Superior efficacy results for Novartis drug

by Admin 6. May 2014 10:40

Novartis has announced results from a pivotal Phase III trial of investigational therapy Signifor® LAR (pasireotide LAR; SOM230) in patients with acromegaly for whom current standard of care provides inadequate disease control. 

The study findings, presented at the 16th European Congress of Endocrinology, showed that patients taking pasireotide long-acting release (LAR) achieved greater disease control when compared to continued treatment with the standard somatostatin analogue therapies, octreotide LAR or lanreotide Autogel*. 

Acromegaly is caused by a benign (non-cancerous) tumour within the pituitary gland that secretes excess growth hormone (GH), leading to elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Biochemical control of the disease, as measured by both GH and IGF-1 levels, is the primary goal of treatment. Other disease management objectives include tumour shrinkage and improvement in clinical signs and symptoms. 

Dr. Monica Gadelha, professor, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and study author, said: "Historically, we have evaluated somatostatin analogues for the treatment of acromegaly by the decrease in either growth hormone or insulin-like growth factor levels. With more sensitive assays and more stringent evaluation criteria, a recent meta-analysis indicates that up to 45% of patients can have either GH or IGF-I still elevated.

"As the health risks associated with acromegaly may persist until both GH and IGF-1 levels are normalized, this study further supports the importance of monitoring for and achieving full biochemical control."

This study evaluated pasireotide LAR 40 mg and 60 mg against continued therapy with octreotide LAR or lanreotide Autogel in patients who did not achieve GH and IGF-1 biochemical control despite receiving the maximum approved doses of these currently available somatostatin analogues (SSAs). In the trial, significantly more patients achieved biochemical control with each dose of pasireotide LAR compared to the octreotide LAR and lanreotide Autogel control arm. 

Alessandro Riva, president Novartis Oncology ad interim and Global Head, Oncology Development and Medical Affairs, said: "These results strengthen our understanding of this rare endocrine disorder and suggest pasireotide LAR may offer benefit for acromegaly patients whose disease is not fully controlled on their current therapy.”


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Drugs | News

Cash injection for Brighton hospital

by Admin 6. May 2014 10:36

£420 million of investment for the Royal Sussex County hospital in Brighton has been approved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Despite the full range of surgical support for major trauma and emergencies that the trust provides, the state of the current buildings on the Royal Sussex County site, which date back to the 19th century and are amongst the oldest in the NHS, is impacting on the quality of overall patient care.

Under the ambitious redevelopment programme the old buildings will be demolished and replaced with new buildings and facilities consistent with higher modern standards. The hospital's 753-bed capacity will expand by 100 beds and the neurosciences and cancer centres will both also be improved as a result of the refurbishment.

The redevelopment is expected to significantly improve the experience that patients receive, by increasing the square footage for accommodation, and also raising the quality of care due to improved patient flows around the hospital.

George Osborne said: “I am delighted that we have been able to green light the investment for the much needed redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County hospital. This is great news for Brighton and the whole local community.

“This investment once again demonstrates our commitment to protect and support the NHS. It is only possible because our long term economic plan has restored control of our public finances.”

The works at the Royal Sussex County hospital site will be fully financed from public funds and as part of the Department of Health's capital investment budget. 

Redevelopment works at the hospital site are expected to start later this year and be completed by 2024. Plans will be finalised over the coming months, with all funding subject to final approvals.

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News | NHS

Polio becomes international health emergency

by Admin 6. May 2014 09:50

The WHO has declared polio an international health emergency after “extraordinary” outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that polio has now become an international health emergency as the number of cases rises, demanding an “international response” to prevent a failure to eradicate “one of the world’s most serious vaccine-preventable diseases.”

In a recent statement, the WHO’s International Health Regulations Committee said: “The international spread of polio to date in 2014 constitutes an ‘extraordinary event’ and a public health risk to other states for which a co-ordinated international response in essential.”

The WHO published a list of countries in which posed an “ongoing risk for new wild polio exportations”, including Somalia, Syria and Pakistan. While polio is only endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, recent attacks on vaccinations camps in Pakistan and mass migration in various places has allowed the virus to spread across borders.  

This is only the second time in the WHO’s history that such a state of emergency has been declared, with the previous announcement coming in response to the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

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General | News

Vaccinate against whooping cough, urges PHE

by Admin 2. May 2014 15:23

Public Health England is urging pregnant women to get vaccinated against the whooping cough as the infection continues to circulate.

Despite infection rates continuing to fall, Public Health England (PHE) is urging pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough to protect their babies from the infection and “avoid further tragic deaths”.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “The increase in vaccine uptake over the last six months is very encouraging, but we need to ensure we vaccinate as many pregnant women as possible to avoid further tragic deaths.”

Whooping cough vaccinations became a high priority following the outbreak in 2012, prompting the Department of Health to introduce a temporary vaccination programme to manage the situation.

While the number of cases has fallen since the outbreak – in 2013 there were 51% fewer cases than during the previous year – levels remain above pre-outbreak figures, with 4,623 confirmed cases last year.

Dr Ramsay confirmed that, “while infection remains at such high levels”, the PHE would continue encouraging women to vaccinate to avoid unnecessary deaths and bring levels back to the pre-outbreak rates.

“We are working with GPs, midwives and other health professionals to ensure that they have the facts at hand to help the women make the decision to vaccinate,” said Dr Ramsay.

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Drugs | News

Yes from EU for new combo diabetes drug

by Admin 2. May 2014 11:23

Janssen has received EU regulatory approval to market a new combination therapy for type-2 diabetes sufferers.

European regulators have granted Janssen’s new combination therapy a stamp of approval, allowing the company to market their fixed-dose therapy within the continent for those with type-2 diabetes.

The new treatment, combining canagliflozin and immediate-release metformin hydrochloride in a single tablet, will be marketed as Vokanamet and has proven its worth in helping type-2 diabetics improve their glycaemic control.

The positive opinion from the EU regulators came following a review of clinical trial data that proved the treatment’s safety and efficacy and also demonstrated the drug could offer value and convenience to sufferers.

Jane Griffiths, chairman of Janssen’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, said: “This approval further reinforces Janssen’s ongoing commitment to provide new therapeutic options that help to address unmet needs in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.”

Canagliflozin, one of the two drugs within the new combination therapy, has been available within the EU independently since it earned approval in November 2012 and is marketed as Invokana.

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Dementia training for all

by Admin 2. May 2014 10:56

All NHS England staff will receive specialist dementia training by 2018 to improve diagnosis rates and support sufferers.

The government has confirmed that dementia training for all staff working across NHS England will be introduced in the next four years to improve treatment and increase early diagnosis of the condition.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter made the training announcement, confirming that all 1.3m NHS workers, from porters to doctors, would receive specialist dementia training by 2018. This is a focused effort by the government to ensure all those working in the health service can recognise the symptoms and understand the best methods of interacting and supporting dementia sufferers.

There are currently around 800,000 people diagnosed with dementia in the UK, although research suggests that only half of those with dementia are formally diagnosed. Experts have also warned that those with dementia often receive poorer care, with a higher mortality rate and longer periods spent in hospital.

Dr Poulter said: “Specialist consultants to look after older people are crucial, but we also need to equip all healthcare staff with the skills and confidence to support people with dementia and their families.”

Staff will be taught to “spot the early signs, understand how to interact with people with dementia” and “help people find the right care”, explained Dr Poulter.

The announcement was welcomed by the various charities working to support older people, with Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, viewing the NHS training drive as “huge progress and a massive step in the right direction.”

“People with dementia occupy up to a quarter of hospital beds and many may not be able to communicate,” said Hughes. He described the dementia training as “vital” to ensure staff can “meet the complex needs of those with the condition.”

Around 110,000 staff have already received training, with a further 250,000 scheduled for sessions in the next year.

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News | NHS

Pfizer ups the price

by Admin 2. May 2014 09:44

In its continued quest to buy UK firm AstraZeneca, Pfizer has upped the offer price and appealed to the prime minister to ease public concerns.

In further attempts to secure the purchase of AstraZeneca, Pfizer has raised its buying price, offering £50 per share in an attempt to woo the UK firm.

Following AstraZeneca’s rejection of Pfizer’s initial offer on the grounds that it “significantly undervalued” the firm, the US heavy weight has now raised the price, valuing the company at £63bn.

Pfizer has also appealed to prime minister David Cameron over the bid, vowing to base 20% of the combined companies’ R&D workforce in the UK if the purchase proceeds. Pfizer has also promised to retain AstraZeneca’s Macclesfield manufacturing site and continue with the company’s plans to establish a new R&D base in Cambridge.

Ian Read, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer, said: “We believe our proposal is responsive to the views of AstraZeneca shareholders and provides a sound basis on which to arrive at recommendable terms for the combination of our two companies.”

Read also confirmed that, if the company secures ownership of AstraZeneca, Pfizer plans to establish a corporate and tax residence in the UK and a new headquarters in Europe.

The new offer is now being reviewed by the board at AstraZeneca. 

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General | News

World heading for “devastating” post-antibiotic era

by Admin 1. May 2014 10:50

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for urgent action to prevent a massive public health threat caused by resistance to antibiotics.


A report into the real extent of antimicrobial resistance reveals the “devastating” implications of the threat that could affect anyone of any age. Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director general for health security, said: "Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill."

Pneumonia will once again become a deadly disease, gonorrhoea cases will rise, surgery will carry more risks and diarrhoea could become fatal killer, unless action is taken to urgently preserve the effectiveness of current antibiotics and develop new ones. No country is immune to the threat, as drug-resistant bacteria and viruses are spread around the world with ease.

According to the report, seven bacteria responsible for common infections can now pose a threat to life because of antibiotic resistance. For example, Klebsiella pneumoniae bacterium has become drug resistant to the last line of antibiotics. There is also widespread resistance to fluoroquinolones, antibiotics used to treat urinary tract infections caused by E coli.

The report also raises concerns about drug resistant tuberculosis, which is spreading and cannot be treated in some countries due to the cost of the drug combinations needed to treat it. Drug resistant strains of HIV are on the rise, in both Europe and North America. Meanwhile sexually transmitted gonorrhoea is on the increase and is resistant to the last line of antibiotics used to treat it.

Dr Fukuda said: "Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods, and the implications will be devastating."

The report is the first to gather comprehensive data from the WHO on antibiotic resistance, collating information from 114 countries. Some regions presented more comprehensive data than others, however it is clear that drug resistant strains of bacteria and viruses are common and that trying to preserve the efficacy of current antibiotics is an urgent task.

WHO called on countries to unite to discuss what action to take. Dr Carmen Pessoa Da Silva, team leader on antimicrobial resistance at WHO, said: "It is a problem that belongs to the entire planet. This is important. No single country even with the best possible policies in place can address this issue alone. We need all countries to get together and discuss and put in practice possible solutions."

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Drugs | News

Free health checks for Welsh over 50s

by Admin 1. May 2014 10:27

Public Health Wales has launched a new scheme offering free health and wellbeing assessments to the over 50s to boost early diagnosis.

Public Health Wales, in collaboration with NHS Wales Informatics Service, has developed a new service offering free health assessments to the over 50s in a bid to increase the rate of early diagnosis and help older people maintain good health.

The Add to Your Life scheme offers the over 50s confidential, self-assessment health checks that can be completed online or by telephone. By answering questions on their health and wellbeing, patients access a tailored information service that offers tips for improving their health and suggests support services where necessary.

Dr Ruth Hussey, chief medical officer for Wales, said: “As people get older, they are more at risk of developing cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and other conditions. The earlier the risk is detected, the greater the chances of taking action to prevent that risk becoming a reality.”

The free health check service, launched on Monday, can be accessed by tablets, computers and smartphones and is available to all those over the age of 50. The scheme will be underpinned by targeted community support provided by Communities First, Age Cymru and NHS Direct Wales.  

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News | NHS

Janssen and Stop TB Partnership pair up

by Admin 1. May 2014 09:50

Janssen and Stop TB Partnership are to expand access to tuberculosis medicines under the terms of a new agreement.

The public-private partnership will facilitate access to tuberculosis therapies in over 130 low and middle-income countries outside of the US.

The novel collaboration has been agreed with the Stichting International Dispensary Association (IDA), a procurement agent for the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility (GDF), to facilitate access to a new anti-tuberculosis medicine from Janssen.

A number of poorer countries outside of the US will then be able to obtain the medication through a procurement practice established by the GDF and IDA.

The partnership was established by the newly-formed Janssen Global Public Health as part of their efforts to improve public wellbeing.

Dr Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of parent company Johnson and Johnson and worldwide chairman of Janssen, said: "Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is a complex public health problem. We feel we have a responsibility to work together with others in the tuberculosis community in order to tackle this challenge."



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