can cause ulcers and dangerous bleeding.

The guidelines also advise daily exercise and less fat and declare vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and folic acid supplements worthless for preventing heart disease.

Drug safety tips

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drugsRead the package and label of all over-the-counter medicines carefully. Look for the section called "Drug Interaction Precaution."

Make sure your doctor and pharmacist have a list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal products you use every day or every so often. Keep a personal medication record and take it with you to doctor's appointments and pharmacy visits.

Consider using one pharmacy for all of your prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Internet buyers got wrong pills

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internetThe Food and Drug Administration yesterday warned consumers who ordered pills for depression, anxiety and insomnia over the Internet that they may have received an antipsychotic drug instead.

Haloperidol, a medicine for schizophrenia, was substituted for Sanofi-Aventis SA's Ambien, Pfizer Inc.'s Xanax, Forest Laboratories Inc.'s Lexapro, and Wyeth's Ativan, the FDA said.

Ambien is a sleeping pill. Xanax and Ativan are anti- anxiety treatments. Lexapro is used to treat depression.

Merck's multibillion-dollar bet

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vioxxBy Jerry Avorn

A FEW BLOCKS from the high-rise casinos of Atlantic City, Merck & Co. Inc. is in the middle of a multi billion-dollar bet. A jury is about to decide whether the pharmaceutical giant knew that its blockbuster Vioxx could cause heart attacks, but then minimized that risk in the information it gave to doctors and patients. The decision could have implications for the prevention of future drug disasters more profound than all the tepid plans being discussed by Congress and the FDA.

Faced with thousands of patients assigned to her jurisdiction suing the drugmaker for Vioxx-related heart damage, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee decided to first resolve a few over-arching issues, before getting to the details of each individual case. She'll instruct the jury first to determine whether the pain reliever could ever increase the risk of heart attack. Most experts agree that it does, and Merck took the drug off the market in 2004 when its own clinical trial proved it, but the company still does not fully acknowledge this fact. Next, she'll ask the jury a kind of pharmacological Watergate question: What did the company know, and when did it know it? And finally, did Merck misrepresent this risk in its promotional materials?

FDA drug rush is ill-advised

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fdaWith a lot of fanfare, the Food and Drug Administration last week announced a first — its approval of a diet pill that can be bought without a prescription.

A lower-dosage version of the prescription drug Xenical, the over-the-counter medication will be marketed by GlaxoSmithKline and goes on sale this summer. Since nearly 130 million Americans are considered overweight, the drug is expected to be popular. Conservative estimates are that 5 million-6 million Americans will use the drug in its first year.

Since obesity has been identified as a worsening problem in the United States, this news could be greeted with optimism, except for the many "ifs" and "buts."

Merck to Pay IRS $2.3B in Tax Disputes

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merckMerck & Co., mired in multibillion litigation over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, has eliminated another legal headache, resolving several tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service by agreeing to a $2.3 billion settlement.

In announcing the agreement Wednesday, the Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based company said the settlement resolves all outstanding tax disputes with the IRS, covering the years 1993 through 2006. Merck had faced potential taxes, interest and penalties totaling as much as $3.8 billion, but the agreement apparently reduced that amount.

Neither Merck nor the IRS would discuss the reduction.

zyprexaNEW YORK - February 13 - A U.S. District Court judge today refused Eli Lilly's request to ban a number of websites from publishing leaked documents relating to Zyprexa, Eli Lilly's top-selling drug. Although the judge rejected the First Amendment arguments made by a variety of individuals eager to publish the documents, the court concluded that "it is unlikely that the court can now effectively enforce an injunction against the Internet in its various manifestations, and it would constitute a dubious manifestation of public policy were it to attempt to do so."

The order is a victory for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which represents an anonymous individual who was previously barred by the court's earlier orders from posting links to the Zyprexa documents on the zyprexa.pbwiki.com wiki.

The Marketplace Can't Give Us the Drug Safety Data We Need

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drug safetyby Jerry Avorn, MD

It has become fashionable to argue that if we just let the marketplace do its thing in healthcare, quality will rise, costs will plummet, and our patients -- I mean our customers -- will prosper. But this is a bad way to organize medical care delivery, and it's an even worse way to generate information about the medications we use.

The Food and Drug Administration does not test drugs itself, instead relying on manufacturers to design and conduct the clinical trials that determine whether their products are approved or not. The companies even pay the salaries of the FDA employees who make those approval decisions. The FDA has hardly any resources to conduct its own postmarketing safety studies of drugs. Instead, it asks the manufacturers to do them -- and most of the studies it requests are not done.[1,2]

Boots to sell Viagra without prescription

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viagraBritish pharmacy chain Boots will begin a trial program on Valentine's Day to offer men Viagra without a prescription.

The initial pilot program will be offered in three of the chain's stores in Manchester and is expected to last six months, the company said Sunday,

Boots then will consider whether to expand it to other pharmacies. The chain has about 1,500 stores across Britain.

Accidental drug-poisoning deaths on the rise

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drugsUnintentional deaths due to drug poisoning -- primarily with prescription drugs -- increased by 68 percent between 1999 and 2004, and is second only to motor vehicle crashes as a cause of death from unintentional injury in the US, investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Dr. L Paulozzi and Dr. J. Annest, both with the CDC in Atlanta, summarize the most current data from the National Vital Statistics System regarding accidental poisoning deaths in the CDC's publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The annual poisoning-death rate increased from 4.4 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 7.1 per 100,000 in 2004.

Of all sex, racial, and ethnic groups, the greatest increase was among non-Hispanic white females. The age group most affected was persons aged 15 to 24 years.

Fewer side-effects from new arthritis drug

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arcoxia etoricoxibA new arthritis drug causes fewer stomach disorders and complications than older painkillers, researchers said on Friday.

They analysed the results of three clinical trials to assess the safety of Merck & Co's drug etoricoxib - sold under the name Arcoxia - as compared with diclofenac.

Etoricoxib is a COX-2 inhibitor while diclofenac belongs to a class of therapies known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, which includes aspirin and ibuprofen.

Budget cuts force cancer trial eliminations

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NCIWith budget cuts looming at the National Cancer Institute, a publicly funded cancer cooperative has begun to shut down clinical trials and stop some research programs on a variety of cancers. Among the hardest hit areas, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, will be rare cancers like sarcoma and head and neck cancers.

The cooperative said that it was eliminating 3,000 spots in clinical trials this year and some groups were shuttering entire trials. The groups were asked to explore ways to cut operations due to flat funding from the federal government, which has been tightening the rein on research funds as it tries to ratchet down the federal deficit. The NCI's proposed budget includes a $9 million reduction in funds--which amounts to a .2 percent slice out of its current budget--so more research cuts are anticipated.

- read the article from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)

source FierceBiotech 

FDAScientists who have worked at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and criticized agency decisions are now helping Congress fashion legislation to tighten product- safety rules.

The scientists include David Ross, who said in an interview that FDA supervisors forced him to retract a recommendation that the antibiotic Ketek, made by Sanofi-Aventis SA, was probably too dangerous to be used for treating two common respiratory infections. The drug was approved in 2004 and had $148 million in sales in 2005.

Ross is one of four current or former employees of the FDA who are working with Congress on bills intended to create more stringent drug safety rules. One change being proposed would create a new office to monitor the safety record of drugs after they're on the market. Next week, several of the critics will state their concerns at a congressional hearing into the FDA.

Promising Infertility Drug Falls Short

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metformin(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A drug researchers hoped would boost birth rates among women with one of the most common causes of infertility fell short in a new study.

Metformin (Glucophage), which is used to treat diabetes, shown promise in earlier research involving women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) because it increased the frequency of ovulation. In the new study, however, increased ovulation did not lead to increased births.

In fact, women taking metformin had the lowest birth rates in the study, which compared the drug to the standard drug used to treat infertility in PCOS, clomiphene (Clomid). About a quarter of the women taking clomiphene ended up giving birth, compared to about 7 percent of those taking metformin. Combining the two treatments did not lead to better results, with about a quarter of women again having children.

Heart surgery drug's safety questioned

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aprotinin (trasylol)CHICAGO - A drug widely used to prevent excessive bleeding during heart surgery appears to raise the risk of dying in the five years afterward by nearly 50 percent, an international study found.

The researchers said replacing the drug -- aprotinin, sold by Bayer AG under the brand name Trasylol -- with other, cheaper medications for a year would prevent 10,000 deaths worldwide over the next five years.

The findings were more bad news for Trasylol: The same scientists found the drug raised the risk of kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes in a study published last year. Most of the deaths in the new study were related to those problems.

Bush Budget: Cut Medicare and Medicaid Growth Rate

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FDAMONDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- President Bush's proposed $2.9 trillion federal budget, unveiled Monday, calls for health care spending cuts, including a major five-year reduction in Medicare expenditures to slow the program's annual growth rate from 6.5 percent to 5.6 percent.

The proposed total cuts of $78 billion for Medicare and Medicaid -- the federal health insurance programs for the elderly and lower-income Americans, respectively -- are part of Bush's plan to eliminate the federal deficit by 2012. However, Medicare spending would increase nearly $454 billion in 2008, an increase of $28 billion over this year, before the proposed reductions take effect.

The total 2008 budget for federal health care, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would be nearly $700 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, an increase of more than $28 billion over 2007. Medicare makes up 55.4 percent of the HHS budget, while Medicaid accounts for 29 percent.

FDA fees rise in latest budget

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FDA WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration yesterday proposed about a $100 million increase in the Food and Drug Administration's budget for fiscal 2008 that includes the first user fee for the generic drug industry as well a big boost in fees paid by brand-name pharmaceutical companies.

The FDA said the budget increase will be devoted to improving the screening and safety of new drugs; stepped-up oversight of medical devices; strengthening of food safety in light of recent food- borne outbreaks; and more timely reviews and approvals of lower-cost generic drugs.

The President's blueprint calls for $2.1 billion in overall FDA spending during fiscal 2008, up from a projected $2 billion for the current fiscal year.

geneed incGeneEd, Inc., a leading provider of Continuing Medical Education (CME) accredited online learning for the life-science and healthcare professions, announced today the release of a Drug Safety: Adverse Event Reporting course.

The course discusses the reasons and mechanisms for adverse event collection during and following clinical studies. Key concepts and roles are defined and current and legacy terminologies used to report adverse events (AEs) in clinical trials are discussed. In addition, the reporting responsibilities of the sponsor and investigator are explored on both a national and global scale.

Pfizer loses Viagra brand battle

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viagra Pfizer has lost a Beijing court case over the rights to a popular Chinese translation of its drug Viagra.

A court ruled Pfizer can no longer use the name Wei Ge, or mighty brother, to market Viagra as China's Guangzhou Welman had registered the brand.

While Pfizer markets the anti-impotence pill as Wan Ai Ke in China, it is commonly called Wei Ge by the public.

Who Can Best Advise Medical Journals?

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medical journalAll leading medical journals use independent experts, known as 'peer reviewers,' to decide whether research submitted to the journals is of good quality and worthy of publication. Journal editors know that some people are better at the job of peer-reviewing than others but it is hard to predict who will make a good reviewer.

n a recent survey, experienced reviewers were asked about training they had received in peer review and about other aspects of their background. The results, published in the latest issue of PLoS Medicine, show there are no easily identifiable types of formal training and experience that predict reviewer performance. The implications of these findings are discussed by the PLoS Medicine editors in an editorial to be published in the same issue.

source - Medical News Today