Sunday, May 30, 2010

You can't trust athletes

So says Frank DeFord. Listen here for his commentary on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Price of Pleasure

Newsweek discusses a new documentary called "Orgasm, Inc.", which addresses the "selling of the female orgasm." Check it out here.

Are government investigations of pharma a sham?

"The government pretends to go after these guys, the companies pretend to follow the law, but it's just a game for the consumption of the masses; so people will think that the wheels of justice are actually moving," says Peter Rost, a former senior Pfizer marketing executive. Read more in Time.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fraud at the Mayo

An immunology lab at the Mayo Clinic has retracted ten scientific papers (so far) and cancelled a clinical trial after a senior research associate was found guilty of falsifying data. The Scientist reports.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Macklin to FDA: Stop the Avandia Trial

Bioethicist Ruth Macklin has written a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking that the GSK Avandia trial be stopped. She says “this study violates principles in every guidance document in research ethics.” Read more at Pharmalot.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pharma-funded Health Law Chair

Just as you thought universities were getting squeamish about conflicts of interest, the Seton Hall Law School names Frank Pasquale as the Schering-Plough Professor in Health Care Regulation and Enforcement, courtesy of a $2.5 million endowment. Read more here.

Pfizer scandal update

Drug reps for Wyeth (now Pfizer) allegedly disguised themselves as doctors to market Rapamune. Read it here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

[Don’t] Choke on this

The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for the FDA to require warning labels on food items that may pose a choking hazard to children. Some (including food manufacturers) are not convinced labeling food will do anything to stop the hundreds of choking deaths that occur in US children each year. Click here to read more.

Rent-a-child part II

Coyle and Sharpe weigh in. To listen, click here.

The Medicated Soldier

At least one in six members of the military is taking a psychiatric drug, says The Military Times, often in cocktails of antipsychotics, antidepressants and stimulants. Is this really such a good idea?


Researchers will be required to disclose payments from drug companies that are greater than $5000, according to new proposed regulations. Click here to read more.

Rent-a-child comes to Australia

GlaxoSmithKline is paying Australians to sign up their kids for clinical trials of its H1N1 flu vaccine. "You just get parents pimping out their children for a quick buck," a whistleblower told The Sunday Telegraph. The story is here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Helping Haiti?

Pouring money into post-Earthquake Haiti may not bring about the results donors are hoping for. This American Life examines what is happening in Haiti given the efforts to bring some level of normalcy and productivity to the devastated island nation.

Lucky Sperm

A tale of three women seeking to have a baby, and the sappy chick flick-ish book that became the final product. Click here to read more.

The FDA Launches Program "Bad Ad"

According to the BMJ, the FDA is enlisting the help of doctors to spot misleading drug ads. The article (or at least a snippet of it) can be found here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

GlaxoSmithKline is testing Paxil in children, despite risk of suicide

Why is GSK testing Paxil in Japanese children? The drug has a black box warning for suicide risk in children, yet GSK is testing the drug in kids as young as seven. Read more here.

Journal of Urology Fail

Diet soda to prevent kidney stones. Yeah....right. Check out this MediaFail/Reuters snippet.

Guinea-pigging for dollars

Roberto Lorenzo Abadie has produced the first full-fledged ethnography of the world of professional guinea pigs, who sign up for drug studies in exchange for money. He has done an outstanding job. The book is being published by Duke University Press, and it is called The Professional Guinea Pig. Read more here.

NIH gets tougher

The NIH is beefing up its conflict of interest policy, but still leaves most of the policing to universities. Read it in the Chronicle.

Floyd Landis admits doping

Big surprise: cyclist Floyd Landis admits using performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career. (He says he has seen Lance Armstrong use them as well.) More here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Elderly? We have a pill for that.

According to the article found here, the devastating event of natural aging should be recognized as a disease - and treated accordingly. Apparently, "chronological aging -- is relentless and unstoppable. But experts studying the science of aging say it's time for a fresh look at the biological process -- one which recognizes it as a condition that can be manipulated, treated and delayed." Great - living may one day be considered a disease. I can't imagine how painful it would be to be diagnosed as old.

How to medicalize bad sex

Ask Boehringer-Ingelheim. Its new drug for women, flibanserin, will be considered for FDA approval next month. Read more here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Do You Want Fries With That?

I wasn't aware of this, but I guess plastic surgeries like botox are now termed "drive thru cosmetic procedures"...because they are minimally invasive. I don't know about you, but I'd hardly call some of the times I've worked in the McDonald's drive thru window in high school as "minimally invasive." Check out this LiveScience article on "drive thru cosmetic procedures."

Does Human Growth Hormone Actually Improve Athletic Performance?

Maybe so. But not much. Read it here.

The bourbon gene

Berkeley wants gene testing for freshmen to see how well they can hold their liquor. Read it here.

"I will take the, umm, Deluxe Triple Extra Large size, please"

Tiny pills are great, and so are small phones, dogs and waistlines. But, when it comes to marketing condoms in size S, things are a little trickier. Click here to read more in The Atlantic.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dr. Nancy

NBC’s medical correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, continues her reign of terror with a new book, Diet Myths that Keep Us Fat. Click here to learn more about what she is condescendingly preaching to Americans.

Whisper in their ear, "Neurontin for everything"

Pfizer has agreed to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit alleging that Neurontin caused a retired minister to commit suicide two months after he started taking the drug. Read more here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gorilla taught that it will die

Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday

Duke researchers develop Super-Bladder

Today in the Past

"Baby's Little Helper" was invented. Listen here.

Dogs on Viagra?

A New York animal shelter is seeking donations of Viagra to treat a pit bull with a heart condition...Check it out.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meet The Facts

Why not fact-check the Sunday morning political talk shows? On the Media reports.

The alcoholic philosopher's lament

On 200 mg a day of baclofen, in an important meeting with several associate deans of my college and three new department chairs (I was made chair of my philosophy department just a few weeks before I tried to commit suicide), I fell asleep with my head on the conference room table and, for 40 minutes, everyone was too embarrassed to wake me. Somnolence is the most obvious and inconvenient side effect of baclofen. I reduced my dosage to 100 mg a day, and started taking it only at bedtime. A few days later, a colleague asked if I had changed my medicine. ‘Yes,’ I told her. ‘Why do you ask?’ She is German, an analytic philosopher, and therefore very direct: ‘You are drooling less than you were.’

From Clancy Martin's essay on baclofen in The London Review of Books. He is also the author of How to Sell: A Novel and a brilliant essay on jewelry sales scams in this month's Harper's.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unfortunate Social Networking

A case involving a Minnesota man who encouraged people to commit suicide will be moving forward later this month, and no one is quite sure how the existing body of law will handle this case. Click here to read more.

Tree nuts lower cholesterol

So says a new study funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, a trade group representing the tree nut industry. (I'm not joking.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Lexapro Tax Dodge

How does Forest Laboratories dodge $60 billion in taxes every year? Read more here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Huskie Misconduct

A case regarding academic misconduct at the University of Washington School of Medicine continues on after seven years. Click here to read more.

Cargill settles

"Cargill Inc. publicly acknowledged responsibility Wednesday for life-shattering injuries suffered by a young Minnesota dance instructor after she ate a contaminated hamburger, a case that has drawn national attention and helped shape the U.S. food safety debate." The Strib reports.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Go Woodbury!

Apparently, some residents of Woodbury fear the elderly. Click here to read more.

Investigative Journalism and Bioethics

Attention, medical muckrakers. Starting in Fall 2010, the Center for Bioethics and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications will be offering a new course, "Investigative Journalism and Bioethics." (It is listed as a 5000-level BTHX "Topics in Bioethics" course here and as JOURN 5990 here.) Amy Landa and I will be teaching it. It will be a hands-on, talk-intensive seminar, with lots of scandals and outrages.

The official course description reads: "This seminar will explore the links between bioethics and journalism, examining classic and contemporary works of investigative health journalism, works of literary non-fiction related to medicine, memoirs by doctors and medical students, and investigative work by bioethicists and ethnographers. It will also examine citizen muckraking, non-profit investigative journalism, the public relations industry, the decline of print journalism and the rise of digital media, and how these developments are shaping the relationship between bioethicists and the press."

Public Citizen calls for halt to Avandia trial

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Genes R Us

Starting Friday: gene testing kits at the drugstore. You can trace your ancestry or check your health or both. Are the tests legit? Read more in the Washington Post.

Addicted to Proton Pump Inhibitors

Unsurprisingly, "Proton Pump Inhibitors" is not the name of a band. Rather, an increasingly large number of Americans have become dependent on heartburn medicine to combat a problem that is almost always attributed to diet and lifestyle choices. Check out the article on CNN.

Monday, May 10, 2010

How your ADHD drugs help you lose weight

"This is what successful ADHD management could look like." Read more here.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The largest, but less talked about, pharma company

Click here to read a piece on Teva, the generic pharmaceutical giant, and how it has become the largest prescription drug supplier in the U.S.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A needle a day, but you'll have to pay

Acupuncture has grown rapidly in popularity, and has even received some oversight by the FDA, but don’t count on insurance covering your treatments anytime soon. Click here to read more.

Anniversary of Dan Markingson's death in a University of Minnesota clinical trial

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the death of Dan Markingson, who committed suicide in a AstraZeneca-sponsored clinical trial at the University of Minnesota. The story was reported in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2008; the university continues to deny responsibility. Pharmalot summarizes the story here.

Overenthusiastic fertility doctor goes unpunished in Connecticut

A doctor who inseminated a fertility patient with his own sperm continues to practice in Connecticut. William Heisel wonders how long before the doctor's face begins to show up in kindergartens all over the state.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Najarian on Almanac

When the University of Minnesota was placed on probation by the NIH in 1996, John Najarian was the man at the center of the scandal. He is interviewed here about his recently published memoir.

Another great TED lecture

This is another great lecture from TED, given by Elizabeth Pisani. She is the author of The Wisdom of Whores, and maintains a website by the same name. She has a "keeping it real" approach to studying the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS and STDs.

Using Econ for Good

This is a great lecture by Esther Duflo, an economist at MIT, given at the TED Conference in 2010. Dr. Duflo recently won the John Bates Clark Medal, and last year was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant for her work on using control trials to find solutions for reducing poverty in the developing world. She is considered by many to be a future nominee for the Nobel Prize in Economics

(For those of you unaware of TED, it is the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference Series, which has become the latest hot spot for geek sheek scientists, politicians and celebrities.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Eyelash Enhancements

Latisse, the eyelash elongation drug, has - big surprise - side effects. For instance, purple discolorations on your eyelids, or your blue eyes turning brown. Saves you time putting makeup on, right? Check out the NY Times for this news item. There is a Minnesotan they mention in there.

Five days on the road with David Foster Wallace

"Wallace tapped into what Lipsky nicely calls the 'brain voice'—placing on the page in all its absurd detail what it feels like to live, to observe, to experience. In his most famous essay, 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,' which first appeared in Harper’s in 1995, Wallace chronicles his time aboard a seven-day Caribbean cruise, beginning with 'the shattering, flatulence-of-the-gods sound' of the ship’s horn. Staff decline his morbid inquiries about his cabin’s superefficient vacuum toilet, which produces "a concussive suction so awesomely powerful that it’s both scary and strangely comforting—your waste seems less removed than hurled from you." He details the skilled, unobtrusive professionalism and extreme coolness of his Hungarian waiter, Tibor—'the Tibster'—and confesses, 'I sort of love him.' His elderly tablemates at tea dislike Wallace’s tuxedo T-shirt; formal attire is expected. The average young punk would smirk with self-satisfaction at such a gag, but what makes Wallace so loveable is that he is mortified to have given offense. He probably broke out sweating."

Michael O'Donnell reviews
Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.

No need to eat Stouffers and then take your life

You may no longer need to depend on antidepressants as Stouffers microwaveable meals now come with tips on how to prevent suicide. To learn more about this Onion exclusive, click here.

South Carolinians say: "Thank God for Minnesota"

Once again, Minnesota ranks last in the country in disciplining bad doctors, according to Public Citizen, narrowly beating out South Carolina.

Jesus Loves Salt

So says Stephen Colbert. For a debate between the food police and the Salt Institute (yes, there is a Salt Institute), watch here.

The hidden danger of psychiatric drugs

Are kids who take stimulants at greater risk of having a psychotic episode? Do schizophrenic patients do better without taking neuroleptic drugs? According to Robert Whitaker, the answer to both questions may well be yes -- and he has published scientific data to back him up. Salon interviews Whitaker about his alarming new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic.

Have you had your barbecue supplements today?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Lisa Bero on Bias in Drug Trials

Presumed Consent in NY

A New York assemblyman has introduced a bill to initiate a presumed consent organ donation law in the Empire State. Is this a good idea? The Times has wrangled up the opinions of a few scholars. Click here to read more.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Stalking for pharma

If you want confirmation of your paranoid fantasies of the pharmaceutical industry, have a look at this piece by Jim Edwards at BNET Pharma. A PR company named V-Fluence is being employed by AstraZeneca to track and report on their online critics. The tracking was discovered by a mental health blogger who inadvertently gained access to their website.

Pepsi CEO blames obesity on lack of exercise

Wrongly, of course, but predictably. Read more at the WSJ Health Blog.