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Weekly Drug News Round Up - March 26, 2014

Celgene’s Otezla is FDA-Approved For Psoriatic Arthritis

In clinical trials, common side effects included diarrhea, nausea, and headache, but weight loss and depression may be more serious issues, too Read More...

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a form of arthritis that may affect people with psoriasis. Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main signs and symptoms of PsA. Many injectable treatments for this condition, such as the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers Humira (adalimumab) or Enbrel (etanercept), are well-known. However, Otezla (apremilast) is an oral phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE-4) and injection-weary patients may prefer this new dosage form. In clinical trials, Otezla showed improvement in signs and symptoms of PsA, including tender and swollen joints and physical function, compared to placebo. Celgene is also seeking approval of Otezla for psoriasis with an FDA decision expected in September.

Xolair Receives New Indication for Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU)

Women are twice as likely as men to experience CIU and most develop symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40 Read More...

Chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) is diagnosed when hives occur without an identifiable cause, spontaneously present, and re-occur for more than six weeks. Sedating and nonsedating H1-antihistamines have been the treatment of choice for CIU, but research now shows that in some patients CIU may have an autoimmune component. Xolair (omalizumab) is the first biologic medicine to be approved for CIU. In clinical trials, the mean weekly Itch Severity Score (ISS) at week 12 was improved by 47 to 66 percent depending on dose, compared to a 25 percent score improvement with placebo. Xolair is also approved to treat moderate to severe asthma that is caused by allergies.

Link Between Tysabri and Rare Brain Disease Explored

Researchers also found evidence of the JC virus in patients who tested negative for antibodies to it Read More...

Researchers report they may have figured out why patients who take the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) face a high risk of developing a rare, sometimes fatal, brain infection known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). In PML, the JC virus attacks nerve cells and strips off their insulation, leading to severe disability or death. Tysabri appears to trigger the release of JC virus-containing cells from the bone marrow, leading to the brain infection. Three factors may put patients at highest risk for PML: treatment with Tysabri for more than two years; receiving other kinds of immune-suppressing medications; and testing positive for antibodies to the JC virus.

Medical Marijuana: Pill or Spray May Ease Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

In the review, there was not enough evidence to show whether smoking marijuana is helpful in treating MS symptoms Read More...

A new guideline has been released from the American Academy of Neurology on the use of alternative treatments for multiple sclerosis. It was found that medical marijuana pills and sprays might ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but most other alternative therapies do little to lessen the pain and muscle rigidity that often accompanies the disease. The nine experts also found that ginkgo biloba might help with the fatigue of MS and reflexology may ease MS symptoms such as tingling, numbness and other unusual skin sensations. Bee sting therapy and omega-3 fatty acids, however, offer weak evidence supporting their use.

Pain Management Guidelines May Have Fueled Narcotic Overprescribing

In 2000, the Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals, set new standards for pain management and warned against undertreating pain Read More...

The epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse and addiction in the U.S. is well-known. A new study confirms one place where the drugs may come from -- between 2001 and 2010, emergency departments showed a 49 percent increase in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, even though there was only a small increase in the percentage of visits for painful conditions. Experts said the trend is concerning because narcotic painkillers -- which include drugs like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin -- are addicting. The numbers show that in 2010, 31 percent of ER visits involved an opiate prescription -- this was up from about 21 percent in 2001.