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Weekly Drug News Round Up - September 10, 2014

Merck’s Keytruda Approved for Advanced Melanoma

Keytruda received priority review, orphan product designation, and accelerated approval Read More...

Roughly 76,100 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma and 9,710 will die from the disease this year. As an added tool to fight metastatic melanoma, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Keytruda (pembrolizumab), a human PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1)-blocking antibody. In a study, 173 patients were treated with Keytruda at either 2 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) or at a higher dose of 10 mg/kg. In the half of the participants who received Keytruda at either dose, 24 percent had their tumors shrink, lasting 1.4 to 8.5 months, or longer.

Keryx Receives FDA Approval for Ferric Citrate

Common side effects included diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and constipation Read More...

Excessive phosphorus levels occur in the majority of patients with end-stage renal (kidney) disease (ESRD). Because of this, ESRD patients require treatment with phosphate-binding agents to lower and maintain serum phosphorus at acceptable levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved ferric citrate (formerly known as Zerenex) for the control of serum phosphorus levels in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) on dialysis. In clinical trials, ferric citrate effectively reduced serum phosphorus levels to well within the recommended guidelines of 3.5 to 5.5 milligrams/deciliter. Ferric citrate should be commercially available by mid-December.

New Guidelines Issued for Advanced Prostate Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is a leading cancer type for men Read More...

First-line prostate cancer treatments work by lowering testosterone levels, but almost always fail due to development of tumor resistance. This week, new guidelines were issued by leading experts that highlight recent advances for hormone therapy-resistant tumors that have spread (metastasized). The new guidelines are based on a review of 56 randomized clinical trials published since 1979. Among several recommendations, experts suggest to continue hormone-deprivation therapy indefinitely, offer patients one of three treatment options -- abiraterone/prednisone, enzalutamide, or radium-223 (if cancer has spread to the bones) -- in addition to hormone deprivation, and to discuss palliative care early on in treatment.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Sedative Use May Be Linked

Benzodiazepines include drugs like lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) Read More...

In a study published online this week in BMJ, researchers found an association between longer-term use of sedatives like benzodiazepines and development of Alzheimer’s disease. The study was based on prescription records, so even though a link was seen, this study can’t prove that sedatives lead to Alzheimer’s. However, benzodiazepines are one group of medications considered “potentially inappropriate" for seniors because of other risks like confusion, dizziness and falls. Grogginess and confusion in older patients are common with other drugs, too, and include the non-benzodiazepine sedatives zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien); antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton); and muscle relaxants.

Injected Flu Drug Shows Promise for Symptom Relief

Each year in the U.S., flu causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths Read More...

Flu season is right around the corner. Research presented this week shows that for participants who received a single-dose injection of the investigational drug peramivir within 48 hours of exhibiting flu symptoms, subjects were symptom-free and fever-free a median of 22 to 24 hours sooner than those who received a placebo. According to researchers, those who received peramivir were also less contagious over the first two days after treatment. Researchers remind us that the best defense against the influenza virus is the flu vaccine and regular hand washing. Approved flu treatments to lessen symptoms include Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir).