Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Statins for everyone!

AstraZeneca has come to the public's aid with a new program for preventing heart attacks. It works like this: prescribe the company's statin drug to 500 healthy people, at a cost of $638,000 per year. For that investment, you may avoid one heart attack. While some curmudgeons note that Astra's drug also increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, these critics fail to appreciate that they should shut up. Read here.

DNA not patentable; world ends

In an old episode of the Simpsons, Bart wins an elephant, which the Simpsons obviously can't keep. To Bart and Lisa's horror, Homer is inclined to sell the elephant to an ivory dealer. Asked if he would like being killed and having his teeth made into piano keys, Homer responds: “Yes, of course I would! Who wouldn't like that – to be part of the music scene?”

I know how Homer feels, because it looks like I may miss my chance to be part of the glamorous biotech industry. A federal judge has ruled that my DNA (and yours) is not patentable. According to industry lawyers, this will bring genetic research to a screeching halt. But if you have your heart set on having the rights to your DNA owned by a corporation, never fear. The company whose patents were invalidated has vowed to appeal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Punishing unhealthy habits

Is it ethical to deny health care to individuals who consistently and knowingly make poor health choices? Sandeep Jauhar weighs in on this topic.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ring tone therapy in Japan

A company called the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory has developed cure for hay fever. "For relief, sufferers need only wait for a call on their mobile phone. The sound is supposed to dislodge pollen if the user holds the handset up to their nose." Read here

I have a bone to pick with you…actually, make that “I have a bone to order for you”

The creation of bones in university laboratories may be big business in the not-so-distant-future. Click here to read more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Changing Chains

The calorie count down begins at chain restaurants across the country. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


An article in the NY Times about Dr. Howard Jones, the man who pioneered the reproductive technology movement in medicine.

Doctor, there is pig virus in my diarrhea vaccine!

It seems that a vaccine used to prevent rotavirus infections in children has teeny tiny amounts of pig virus in the product. The FDA has not pulled the vaccine from the market, but it has “paused” the use of the drug for the time being. Click here to read more.

Physicians go to wedding industry

Physicians market their services for brides to make sure they look best and feel best in the big day, but some doctors say that divorces motivate more to look better. Read here.

"If Calling Mom Makes You Hear Voices, Then AstraZeneca Has a Pill for You"

See BNET pharma blog by Jim Edwards

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Puppet of the tanning industry?

Or a rebel against the cosmetics industry? Questions for Dr. Sunshine, in the New York Times Magazine.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Dog Ate My Homework Bill...Perhaps the worst name for a bill...ever

Make sure to get all of your paperwork done on time. The Medicines Company is learning this lesson the hard way. Paste-in the link below to read more (Blogger is not working for me at the moment.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

We’re here, we’re queer! Now, enroll us in clinical trials!

It seems that some clinical trials in the U.S. have been excluding gays and lesbians from participating in their research. Click here to read more.

Medicine and Madison Avenue

The Medicine and Madison Avenue Project at Duke University includes a database of over 600 advertisements and historical documents dated between 1911 and 1958, relating to the creation of health-related advertising. You can browse their collection here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Drug Thieves

Big time pharmaceuticals heists are on the rise.

Underarm testosterone for the undersexed man, from Lilly

Eli Lilly has acquired the rights to license an experimental underarm testosterone solution to be called Axiron, which is being reviewed by the FDA. More here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New leadership at the CDC

"Dr. Thomas R. Frieden the agency’s director since June, has quietly scrapped nearly all the administrative changes that the previous director, Dr Julie L. Geberding, spent much of her six-year tenure conceiving and carrying out." The NY Times reports.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy

"In this absorbing blend of bright-eyed reportage and hands-on participation, journalist Milgrom demystifies the creepy art of bringing dead creatures back to life and dispels the myth that taxidermists merely stuff animals. The author's quest to understand the compulsion of obsessed hobbyists and exacting scientists alike to duplicate what nature has created starts in a New Jersey family workshop, where three generations—including the last chief taxidermist for the American Museum of Natural History—have mounted everything from three-toed sloths to fireflies. She visits the English sculptor who preserves dead animals for British artist Damien Hirst's displays; explores the arcane subculture of American taxidermy conventions where hundreds vie for best in show awards; and wanders the halls of the bankrupt Mr. Potter's Museum of Curiosities as collectors bid for auction lots of Victorian-era displays of squirrels drinking port and bespectacled gentlemen lobsters." This is the Publishers Weekly verdict on Melissa Milgrom's new book, Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy.

Comrade Limbaugh Hails the Genius of Socialized Medicine

Read all about it in The Nation.

Private docs for hire

As universities put conflict-of-interest policies into place, pharma enlists private doctors to deliver their marketing talks. More from John Fauber.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Big tobacco and the medical historians

The tobacco companies are harassing Stanford's Robert Proctor, one of two medical historians who dare to testify against them in court, and paying big money to the forty who sign up for the tobacco team. Read Jon Wiener's story in The Nation, and an exchange with the author here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Robbed of a kidney at gunpoint

"The thick scar on Mohammad Salim's side is a permanent reminder of the kidney stolen from his body. But deeper wounds show in his eyes. Salim, a poor labourer from the northern Indian town of Meerut, was lured to Delhi on the promise of work two years ago. Instead, his kidney was removed at gunpoint. 'This experience has haunted me 24 hours a day ever since. I'm always tense now,' he says." Read more in The Age.

Do osteoporosis drugs cause what they are supposed to prevent?

Pharma has turned osteoporosis drugs into blockbusters with the claim that they prevent fractures, especially in older women. What if they caused femur fractures, as litigators have been claiming? The FDA will look into the issue again.

The Prostate Mistake

The discoverer of the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) says that using it to screen for cancer is an enormously expensive mistake.

Twitter TMI?

Twitter has now reached a new level of "uhhhhhhh" - You can "Tweet your Abortion."

Well, as long as it doesn't turn into a reality show like "Pimp my Ride," it's probably ok, right?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sad ethics policy goes to U regents, unfinished

So says the Associated Press, anyway.

Urologists gone bad

Gary Schwitzer explains.

Sexual Anorexia

I really dislike the advice of Dr. Drew.

The drug rep is here

The decline of the drug rep is greatly exaggerated; more offices are opening their doors, writes Pharmalot.

I'm down

"Mishna Wolff is white. But her hippie dad ''truly believed he was black'' — and raised her as if she were too. As a kid, Wolff tried to please her father and prove she was ''down'' by sporting cornrows; playing on an all-black 
 basketball team; and taking up cappin', the sassy urban dissing that abounds on playgrounds." Read more here.

When social marketing goes terribly wrong

Just ask T.G.I. Fridays how bad it can get. Read more on Bob Garfield's Chaos Scenario blog.

"Alice in Wonderland" Syndrome

Lewis Carroll would be so thrilled!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Human cheese?

Chef Daniel Angerer is letting diners at Klee Brasserie munch on cheese made from his wife's breast milk. "It tastes like cow's-milk cheese, kind of sweet," he told The Post.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Bioethics job alert

Eli Lilly will add four new ethics positions, as punishment for its illegal marketing. Read all about it in The Indianapolis Star.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Is Obama taking Nuvigil?

The Daily Beast speculates.

Star Wars for malaria

What rural Africans in malarial areas really need is a Death Ray for mosquitoes, says Nathan Myhrvold, the CEO of Intellectual Ventures. Soniah Shah wonders why Myhrvold's idea gets so much press in publications like the New York Times, despite the fact that it is patently stupid.

Doc Shop

"Call it speed dating for doctors. Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, near Fort Worth, has launched a program called Doc Shop that invites prospective patients to casually meet and size up a lot of doctors in a short amount of time." Read more here

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Human Flesh Search Engines

Yeah, not a search engine you'd want to be found on.

Merci Jenny!

Maybe Nestle will use Jason Alexander to help market Jenny Craig in Europe...?

Enhancement Ethics for Teens

I just ran into a series of science fiction books by Scott Westerfield, called Uglies, Pretties, and Specials. They are aimed at “young adult” readers, and deal deliberately with issues of medical and psychological enhancement.

In the first book, our hero Tally wants nothing more than to turn sixteen, the age at which everyone is given surgery to turn them from Ugly to Pretty. It’s a rather extensive renovation--alteration not just of facial features, but of bone structure, skin color, and muscle mass, so that everyone conforms to a norm of physical perfection. After the surgery the kids settle down to a life of intense, shallow partying that Tally can’t wait to be a part of.

Her plans are messed up by meeting Shay, a girl who doesn’t want the surgery. When Shay “escapes,” Tally is forced to follow her into the wild where people live as Uglies, in horrible conditions (building wooden houses! wearing non-synthetic clothes! eating meat! ick!) There Tally and Shay find out that the surgery is on more than just people’s bodies-- their minds and personalities are altered too--and that refusing the procedure is not really an option. Many exciting narrow escapes, aerial skateboard chases, and medical ethics discussions ensue. But in the end, both girls have the surgery, more or less unwillingly.

The second book takes on the ethics of consent, as both Tally and Shay have become essentially different people following the surgery. They are happy with their new lives, and do not remember their initial wish to remain “themselves.” Enticing them away from all those great parties and restoring them to their own personalities (via an experimental procedure, of course) poses lots more ethical dilemmas, along with way too many more aerial skateboard chases.

I haven’t read the third book yet. There is a long waiting list for it at the Andover public library. I may not wait for it. Since the books are aimed at a younger audience, there is a fair amount of cool slang, which became annoying. And the repeated necessity for riveting action eventually became wearing. But I think it’s encouraging that there is a lot of teen interest in books which are essentially about the cost of conforming to a physical and mental ideal.

Is any food good for you?!

I often wonder about the accuracy of labeling on food items. Looks like I will have to remove baby food from my diet.

Optics = PR

Ben Zimmer explains in the NYT Magazine.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Gary Greenberg on Manufacturing Depression: Parts 1 and 2

Schwitzer resigns

"Gary Schwitzer, University of Minnesota associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, announced Friday morning via Twitter that he has resigned." Read more here.

Hookups are so Generation X.

Apparently my generational cohort is not a fan of the hookup. In fact, they claim to be ashamed of casual sex. Whoda thunk?

Friday, March 05, 2010

March Madness and vasectomy promotion

The NCAA tournament is being used as a marketing tool by urologists. They are touting the benefits of sitting around and watching basketball during recovery. The article can be found here.

From Russia with Love

Apparently, there are drug companies in Russia. Too bad that their latest hope turned out to be a flop.

Ambiguous genitalia in utero

To treat or not to treat? John Lantos weighs the options.

Ceiling Cat is Watching Your Registry

While I'm definitely not a PETA activist by any means, I've pondered this notion before.

I was at a Thanksgiving celebration a few years ago at a friend's aunt's home. She was definitely a "cat lady" - she had 15 cats! Because I have very bad cat allergies, she locked them all into her medium sized bedroom while we all ate at the dinner table. Needless to say, the cats rebelled and eventually opened the door and out they all came. It's a good thing I took Benadryl before I came and brought eye drops with, but I was still miserable.

I also saw a segment a few months ago on ABC's "20/20" about cat people and why they do it, which reminded me of my thought from the Thanksgiving dinner. In the summer of 2009, 47 cats were pulled from a mobile home.

I love animals as much as the next person, but seriously, how many is too many? It just seems like so much work to feed and clean up after that many animals. And then, especially with active animals (dogs, for instance), you have to walk them. Animals, by and large, need quite a bit of general living space, and if you don't have the resources for that, your pet probably won't be as healthy as it could be. This animal hoarding seems downright cruel to me.

Do you think that an animal abuse registry would be a worthwhile investment, or a waste of time and resources? Could it help mitigate other potential crimes?

Pharmaceutical surveillance

The Wall Street Journal reports on high-tech ways to make the medicine go down.

Crowdsourcing pharma investigations

The Drug Industry Document Archive needs your help. So many incriminating documents are emerging from litigation against the drug industry that they cannot catalogue them all. That's where citizen muckrakers come in. Read more here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

GlowCap says: take your medicine

Is peer review a false idol?

"Peer review has been turned into a quasi-holy institution, which apparently signifies that a certain claim is legitimate or sacred," writes Frank Furedi.

Bloomberg Wins Eight SABEW Awards

Market Watch reports that Bloomberg received eight Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW). Among them "Big Pharma's Crime Spree," by David Evans received award in the Small Magazine Enterprise category. See article here

Part of the problem?

Dr. Howard Brody of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and director of the Institute for Medical Humanities claimed in this 'New York Times' interview that doctors are part of the problem of spiraling health care costs.

How drugs are marketed for women

See video on PharmaGossip

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pick a card, any card

Here's an article from the WSJ: "Why Psychiatry Needs Therapy". The new DSM now includes hoarding and binge eating as disorders.

You are my sunshine

Sunshine laws have cast a light on Florida doctors being paid to consult and speak for the drug industry. They include:

• Two Tampa surgeons involved in a botched robotic procedure that killed a Plant High School teacher.

• A St. Petersburg doctor who was put on probation by a local hospital and received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after he broke several FDA rules while running a drug study.

• A surgeon in Jacksonville who mistakenly removed brain tissue during sinus surgery, leaving the patient paralyzed, blind and brain-damaged.

Read more in the St. Petersburg Times.

Eternity Soup

"As Greg Critser explains in his thoroughly researched and highly entertaining new book, "Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging," much of this anti-aging movement is based, at best, on questionable science and, at worst, self-serving greed. Critser spends time with the Caloric Restriction Society, a group claiming that mild, sustained starvation leads to an increased life span (and whose chief science officer says that you should really forgo dinner tonight and go on a nice long walk). Critser tries testosterone, a hormone that some argue can stave off the effects of aging in men, and visits a British academic who says that if we could learn to repair the damage to our battered organs, humans could live hundreds of years."

Read an interview with Critser in Salon.

Sperm bank surveillance

Slate explains why sperm donation is no longer anonymous, thanks to the rise of recreational genetic testing companies.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Onion Radio News on depression

Menand on depression and antidepressants

To listen to The New Yorker's Out Loud podcast with Harvard's Louis Menand, discussing his recent article on depression, click here. (And to listen to its Political Scene podcast on health care reform, click here.)

WebMD wants you on Cymbalta

WebMD has been caught redhanded, writes Daniel Carlat, for its stealth marketing campaign on behalf of Eli Lilly.