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Ask the Pharmacist: The new medications in 2020

Suzy Cohen
Columnist
New medications that were approved in 2020.

It’s time for my annual report about the novel medications that were approved in the year 2020. I’ve been writing this yearly article for more than 20 years!

Many drugs in 2020 were fast-tracked in order to come to market faster. While you read this, keep in mind that I’m read worldwide, but I am only listing the American brand names, so please ask your doctor what the brand name is in your country.  Also, the two COVID vaccines from Modern and Pfizer are not yet FDA-approved, however an emergency use authorization has been signed, and therefore distribution is occurring as we speak. FDA approval will come shortly. 

New medications that were approved in 2020.

Pizensy (Lactitol), Rx, oral

This medication is used for constipation, especially the unrelenting type that has no obvious cause (termed “idiopathic”). Lactitol is the active (generic) ingredient name which is a common additive in many prescription drugs. It has been around and used as a sweetener for low-calorie foods. You may have heard of its cousins which are also used so sweeten foods … erythritol, sorbitol, and xylitol.

Ayvakit (Avapritinib), Rx, oral 

This medication is for stomach tumors and it’s taken once daily on an empty stomach.  The FDA fast-tracked approval for this medication based upon a nationwide test conducted on 204 patients with a metastatic gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), or one that could not be surgically removed. The drug seeks to shrink the tumor. 

Tepezza (Teprotumumab-trbw), Rx, IV injection

This medication is given as an infusion to people with a specific eye problem caused by Graves’ disease. The disorder sometimes causes a person’s eyes to bulge out, and Tepezza helps over time. It does not stop the autoimmune process. It seems to flare up problems for people who have pre-existing inflammatory bowel disease.

New medications that were approved in 2020.

Nurtec ODT (oral disintegrating tablets), Rimegepant, Rx, oral

These quickly dissolving pills work for a day or two and help with symptoms of a migraine. In a study of 1,351 people those who took the drug experienced improvement from light and sound sensitivity, as well as nausea at the 2-hour interval (compared to the placebo group). This is a treatment, not a preventative agent. If you have migraines, you would love my book, “Headache Free” available on Amazon.

Sarclisa (Isatuximab), Rx, injection

Used for the treatment of resistant multiple myeloma, this newer agent is slightly easier to administer because it’s faster for patients. As part of its mechanism of action, it acts like a CD38 inhibitor binding to myeloma cells and blocking growth or slowing spread. Before Sarclisa, one had to also take an FDA approved CD38 inhibitor such as daratumumab along with other treatments. This new drug is not a first line agent, it is for people who have not responded to other meds.

Retevmo (Selpercatnib), Rx, oral

This treats people with either thyroid cancer or non-small cell lung cancer. It’s in a category of drugs called “kinase inhibitors” and it’s not like traditional chemotherapy. It is very targeted so there are fewer side effects.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.