Read more blog posts from Darrell E. White, MD
We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post on the physician’s role in diagnosing dry eye to report some fantastic news: Merck has announced that it will continue to make and sell Azasite.
If you take care of patients with dry eye, especially those who could be characterized as having some sort of meibomian gland disease (MGD) resulting in a dysfunctional tear syndrome, you were worried about this issue.
Merck previously announced it would no longer provide what physicians have typically come to expect in terms of support for a branded medicine. In a letter and numerous other announcements it was stated Merck would “no longer support Azasite” or its other ophthalmic products. This raised the prospect of treating MGD and some forms of evaporative dry eye without topical azithromycin.
It turns out that Merck will no longer offer field support (i.e. representatives visiting your office), but will indeed continue to make and sell Azasite (and Zioptan (tafluprost ophthalmic solution 0.0015%) and Cosopt (dorzolamide hydrochloride, timolol maleate)). I placed a call to Merck headquarters and confirmed that this is the case. While I admittedly didn’t get too far up the corporate food chain at Merck, I also was assured there were no plans at this time to discontinue Azasite as a product. Perhaps someone at Merck will comment here.
The broader picture is this: we clinicians are at potential risk to lose the availability of medications which are used primarily in an “off-label” manner if we do not find some way to support the company that manufactures the medication, apply pressure on third-party payers to cover these medications as they do “on-label” uses and find some way to encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow pharmaceutical companies to talk about “off-label” uses that have become part of regular and routine care. This dry eye stuff really isn’t easy to treat well; we need all the ammunition we can get.
We now return you to your previously scheduled blog schedule…