Sunday, January 31, 2010

Swimsuit season already?

Who says you can't have 14 children, no real job, and still have it all?! The Octomom is doing it her way!

Cash-only, with house calls

A Minnesota family doctor goes his own way.

Don't read the warning

A few minor side effects have been reported.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Keeping Up with the Quack Trim

For all you disciples of reality television, apparently the Kardashian girls are endorsing some new diet pill, called “Quick Trim.”

This pill contains phentermine, an appetite suppressant. As with all diet pills, this product is of course not free of side effects. Some of the common ones include: constipation; diarrhea; insomnia; dizziness; dry or distorted tastes in the mouth; exaggerated sense of well being; headaches; nervousness; restlessness; upset stomach; decreased libido; allergic reactions; chest pains; irregular heartbeat. The list can go on and on for quite some time.

I don’t know about you, but 'keeping up with the Kardashians' sounds like far too much effort.

Hormone Replacement Therapy for Guys

Are testosterone and growth hormone the fountain of youth for aging men? “I consider what I do aggressive prevention, the basis of which is metabolism modulation,” Dr. Florence Comite says. “Twenty years from now, this will be the standard of care.” But "standard of care" to some means "quackery" to others. "If anyone is arguing that this is the new medical profession or the way things are going to be done 20 years from now, I would say they’re drinking the Kool-Aid of the antiaging industry,” says Dr. Jay Olshansky. “They’re making money selling a repackaged version of traditional preventive medicine, and then they add some hormones and supplements. It’s just such a racket.” There's more in The New York Times Magazine.

Book Reviews 2.0

“At age 36, I found myself in a medium-security prison serving 3-5 years for destruction of government property and public intoxication. This was stiff punishment for drunkenly defecating in a mailbox, but as the judge pointed out, this was my third conviction for the exact same crime.”

So begins an Amazon review of The Secret which 8,581 of 8,905 Amazon readers found “helpful.” What exactly is the key to getting your review chosen as "helpful"? "The product review, as a literary form, is in its heyday," writes Virginia Heffernan. "Polemical, evocative, witty, narrative, exhortative, furious, ironic, off the cuff: the reviews on Amazon use all the tools in the critic’s cubby — and invent some of their own. The ones that rise to the top, in the site’s parallel 'favorable' and 'critical' categories, adroitly win your trust and close their cases."

Corrupt marketing practices at Lilly and AstraZeneca

"Drug marketing is a very sophisticated system which corrupts every part of the scientific and medical network," says Australian psychiatrist Peter Parry. A new study in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry by Parry and Metropolitan State University (Minnesota) psychology professor Glen Spielmans suggests the extent to which antipsychotic drugmakers have manipulated and distorted medical evidence about their drugs.

Walmart for Weed

A medical marijuana superstore has opened in Oakland, California reports NPR.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Despondex for the annoyingly cheerful

FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

LA cuts back on marijuana, but not Botox

The Los Angeles city council has passed an ordinance that caps the number of marijuana dispensaries at 70, says the WSJ Health Blog. (No word yet on Botox dispensaries.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Life Elixir, Coming to a Costco Near You

Over the holiday break, my dad and I went to the Costco in my hometown. In the food section, they had several tables set up with free food and drink samples. One of the tables had a large crowd of older adults standing around, so obviously we had to see what the commotion was about. The free sample was for this drink called Reversitall, which is basically a non-alcoholic red wine. I’m sure you have heard about the health benefits of red wine, and perhaps even about the “French Paradox” and “resveratrol”. Basically, this $20+/bottle drink makes the claim that it reverses the aging process by providing enough antioxidants that your “inner machinery” won’t rust. Supposedly one "shot" of this drink gives you the same amount of resveratrol as a bottle of red wine, meaning you can successfully avoid getting busted for DUI.

An amusing exchange:

Woman at the Counter: Come try Reversitall and feel years younger! Only a 1 oz shot each day is needed! Life elixir everyone!
Dad: So what you’re saying is that if I drop $20 for this I will magically be 30 again?
Woman: You might even live to be 150! Resveratrol can do wonders!
Dad: And a shot each day is all that is needed?
Woman: Yes, a shot each day. Take it in a shot glass.
Dad: Ok, let’s give this a try.
(We both take a sample of this. It tastes pretty much like cough syrup.)
Woman: So, what do you two think?
Dad: Thanks, but we’re going to get some grapes. A few bushels of grapes. They’re cheaper and much tastier.
Woman: You just lost your chance to be 150 someday.

Hah! Meanwhile, all the other folks at the sample table who tried Reversitall ended up being $20 poorer than they were had they not visited this booth. Some people even purchased 2-3 bottles of this at once!

Do you think that this "life elixir" is a legitimate anti-aging treatment? Or do you think that the nutritional supplement industry is capitalizing on the general public's fear of old age / death?


Daniel Carlat has an eye-opening blog post about Dr. Lawrence DuBuske (who resigned from Harvard rather than give up his pharma talks) and his non-profit Immunology Research Institute of New England (IRINE).

You are not the story

Should TV doctors report on themselves? The glut of doctor-reporters in Haiti has prompted a backlash. On the Media reports.

"Dear, when you're out today at the beach will you make sure to pick up some marijuana, oh, and some Botox? Thanks..."

At this fine establishment on Venice Beach (CA), you can meet with a doctor (no appointment necessary) to receive medical-grade marijuana and/or Botox. This is what they claim in a brochure:

"For the temporary removal of facial wrinkles. Botox injections have been shown to eliminate frown lines, crows feet, forehead wrinkles and some upper lip lines. FDA-approved for the treatment of excessive underarm sweating (Hyperhidrosis).
  • Facial treatment: $10/unit
  • Underarm sweating treatment: $10/unit"
Thank goodness this clinic consolidated their marijuana and Botox dispensary locations! It was starting to become a real pain having to drive to two places...

(Photo courtesy of M. Wolston)

Stop whining about pharma money, says Times science writer

John Tierney of the New York Times thinks that corporate critics should get used to the fact that industry money funds science. Meanwhile, a former top researcher for Astra Zeneca told the BBC that the company pressured him to approve false marketing materials for its antipsychotic drug, Seroquel.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Soul on Ice

Jill Lepore has written an excellent (and very funny) profile of Robert Ettinger, a founder of the cryonics movement and still alive at age 91, in the January 25 issue of The New Yorker. (For the full article you'll need to buy the magazine, or else rely on bootleg scans.)

"Bipolar depression doesn't just affect you. It can consume you."

Is Seroquel modelling its new ad campaign on the art of Liu Bolin? Read more at BNET Pharma.

Birth control is the new tupperware

Bayer Pharmaceuticals is selling IUDs at house parties sponsored by the Mommy-marketing site Mom Central. The FDA is not happy. Read the FDA warning letter here.

The hidden dangers of radiation therapy

"As Scott Jerome-Parks lay dying, he clung to this wish: that his fatal radiation overdose — which left him deaf, struggling to see, unable to swallow, burned, with his teeth falling out, with ulcers in his mouth and throat, nauseated, in severe pain and finally unable to breathe — be studied and talked about publicly so that others might not have to live his nightmare."

Read more about radiation therapy errors in The New York Times.

"The Times found that while this new technology allows doctors to more accurately attack tumors and reduce certain mistakes, its complexity has created new avenues for error — through software flaws, faulty programming, poor safety procedures or inadequate staffing and training. When those errors occur, they can be crippling."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Genzyme goes to Hollywood?

Extraordinary Measures, the new Harrison Ford film, was based on a true story involving the Genzyme Corporation. What do the folks at Genzyme think?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Doc quits the Brigham

’’There are physicians earning so much money [from drug makers] that they would give up their jobs,’’ said Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. “It’s a shocking story. Normally you’d give up the [pharmaceutical company] honoraria.’’ Read more in the Boston Globe about the Harvard physician who is resigning his post rather than give up his pharmaceutical industry speaking gig.

Yet another diet drug scare

Remember Fen-Phen? European regulators pulling the Abbott diet drug Meridia from the market. The FDA is not going as far, but it is warning patients with heart disease against taking the drug. Read more in the NY Times and the WSJ Health Blog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Johnson & Johnson PR Blunder

Public relations textbooks cite the way Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol poisoning scare of 1982 as an ideal way to handle bad publicity. So why is Johnson & Johnson managing its current drug problems so badly? Natasha Singer reports in the New York Times.