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Weekly News Round Up - November 30, 2011

Billion Dollar Lipitor: Can I Have That in Generic, Please?

Generic availability will make cholesterol drug Lipitor more accessible; largest U.S. generic drug launch in history Read More...

Even if math is not your strong suit, these calculations you can do in your head: a huge amount of health care dollars will be saved with generic Lipitor (atorvastatin). Lipitor, with $7.8 billion in sales in the last 12 months, is now available generically. Experts suggest the lower-cost generic version may allow patients who skip doses due to cost to take their full dose and reach goal lipid levels. In the U.S., generic copays tend to run about $10 or less per month, and cash prices should be slashed, as well. Watson Pharmacauticals has launched the generic product, which is being supplied by Pfizer.

Intermezzo Approved for Middle of the Night Insomnia

Intermezzo (zolpidem tartrate) approved for middle-of-the-night insomnia; take only if 4 hours of sleep-time remain Read More...

Intermezzo, a lower dose, sublingual form of zolpidem was FDA-approved for insomnia associated with middle-of-the night awakenings. Zolpidem is also available in a higher strength to be used at bedtime when there are at least 8 hours for sleep. The new dose comes in a 1.75 milligram strength for women and 3.5 milligram for men, and should be taken only if 4 hours of sleep remain before the planned time of awakening. Women clear the drug more slowly from the body, and require a smaller dose. Patients older than 65 years of age and patients with liver impairment also need the lower dose.

Lancet Study: Long-term Statin Use Found Safe, Effective

Five-year study in over 20,000 patients verifies statin use for cholesterol-lowering safe and effective Read More...

Researchers report in The Lancet that non-vascular adverse complications, such as cancer, were not seen in a long-term safety follow-up of patients receiving simvastatin over 5 years. LDL (bad) cholesterol reduction due to simvastatin resulted in a 23 percent lower risk of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke, and continued throughout a 6-year follow-up period. Previously, concerns had arisen that non-vascular morbidity or mortality might be increased in patients taking statins with lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Experts suggest the positive findings should hold true for other statins, including atorvastatin, lovastatin, and pravastatin. Generic and affordable statins are available.

Four Common Drugs Lead to Emergecy Hospitalization of Seniors

 Diabetes and blood thinner drugs contribute to high hospitalization rates of older patients Read More...

Older patients are at risk for adverse drug reactions (ADRs) for many reasons, including altered drug metabolism, excretion and increased numbers of daily medications. Researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than 5,000 cases of ADRs leading to hospitalization were identified in patients older than 65 years of age. Forty percent of adults over 65 years of age took five to nine medications. Forty-eight percent of ADRs occurred in adults over 80 years of age. The most common drugs causing ADRs included warfarin, insulin, antiplatelets (aspirin and clopidogrel), and oral hypoglycemic (diabetes) agents. Thirty-three percent of emergency hospitalizations were due to bleeding from blood thinners.

Even Slightly Excessive Acetaminophen Doses Over Time Are Dangerous

 Liver toxicity and increased risk of death are possible with even slightly excessive acetaminophen doses over time Read more...

A new study suggests it might be wise to keep count of how much acetaminophen (Tylenol) you have taken in the last 24 hours. Large amounts of acetaminophen taken in a single overdose can be extremely dangerous and lead to death, but even taking “staggered” and slightly excessive doses over time may do harm. Researchers advise patients presenting with staggered overdoses are candidates for the acetaminophen antidote, N-acetylcysteine, as well. Over-the-counter acetaminophen is available in many different strengths, including 325, 500, and 650 milligram dosage forms, so patients should be prudent in checking directions and strengths on each bottle. The maximum, adult 24-hour dose of acetaminophen is 4,000 milligrams (4 grams). In July 2011, McNeil Consumer Healthcare announced plans for new dosing instructions lowering the maximum daily dose for single-ingredient extra-strength acetaminophen products sold in the U.S. from 8 pills per day (4,000 mg) to 6 pills per day (3,000 mg). Alcohol consumption can worsen liver toxicity and should be avoided with acetaminophen use.