Archive by category | Drugs, drugs and more drugs

Pfizer braces for big hit after generic versions of Lipitor hit the market

Pfizer braces for big hit after generic versions of Lipitor hit the market

It’s the end of an era for the pharmaceutical industry. Tomorrow, the most popular prescription drug in the world, Lipitor, is due to go off-patent in the US. And no product looks set to equal or surpass the cholesterol-lowering agent’s peak annual sales of $13.7 billion, which it achieved back in 2006. Lipitor, known generically as atorvastatin, is used by nearly 9 million Americans and has made Pfizer more than $130 billion globally since its 1997 launch. As the drug stands poised at the edge of a proverbial patent cliff, analysts at EvaluatePharma forecast that the loss of the megablockbuster  … Read more

Common autism pathway opens the door for new drug treatments

Common autism pathway opens the door for new drug treatments

The definition of autism has undergone constant evolution — as any architect of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders can attest — and now refers to a broad spectrum of various developmental and social disorders with many distinct genetic causes. This understanding of the disorder obviously complicates the development of therapeutics: if every person with autism is different, identifying drugs to treat everyone seems like a Sisyphean task. But research published today suggests that the disorder’s complexity may not beckon the end of drug development.  Read more

New drug pathways under investigation for ALS

New drug pathways under investigation for ALS

A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is considered a life sentence. Most people with the neurodegenerative disease, which attacks the neurons responsible for motor control, only survive two or three years after their diagnosis — and 5,000 such diagnoses are made each year in the US alone. Despite the need, however, there is only a single drug on the market that targets ALS: Rilutek (riluzole), made by France’s Sanofi. But this agent only prolongs life by two or three months on average.  Read more

Breast cancer approval revoked for problem-plagued Avastin

The US Food and Drug Administration announced today that it would be revoking the agency’s approval of Avastin (bevacizumab) for first-line treatment of metastatic breast cancer. The FDA concluded from several studies and a public hearing held in June that the Genentech drug — a monoclonal antibody that inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor — was not safe or effective for women with breast cancer.  Read more

Antimalarial armament remains strong, despite lingering concerns over drug resistance

Antimalarial armament remains strong, despite lingering concerns over drug resistance

Earlier this month, Indian regulatory authorities granted conditional approval to the country’s first homegrown drug, a malaria-fighting pill that combines a new synthetic form of artemisinin with an older antimalarial compound called piperaquine. If the decision is ratified by the country’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, the new drug — developed from start to finish by the New Delhi-based pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy Laboratories — will add to doctors’ armament of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the World Health Organization’s medicine of choice for tackling the parasite. Yet with so many options, the question is: which ACT is actually best at treating the infectious disease?  Read more

Small resveratrol trial shows metabolic benefits, and might give hope to drug developers

Small resveratrol trial shows metabolic benefits, and might give hope to drug developers

A small study has lent much hoped-for support to the idea that resveratrol — a natural organic compound found in red wine — can positively affect the metabolism of obese individuals through the activation of the sirtuin-1 gene. These findings give new hope to pharmaceutical drug developers that have been stymied by years of debate about the compound’s efficacy and how exactly it works. Last year, GlaxoSmithKline-owned Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, abandoned its resveratrol-based drug SRT501 designed to treat multiple myeloma, after kidney failure was seen in patients involved in their phase 2 trial of the compound. Other  … Read more

Drug shortages may derail careers along with trials

Drug shortages may derail careers along with trials

PhD in peril: Kristen Tamburro. In virologist Dirk Dittmer’s lab at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, there are two silent rooms. One contains a hulking, quarter million-dollar robot, custom-made to analyze blood samples; the other contains a small protein-synthesis machine. Most days, scientists don’t enter either room. The machines sit there gathering dust while Dittmer’s team waits on a massive clinical trial in African patients with AIDS to begin — a trial that has been delayed indefinitely due to drug shortages. The issue of drug shortages has posed a growing problem for doctors and patients in the US. In  … Read more

Abbott splits into two companies to lessen reliance on Humira

Abbott splits into two companies to lessen reliance on Humira

Abbott Laboratories announced plans this morning to split into two companies. The separation is not a bitter one, however; it’s simply a smart way to give the Chicago–based company — the eighth-largest drugmaker in the world, with global sales of around $40 billion in 2010 — a valuation bump in the eyes of investors, analysts say. The two new companies will have distinct product profiles. The first, as yet unnamed, will be a research-based pharmaceuticals company with Abbott’s trademark brand-name medicines, including the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira (adalimumab), prostate cancer drug Lupron (leuprolide) and Synagis (palivizumab), a monoclonal antibody targeted  … Read more

Mysteries about drug metabolism in the obese weigh on doctors

By Alisa Opar The surgery was a success, but a question loomed after the procedure: given that the patient was obese, what was the right antibiotic dose? “The thought was, well, she’s twice as big as a normal person, so we’ll give her twice the dose,” says Aaron Cook, a clinical pharmacy specialist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “For that drug, levofloxacin, there’s just no information to go on, no dosage recommendation for obese patients.” The patient fared well, but such conundrums are becoming increasingly common as obesity rates rise around the globe. Just a month ago, researchers  … Read more

NEWS FEATURE: Networking for new drugs

NEWS FEATURE: Networking for new drugs

By Claire Ainsworth At first sight, it seems like a rather perplexing experiment. In several hospitals across France, some 60 patients are taking part in a clinical trial to test a combination of three drugs. The first striking thing about this trial is that the drugs have already been approved for human use. The second is that each drug is being given at doses between 10 and 100 times weaker than those usually prescribed. Finally, and most surprising of all, none of the patients suffer from the conditions for which these drugs were originally developed. They all have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease  … Read more