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New Drugs

February 7, 2011 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
A Boston researcher will receive a $1-million prize from the Prize4Life foundation's ALS Biomarker Challenge, an effort to develop new ways to monitor the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to make it easier to test potential drugs for the disease. The prize is believed to be the biggest-ever challenge award related to a medical condition, but Prize4Life estimates it could halve the cost of clinical trials for new ALS drugs. Dr. Seward Rutkove of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center will receive the award formally in June.
January 10, 2011 | Amber Dance
In addition to dreaming up higher-tech pills, scientists are also working on drug delivery approaches that don't go the oral route. There is a reason for that: Many innovative drugs don't work as pills. New drugs made out of proteins ? for conditions such as cancer and arthritis ? would simply be digested if they were to land in the stomach. Instead, patients must receive the medicine as injections or infusions so it directly enters the bloodstream. Researchers hope to replace the uncomfortable, time-consuming needle-based treatments with drug pumps that are easier and less painful for patients to use. MicroCHIPS Inc. of Bedford, Mass.
November 17, 2010 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
A medication under development dramatically raises good cholesterol, reduces bad cholesterol and, so far, appears safe, researchers reported Wednesday. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is a key step toward development of a drug that boosts HDL cholesterol. Studies have shown that people who have naturally high HDL levels are at lower risk for heart disease, and cardiologists have long sought a strategy to raise HDL cholesterol in those whose levels are low. The goal has not been easy, however.
November 17, 2010 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel Tuesday voted 13-2 to recommend approval of Benlysta, the first new drug to treat lupus in more than half a century.  The FDA has set Dec. 9 as the date to make a final decision on the drug. It doesn't have to follow the advice of its advisory panels, but it generally does. Benlysta is not a wonder drug that will provide relief to everybody with the debilitating disease, but it may provide benefits for some and allow them to taper off existing drugs, which have powerful side effects that some think are nearly as bad as the disease itself.
October 4, 2010
The Medicare "doughnut hole" is not something to have with your morning coffee. The term refers to the coverage gap in some drug plans offered as part of Medicare Part D. Basically, Medicare enrollees pay the cost of their drugs after they've reached the plan's spending limit but before they hit the out-of-pocket-expenses limit. Some plans cover the gap, often with generic drugs, but those may charge higher premiums. The Orlando Sentinel's Vital Signs blog reports on a new plan aimed at trimming drug costs that's being rolled out nationwide Monday: "Walmart, Humana join to create inexpensive Medicare drug plan.
September 14, 2010
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it has approved a new drug to treat gout in patients who do not respond to existing therapy. The drug is called Krystexxa and is manufactured by Savient Pharmaceuticals Inc. of East Brunswick, N.J. The FDA had rejected the drug in August of 2009 because of manufacturing problems. In a letter to the company then, the agency said that the potential commercial supplies of the drug were not identical to the product used in clinical trials.
March 25, 2010 | Thomas H. Maugh II
Dr. James Black, a Scottish Nobel laureate who pioneered the rational design of drugs and, in the process, developed the first widely used drugs for treating heart disease and blocking stomach acid production, died Monday. He was 85. His death was confirmed by the University of Dundee, which did not release details about the cause or place of death. Black developed propanolol (brand-named Inderal), the first member of the class of drugs known as beta blockers, which revolutionized the care of heart disease.
March 10, 2010 | By Michael Hochman and Danny McCormick
Some doctors treat patients with early-stage prostate cancer with radiation. Others favor surgery, while some advocate only close monitoring. Which approach is most successful? No one knows. When it comes to diabetes management, doctors don't have answers to key questions: At what point should insulin be started? Is it safe to lower the blood sugar to normal levels? What is the best way to monitor blood sugar control? Similarly, endocrinologists don't know what is the best way to treat patients with hyperactive thyroids.
March 1, 2010
Doctors may not agree on the need to screen children for high cholesterol, but those who do will likely want to treat kids with abnormal results. Lifestyle interventions, especially dietary changes, form the foundation of any lipid treatment plan. Fat consumption should be reduced, with less than 10% of daily caloric intake coming from saturated fats and with trans fats eliminated completely if possible. Exercise is also important. Even modest amounts of exercise, if performed regularly, can improve lipid levels.
January 26, 2010 | By Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Biotech giant Amgen Inc. reported a 1% profit increase for the fourth quarter of 2009, with stable sales for many of its popular drugs. The Thousand Oaks company said its drug sales in the quarter were mixed, with its colon cancer drug Vectibix showing growth. But sales of its anemia drug, Aranesp, dropped 20% in the U.S. and 8% worldwide after a study linked the medicine to increased risk of stroke, the company said. In a conference call with analysts, the company said fourth-quarter sales for Vectibix were $66 million worldwide, up 44% from $46 million a year earlier.
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