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Future Uncertain for U.S. Drug Makers

by Toby Roberts on February 5, 2010

With the health care debate on hold for the time being drug makers are facing the uncertainty of the impact that the lack of reform will have on their collective futures.  As part of the expectation that a health care bill would pass, pharmaceutical companies agreed to provide the government $80 billion in rebates over a period of ten years to help fund reform. With the legislation stalled the future of those rebates remains unclear.

In addition, drug companies face the possibility that with the new budget the government may now attempt to collect taxes on patents and overseas assets. The pharmaceutical companies would be hard hit with such a tax at the same time they are facing uncertainty in medication sales. [click to continue…]


Medication Delivery Systems Get Revamped

by Toby Roberts on February 3, 2010

Omnicell of California has made a recent debut of its new Mobile Medication System to aid hospitals in patient medication delivery. Traditional methods require nurses to transport medications from locket cabinets on the floor to each patient’s room. The new system will keep medications in a mobile cart in locked cabinets to streamline the handling process.

The cart will move from room to room and as the nurse scans the patient’s wrist band the designated drawer that contains the appropriate medication will open. The goal is to reduce the possibility of mistakes or delays in medication handling that sometimes occur when nurses carry meds in pockets or in cups from one room to the next.

In addition to the scanning and delivery systems, the cart also employs software designed to help pharmacists reconcile dispensed medications. The system is currently being tested in two hospitals and should be available late in the summer.


Pharmacy Chains Receiving Plentiful H1N1

by Toby Roberts on December 18, 2009

Reports this week show that doses of the H1N1 are in high supply as pharmacy chains across the country have received increased stock.  Although recent reports are that the flu strain is decreasing, officials are still urging everyone to get the vaccine and suggesting that pharmacists continue to discuss it with patients to avoid future large outbreaks.

States that have had restrictions on the vaccine are now lifting them to make it available to everyone. Some had been prioritizing health care workers, pregnant women, infants, and others with high risk of complications. Now those prioritizations are being lifted and all of the general population is being encouraged to get vaccinated.

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that traditionally interest in the seasonal flu vaccine drops around the holidays even though the flu itself tends to surge in January and February.  Officials hope that a surge in H1N1 can be prevented by a renewed push to vaccinate everyone during the holiday season.


A large scale investigation of Medicare fraud by pharmaceutical companies has led to a settlement with Omnicare and ongoing investigations of Johnson & Johnson and other major drug makers. The focus of the investigation is on alleged kickbacks to companies that dispense drugs in exchange for preferential treatment in the writing and filling prescriptions.

The Omnicare settlement includes repayment of $98 million plus interest to federal and some state government Medicare programs. The complaint alleged that Omnicare paid millions of dollars to two nursing home chains in exchange for the sale of several of their generic drugs. The company has admitted no wrong doing as part of the settlement but has agreed to implement new training and company policies to clarify future practices. IVAX, part of Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, has agreed to pay 14 million plus interest as a part of their settlement. The investigation of Johnson & Johnson is ongoing. [click to continue…]


Feds hand down new OTC label regs

by Toby Roberts on May 22, 2009

Though the GAO recently decided not to create a third-drug class for OTC medications, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a ruling that OTC pain medications made from acetaminophen and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents) need to have a new warning label regarding potential overdose complications.

Although consumers view acetaminophen as relatively harmless, accidental overdose is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States. It also accounts for over 10,000 emergency room hospitalizations and 100 deaths per year.

The most common cause of accidental overdose is consumers who are taking multiple medications that contain acetaminophen. Many consumers are unaware of the variety of pain relievers (both prescription and OTC), and cough and cold medications that contain acetaminophen. When a patient is only taking one type of medication it is easy to track the “do not exceed” amount but when multiple medications are used (as is common in cold/flu season) the safety thresholds can be exceeded in much less than a day. Patients who are taking both prescription and OTC medications are at a higher risk since most fail to consult their pharmacist before purchasing OTCs for minor ailments such as a headache or cold.

The new label is designed to warn consumers about the potential for liver damage from acetaminophen and stomach bleeds from the NSAIDs that may occur even if the recommended dosage is not exceeded. The ruling requires a bold label identifying the risks for consumers and clearly identifying the main ingredient in the medication. The label may appear on the bottle itself or on the outer packaging, depending on how the medication is shelved. The labels are required to be changed by April 2010.


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