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Weekly Drug News Round Up - March 5, 2014

Consumer Groups Rally Against Potent Painkiller Zohydro ER

Opponents worry the drug may be prescribed incorrectly, leading to addiction, overdose, and possible drug diversion Read More...

Zohydro ER (hydrocodone) is an acetaminophen-free but potent extended-release opioid prescription painkiller. Dozens of experts and health care agencies are urging that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoke approval of the drug that they consider too dangerous for marketing. More than 40 consumer watchdog groups, addiction treatment groups and others noted that the drug was approved despite significant resistance from the FDA's own advisory committee, which voted 11-2 against allowing Zohydro ER to be sold. But advocates state that patients in pain are not likely to abuse the drug. Zohydro ER, by Zogenix, is expected to hit pharmacy stocks this month.

Nivolumab: Breakthrough Drug Under Study for Advanced Skin Cancer

Nivolumab has allowed some patients with advanced melanoma to keep their disease in check for several years Read More...

Nivolumab is an experimental drug under early research for advanced, metastatic melanoma. The drug, an immunotherapy, may help to reset the immune system to clear away tumor cells. In clinical trials, 107 patients received intravenous doses of the drug every two weeks for up to two years. Overall, 62 percent of patients who enrolled in the trial were still alive a year later, and 43 percent were still alive after two years. In a few cases, the masses disappeared completely. Further research by Bristol-Myers Squibb may lead to other cancer targets for nivolumab. Yervoy, another immunotherapy shown to prolong survival in advanced melanoma, was approved in 2011.

Additional Study Adds to Evidence That HPV Vaccine is Effective

A study in Australia has shown that the vaccine is effective when given to a broad group of individuals Read More...

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended in the fight against cervical cancer, but it is controversial and underused in the U.S. Two HPV vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended for girls -- Cervarix and Gardasil; Gardasil is also approved for boys or young men ages 9 to 26 years. In a new study, authors collected data on 100,000 women between 12 and 26 years of age. Results demonstrated that the recommended three doses of vaccine provided 46 percent protection against high-grade cervical abnormalities, such as precancerous lesions, compared to women who had not received the vaccine.

Oral Corticosteroids Prescribed for Psoriasis Against Guideline Recommendations

Oral corticosteroids have been available for decades, but their use in psoriasis has not been extensively studied Read More…

Expert guidelines discourage the use of oral corticosteroids like prednisone, methylprednisolone, or dexamethasone for psoriasis due to concerns about causing flares of generalized pustular psoriasis. However, new research suggests these drugs are being prescribed, primarily by dermatologists, to patients with chronic psoriasis. Out of 21 million office visits, oral corticosteroids were prescribed 650,000 times, and dermatologgists wrote roughly 93 percent of these prescriptions. Topically applied corticosteroid creams or ointments are often used for symptom control in mild psoriasis. Vitamin D analogues, topical retinoids, phototherapy, coal tar, anthralin, salicylic acid, methotrexate, cyclosporine and the biologics, such as Enbrel or Humira, are treatment options for psoriasis.

Note to Baby Boomers: Consider Getting the Shingles Vaccine

People who have previously had shingles or chickenpox can still receive the vaccine Read More...

If you are a so-called baby boomer - over the age of 50 - experts recommend that you consider getting Zostavax (zoster vaccine live), the shingles vaccine. Shingles is a painful condition that presents as a blistering rash usually in a band on one side of the body. An outbreak of the virus can last for several weeks and lead to prolonged pain. People at higher risk for developing shingles include those who have had chickenpox, and those with cancer, autoimmune disorders, or chronic lung or kidney disease. Antiviral medication, such as acyclovir (Zovirax), can be started within 72 hours of the onset of rash.