Saturday, January 31, 2009

Trovan Lawsuit is Revived

In 2001, a group of Nigerian families sued Pfizer following the deaths of 11 children, and the severe injuries of many more, who had taken part in tests of Trovan, a drug to treat meningitis. The suit also alleged that children in the trial's control group were under-dosed. After years of legal battles, a federal appeals court has allowed the trial to go ahead in the United States, according to the Washington Post.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Playing footsy with pharma?

"The FDA has for decades been playing footsy with the drug industry, and it reached new lows under George W. Bush." Will this change with Obama? asks James Ridgeway at Mojoblog.

Why health care reformers should look at the banking collapse

"Instead of competing with one another for the best outcomes, providers compete for patients with the most profitable diseases. Hospital care for cancer and heart surgery makes more money than hospital care for diabetes, pneumonia, or mental health. While all these services get reimbursed, some bring in more cash than others—in effect, cancer care is like gold while diabetes is like silver."

Read "Sicko-nomics" in Slate.

Unemployed making ends meet with medical experiments

From ABC News:

U of M medical school reorganizes; Dean out by summer

"A reorganization will put the Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School out of a job by this summer," says MPR. And here is what the Star Tribune has to say.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More firings from Pfizer

Pfizer says its merger with Wyeth will mean more lay-offs. Read here.

The WSJ Health Blog says the numbers will be ugly -- as many as 19,500 people. More here.

You are what you buy

And you were what you bought even in 17th century Britain, where consumer culture was born.

"Possessions were symbols of refinement and politeness. They helped to define individual identity. They even shaped their owners’ physical deportment and behaviour, for knives and forks, cups and teapots, fragile porcelain and increasingly delicate furniture imposed a distinctively mannered way of eating, drinking, moving and sitting. In this way the consumption of goods created social differences as well as expressing them." So writes Thomas Keith in
"To Buy or Not to Buy: The Origins of Good Taste."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ex-health chief in NY liked to shop -- a lot

The New York Times reports that Dr. Antonia C. Novello, former state health commissioner in New York, is under investigation by the state inspector general's office. The allegations? That she "turned her staff at the Health Department into her personal chauffeurs, porters, and shopping assistants during her seven-year tenure" - at taxpayers' expense. The Inspector General's report portrays Dr. Novello as "preoccupied with shopping" and "abusive toward her employees" - even ordering them to drive her on shopping trips to department stores in Manhattan and outlet malls in Albany.

Monday, January 26, 2009

No room for idealism in health care reform

"The country has this one chance, the idealist maintains, to sweep away our inhumane, wasteful patchwork system and replace it with something new and more rational. So we should prepare for a bold overhaul, just as every other Western democracy has. True reform requires transformation at a stroke. But is this really the way it has occurred in other countries? The answer is no. And the reality of how health reform has come about elsewhere is both surprising and instructive."

So says Atul Gawande in The New Yorker.

Pfizer Buys Wyeth for $68 Billion

As the patent for Lipitor nears expiration, Pfizer postpones disaster by taking over Wyeth. Here is what the WSJ Health Blog has to say.

Wyeth University

In 2002, just as the rest of the world was reading headlines about the dangers of hormone replacement therapy, the University of Wisconsin was setting up a Wyeth-funded CME course encouraging doctors to prescribe it. "For the next six years, thousands of doctors from around the country took the online course that was funded entirely by a $12 million grant from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which makes the hormone therapy drugs used in the study, Prempro and Premarin. The university received $1.5 million of that total, and university faculty received money as well." Read more in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pharmakon: A Novel

"Wittenborn psychiatric rating scales take their name from Dr. J. R. Wittenborn, a research scientist whose fields of expertise included psychopharmacology and the evaluation of responses to psychotropic drugs. Now his son, Dirk Wittenborn, has written a guide to evaluating his father. Pharmakon is the younger Mr. Wittenborn’s novel about the family of a narcissistic, opinionated and dangerous patriarch whose work’s influence extends to the lives of his relatives — and beyond. 'If there’s brain candy in your medicine cabinet,' the narrator maintains, 'chances are my father’s messed with your head, too.'" Read Janet Maslin's review of Pharmakon in The New York Times.

Pharmaceutical Company Says its New Antidepressant is "Worthless and Dumb"

Hear more from Doyle Redland at The Onion Radio News.

The Device Industry Gets Worried

The prospect of a Physician Payments Sunshine Act has the device industry concerned, says this article in the New York Times. An "ethical makeover" is underway.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Geron will test human embryonic stem cell therapy

Geron will be allowed to proceed with a safety trial of embyronic stem cell therapy in patients with spinal cord injuries. Read more here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How Big Drug Companies Hamper Innovation

Malcolm Gladwell talks with Safi Bahcall, CEO of Synta Pharmaceuticals, about how mistakes lead to discoveries and Big Pharma hampers innovation. The video is from a 2007 New Yorker conference.

Lilly Pays for Illegal Zyprexa Marketing

"Eli Lilly, the drug company, is expected to agree as soon as Thursday to pay $1.4 billion to settle criminal and civil charges that it illegally marketed its blockbuster antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for unauthorized use in patients particularly vulnerable to its risky side effects." Read more here.

Doping Deficit Disorder

"Would you like to take performance-enhancing drugs to boost your pro sports career? Are the drugs banned as a form of cheating? No problem. Just find a doctor willing to certify that you have a 'deficit' of the performance factor in question." So says William Saletan in "Doping Deficit Disorder."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bigger Stronger Faster

This documentary by Chris Bell hits most of the high points in the enhancement technologies debate. Click here to watch the trailer.

The undercover anthropologist and the kidney market

Newsweek has published a profile of Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the Berkeley anthropologist whose methods of exposing illegal kidney sales have drawn ethical criticism.