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Weekly Drug News Round-Up: February 22, 2017

Suicide Warnings Linked to FDA Approval of Siliq for Psoriasis

Psoriasis most often begins in younger people between the ages of 15 and 35 Read More...

Plaque psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disorder that leads to unsightly, red, and flaky patches of skin. This past week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Siliq (brodalumab) injection, an anti-interleukin-17-receptor monoclonal antibody from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, to treat adults with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. In three randomized, placebo-controlled studies with 4,373 patients, more Siliq-treated patients had clear or almost clear skin compared to placebo-treated patients. Suicidal ideation and behavior, including completed suicides, occurred in patients treated with Siliq during trials, but a causal association has not been determined. Due to this possible risk, a restricted access program is in place that includes a Boxed Warning, the Siliq REMS Program, and a Medication Guide.

Heart Risks Significantly Increased Using Testosterone for Low-T: Study

Testosterone therapy use has gone from from 1.3 million patients in 2009 to 2.3 million in 2013 Read More...

The Testosterone Trials are a set of seven overlapping federally funded studies from 12 U.S. sites. The aim is to outline health risks, benefits and uses of testosterone therapy in men with low testosterone levels (“low-T”). The Trials, partly published Feb. 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest the best use of testosterone is for treatment of decreased sexual function in men with "low T". Testosterone treatment can also boost bone density and reduce anemia in older men. However, a significantly greater increase in arterial plaque was seen, as well as risks for heart attack, stroke and heart disease compared to men not taking the hormone.

Support for Vaccines Reaching Across Party Lines in Congress

Already this year, states have reported outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough Read More...

Senate and House Congressional leaders from both parties advocated for the safety and effectiveness of FDA-approved vaccines this week. Statements were made after some push was seen for the “anti-vaxxer” movement in the new Trump administration. Together, members stated that the science was clear, that FDA-licensed vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, and that these vaccines have saved lives both for those who receive them as well as the larger community. But vaccine skeptics have led to a rise in unvaccinated children in the US, leading to weakened "herd immunity" among populations and outbreaks of disease.

Multiple Sclerosis Patients May Benefit From Stem Cell Transplants

More than 2 million people in the world suffer from MS, in which the body attacks the central nervous system Read More...

Medications can slow the progression of MS and help patients manage symptoms, but there's no cure. According to researchers, stem cell transplantation can be considered a viable option for select patients showing advanced multiple sclerosis (MS) who have not responded to approved MS treatments. However, the patient’s immune system must be deactivated before transplant, which can increase the risk of death. In fact, nearly 3 percent of study patients died shortly after receiving the transplant for this non-fatal medical condition. However, 46 percent of the patients experienced progression-free survival at five years after transplant. Appropriate patient selection is key, according to clinicians.

Is There Research to Back-Up “Off-Label” Use of Antidepressants?

The study evaluated 100,000 antidepressant prescriptions issued in Quebec, Canada, between 2003 and 2015 Read More...

A new Canadian study published in BMJ this week found that almost one-third of antidepressants are prescribed for pain, insomnia, migraine or other unapproved uses. However, only 16 percent of those off-label prescriptions were found to be supported by strong research. According to the study, trazodone was the most common off-label use for antidepressants, often for sleep. However, more common antidepressants like the SSRIs (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which include drugs such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), were less likely to be used off-label. On the flip side expert clinicians note that not all off-label prescribing is inappropriate and should not be broadly painted in a negative light. Learn more about "off-label" prescribing here.