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The Weekly Pharma News Update

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Another week, another Pharma News Update from Health and Life.

#1 Glaxo Strikes Back At Critics – But It’s a Swing and a Miss

The biggest health news item over the last two weeks is what is shaping up to be yet another major health disaster.  Avandia, a popular diabetes medication, may have caused many heart attacks.

A medication in the same class, Rezulin, was removed from the market in 2000 due to liver problems.

Last week, Glaxo, its maker, tried to defend itself, but this piece argues it was a swing and a miss.

Seven of [the nine studies sponsored by GSK] showed either that there were some increased side effects in patients taking Avandia, including heart attacks, or that Avandia wasn’t as effective as other treatments.

#2 Back-and-forth on Seroquel as trial begins

Seroquel, an extremely popular antipsychotic, likely causes metabolic issues that can lead to diabetes.  It’s just something that – unfortunately – the antipyschotics tend to do.

This major lawsuit, the first one to put Seroquel on trial, alleges that AstraZeneca suppressed that risk in favor of aggressive marketing.

AstraZeneca’s lawyers said that Seroquel doesn’t cause diabetes, blaming plaintiff Ted Baker’s disease on his diet and lifestyle.

#3 The Most Expensive Drugs Today

Forbes reports on the most expensive drugs, with Soliris, costing $409,500 a year, coming in first.  Wowza.

But remember, some of these medications are for sickness that are very, very rare.  Some of which are so rare that there are only several thousand people with them in the world.

#4 These Drugs Generated Most Adverse Event Reports

PharmaLot, an excellent source of industry news, provides this analysis of which medications caused the most adverse event reports in the third quarter 2009.  Not surprisingly, Avandia is on there.

#5 An Untouched Market Waiting to Be Captured

30% of prescriptions for diabetes medications like Januvia or Actos are not filled.

28% of prescriptions for cholesterol medications like Lipitor or Crestor are not filled.

This represents a huge opportunity for Pharma companies.  Orders for their product are being made just not filled.  Marketing that increases the rate of prescriptions that are actually filled could be an easy way to make more money.  (And presumably improve the health of those taking them.)

#6 Transplanting Future Revenue

Belatacept is an exciting and promising new medication for preventing organ transplant rejections.  There has not been much innovation in this field for a while, and it is fairly important.  When you get a kidney transplant, you’d prefer that your body not try to kill the new kidney.

That said, documents released on Monday raise concerns about Belatacept’s potential to lead to complications like progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

#7 Scientists Find Possible Cause of Tamoixfen Resistance

Who can forget that magical moment when the Human Genome Project finished sequencing the first human genome?  The only problem is that since then treatments based off genetics have been somewhat slow to come.

It seems that resistance to Tamoxifen, a very common treatment for breast cancer, may be predicted by the presence of a gene.  Breast cancer is extremely common and any treatment improvements can make a major difference.

#8 Extended-Release Mirapex Approved for Parkinson’s Disease

Mirapex ER, an extended release form of Pramipexole, was approved last week as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.

#9 Hints of Cancer Risk from Diabetes Drug Victoza

Will Victoza, a new diabetes medication, succeed?  Despite having some advantages, there has been a lot of complications that are getting in its way.  And it is likely only a matter of time before a once weekly form of Byetta, its competitor, is approved.

Some animal models have hinted at carcinogenicity in Victoza.  Such models aren’t necessarily examples of good science but this certainly won’t help Victoza in its extremely competitive market.

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