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Weekly Drug News Round-Up: June 29, 2016

Epclusa: First Approval For All Major Forms of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus

Epclusa is Gilead’s third sofosbuvir-based regimen and is given once-daily Read More...

This week, the FDA gave the go-ahead to Epclusa (sofosbuvir and velpatasvir), a nucleotide analog polymerase inhibitor and pan-genotypic NS5A inhibitor fixed-dose combination for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in adults. Epclusa is used for HCV genotypes 1 through 6, with or without cirrhosis. In studies, 95 to 99 percent of Epclusa-treated patients without cirrhosis or with mild cirrhosis had no virus detected in the blood 12 weeks after finishing the 12-week regimen. In patients with moderate to severe cirrhosis, some of whom required ribavirin, 94 percent were cleared of the virus 12 weeks after finishing treatment. The most common side effects of Epclusa include headache and tiredness.

CDC: FluMist Nasal Vaccine is Ineffective

Data suggests FluMist accounted for about one-third of all flu vaccines given to children Read More...

Maybe you’ve come to rely on the FluMist nasal vaccine for shot-free influenza protection for you or your family. This past week, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel of experts recommended that FluMist not be used in the U.S. 2016-17 influenza season due to ineffectiveness. The traditional flu shot is effective, however, and recommended for everyone aged 6 months and older. The decision comes as a surprise for providers and consumers alike: in 2014, FluMist was recommended over needle-based flu vaccines for children. Introducing a new fourth flu strain to the vaccine (FluMist Quadrivalent) is theorized to have lowered its effectiveness.

Smoking and Certain Breast Cancer Treatments Don't Mix

It is not clear why smoking lowers the effectiveness of these drugs Read More...

Although the findings need confirmation, a study this week published in the British Journal of Cancer suggests that smoking may weaken the effectiveness of a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase inhibitors, which include Femara (letrozole), Arimidex (anastrozole), and Aromasin (exemestane), are mainly used in the treatment of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. In the study, breast cancer patients who were smokers and taking aromatase inhibitors had a three times greater risk of their cancer returning than nonsmokers. Although more research is needed, alternative agents not affected by smoking may be the better choice in women who do smoke.

Friends and Family, Take Action: Naloxone Save Lives

The antidote needs to be given by someone else, so friends and family of opioid users should learn about it Read More...

No doubt you’ve heard the ongoing news about prescription painkiller overdoses, especially in the wake of pop star Prince’s overdose death due to fentanyl. A study published this week notes many of these deaths could be averted using naloxone, an antidote that blocks the effects of opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin, and even fentanyl. Naloxone (Evzio, Narcan Nasal) will help a person who is overdosing to be able to breathe again and wake up. Researchers found those that received naloxone prescriptions had 47 percent fewer emergency room (ER) visits over the next six months. Overall, the findings suggest that naloxone prescriptions for 30 patients would translate to one averted ER visit.

Some New Cancer Drugs Suspected of Causing Arthritis-Like Side Effects

Many newer cancer immunotherapies are major advances in treatment but can be linked with side effects Read More...

A report released this week suggests some new cancer drugs are leading to immune-related side effects. According to researchers, immune checkpoint inhibitors like ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo) caused 1.3 percent of patients at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center to develop new-onset arthritis or autoimmune disorders like dry eyes and mouth. However, some experts aren’t surprised by the side effects and say the actual percent of patients may be even higher. The report does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but is intended to raise awareness and recognition of these possible side effects with the newer cancer treatments.