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Drug News

Experimental drug lowers blood sugar in diabetics

Diabetes • • Drug NewsJun 10 08

A mid-stage clinical trial of the experimental drug Qnexa showed that it lowered blood sugar and led to weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes, drug developer Vivus Inc said Tuesday.

In the 28-week trial involving 206 subjects, the patients on Qnexa achieved a 1.2 percent reduction in hemoglobin A1c—a key measure of blood sugar—compared with a drop of just 0.6 percent for those treated with placebo.

Participants treated with Qnexa, which is also being developed for obesity, lost 8 percent of their starting body weight, compared with weight loss of 1.2 percent for the placebo group, Vivus said.

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Higher co-payments reduce use of antidepressants

Drug News • • Public HealthJun 06 08

As they struggle to contain skyrocketing medication costs, health plans across the U.S. have responded by implementing multi-tiered formularies requiring higher copayments for ‘non-preferred’ medications. New research from Brandeis University published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics suggests that the prevalent multi-tiered formulary system does impact how patients fill anti-depressant prescriptions, even though antidepressants have certain characteristics that can make it difficult for patients to switch medications.

The study evaluated claims and eligibility files for a large nonprofit managed care organization that started introducing its three-tier formulary in 2000. The sample included 109,686 individuals. The study included a comparison group in the same health plan, consisting of members who did not yet have a three-tier formulary. Under the new formulary, certain brand drugs were classified as ‘non-preferred’ and started costing the patient $25 per prescription instead of $10.

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Synthetic molecules hold promise for new family of anti-cancer drugs

Cancer • • Drug NewsJun 04 08

Jerusalem, June 4, 2008—Synthetic molecules designed by two Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have succeeded in reducing and even eliminating the growth of human malignant tissues in mice, while having no toxic effects on normal tissue.

For their work in developing these harbingers of a possible new generation of anti-cancer drugs, Dr. Arie Dagan and Prof. Shimon Gatt of the Department of Biochemistry of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School were among those receiving the Kaye Award for Innovation today during the 71st meeting of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Board of Governors.

The molecules developed by Dagan and Gatt affected the metabolism of various sphingolipids and consequently those of cancer cells. Sphingolipids are a family of complex lipid molecules that are involved in signaling pathways that mediate cell growth, differentiation and death.

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Search for an HIV Vaccine Must Go On Says Expert in Light of Recent High-profile Merck Failure

AIDS/HIV • • Drug NewsApr 30 08

According to a recent article published in The Independent (UK), most scientists involved in AIDS research believe that a vaccine against HIV is further away than ever with some admitting that effective immunization against the virus may never occur, according to an unprecedented poll conducted by the paper.

The article describes a mood of deep pessimism that has spread among the international community of AIDS scientists after the trial failure of a promising Merck vaccine last year. This was only the latest in a series of setbacks in the twenty-five-year struggle to develop an HIV vaccine. The article authors, Steve Connor and Chris Green, cite one of the major conclusions to emerge from the failed clinical trial of Merck’s promising prototype vaccine, is that an important animal model used for more than a decade in preclinical HIV testing on monkeys does not in fact work.

“The passion for an HIV vaccine resonates strongly among small pharma, whose often-overlooked approaches may now take center stage as the search for a viable HIV vaccine continues,” says Sylvain Fleury, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Director at Mymetics, a vaccine company focused on malaria and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS).

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When one antidepressant doesn’t work, another may

Depression • • Drug News • • Psychiatry / PsychologyApr 24 08

For people suffering from depression that doesn’t respond to treatment with one type of antidepressant, switching to a different type may be the best treatment, according to a new report.

Relatively new antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft, for example, are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. In recent clinical trials, only about a third of depressed patients achieved remission with SSRI treatment, the authors explain, but there is little consensus among psychiatrists about the best treatment for patients when an SSRI doesn’t work.

To look into this, Dr. George I. Papakostas from Harvard Medical School, Boston, and his associates conducted an analysis of four clinical trials that compared a switch to a second SSRI versus a non-SSRI antidepressant for SSRI-resistant major depression.

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Micardis cuts heart risks in large study

Drug News • • HeartMar 31 08

A six-year study pitting the newer blood pressure drug Micardis with the ACE inhibitor ramipril found Micardis was just as effective in preventing serious heart problems as the older drug, but with fewer side effects, international researchers said on Monday.

The Boehringer Ingelheim drug Micardis, or telmisartan, is typically used in patients with heart failure, but the study found it worked as well as the ACE inhibitor ramipril, marketed in the United States as Altace by King Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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Few options for stroke victims; research continues

Drug News • • StrokeMar 20 08

More than a decade after the launch of clot-buster Activase, the Genentech Inc drug remains the only option for stroke victims despite high-profile research aimed at improving the odds of recovery from the No. 3 cause of death in the United States.

Since most stroke patients are unable to quickly recognize their symptoms, just a small percentage end up being treated with Activase, an intravenous drug approved for use only within three hours of the onset of a stroke.

Drug companies have sought to widen that treatment window and develop medicines that would protect the brain from damage caused by a stroke, but the field is littered with failures.

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Promising cancer drug may endanger child’s bones

Cancer • • Drug NewsMar 11 08

A compound that looked promising for treating a brain tumor found mostly in children may damage growing bone—possibly making it too dangerous to use in young patients, researchers reported on Monday.

The drug fully eradicated medulloblastoma tumors in mice in 2004. But further testing showed it caused permanent bone damage in immature mice, Tom Curran of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues found.

Writing in the journal Cancer Cell, they said the drug, known by its experimental name HhAntag, will need to be developed with caution.

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Women are Treated Less Frequently than Men with Statins, Aspirin and Beta- Blockers

Drug News • • Gender: Female • • HeartMar 04 08

Women and men experience a similar prevalence of adverse drug reactions in the treatment of coronary artery disease; however, women are significantly less likely than their male counterparts to be treated with statins, aspirin, and beta-blockers according to a new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center. The study is published in the March issue of the journal Gender Medicine.

“Developments in disease recognition and novel treatment strategies have led to a significant decline in overall cardiovascular death rate among men, but these dramatic improvements have not been observed in women,” said Dr. Jonathan R. Enriquez, lead author of the study and resident internal medicine physician at Rush. “This may be related to underutilization of medical therapies such as aspirin, ß-blockers, ACE inhibitors or statins.”

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Daily asthma meds keep lungs in play during exercise

Allergies • • Drug News • • ImmunologyFeb 29 08

Taking asthma medication daily can help prevent the tightening of the airways or “bronchoconstriction” with physical exertion that affects many children with asthma, a new study from Poland confirms.

Dr. Iwona Stelmach of N. Copernicus Hospital in Lodz and colleagues found that of the four treatments they evaluated, the two including the anti-asthma drug montelukast (Singulair) were the most effective, but all were better than placebo.

“Control of childhood asthma with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction can be obtained by using regular controller treatment,” Stelmach and colleagues write in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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Joslin study finds restricting insulin doses increases mortality risk

Diabetes • • Drug NewsFeb 27 08

A new study led by researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center has found that women with type 1 diabetes who reported taking less insulin than prescribed had a three-fold increased risk of death and higher rates of disease complications than those who did not skip needed insulin shots. The new research appears in the March issue of Diabetes Care.

The study highlights the dangers of insulin restriction and concludes that mortality associated with the behavior appears to occur in the context of eating disorder symptoms often exhibited in women with diabetes – sometimes referred to as “diabulimia” in the media.

This 11-year follow-up study of 234 women is one of the first to show an increased risk of mortality as well as higher rates of kidney and foot problems in those who restricted their insulin intake. In addition, the average age of death was younger for those involved in insulin restriction: 45 years of age as compared to 58 years for those who did not restrict.

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Birth control pills may lower colon cancer risk

Women who have used birth control pills seem to have a slightly decreased risk of colon cancer as they age, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that among nearly 90,000 women ages 40 to 59, those who had ever used oral contraceptives were 17 percent less likely to develop colon cancer over the next 16 years.

The findings, which appear in the International Journal of Cancer, are in line with evidence suggesting that estrogen plays a role in colon cancer risk.

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Diabetes, Cholesterol, Anti-obesity Drugs Top Spending

Diabetes • • Drug News • • ObesityFeb 14 08

U.S. adult consumers spent nearly $36 billion for prescription drugs to lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, or help with other metabolic problems in 2005, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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Aspirin reduces death rate in heart patients

Drug News • • HeartJan 29 08

In people with stable heart disease, low-dose aspirin reduces the occurrence of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from all causes, according to a new analysis.

Although aspirin also increases the risk of bleeding, the benefits outweigh the risk, lead author Dr. Jeffrey S. Berger, of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, North Carolina, and his associates conclude in their report in the American Journal of Medicine.

Unlike previous analyses that combined various populations with treated with different blood-thinning drugs and dosages, the researchers point out, “our study focuses on low-dose aspirin in a population with stable cardiovascular disease.”

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Anemia Drugs and Stimulants Ease Exhaustion in Some Cancer Patients

Cancer • • Drug NewsJan 23 08

Drugs that promote red blood cell production and stimulants typically used to treat attention deficit disorder relieve excessive tiredness in cancer patients, according to a new systematic review of studies.

Undergoing cancer treatment can affect physical, mental and emotional well-being, and a variety of contributing factors — such as treatment regimens, psychological distress and the effects of the cancer itself — can cause cancer-related fatigue.

“Fatigue is difficult to treat as it usually has a number of contributory causes — many of which are not fully understood,” said lead investigator Dr. Oliver Minton. Patients and professionals alike may consider tiredness as an unavoidable part of cancer treatment, Minton said, rather than a problem to recognize and address.

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