Monday, August 08, 2011

News Flash: You can't have it all.

  • Do you feel like you're stuck in the 20th century? 
  • Are you a physician who would like a smartphone app to help you make prescribing decisions? 
  • And are you opposed to apps that cost anything more than free
Good news! You can put your Luddite days behind you. Epocrates is here (it actually has been here for three years) to make your prescribing decisions easier.
  • Oh, you also don't want any drug ads or pharma marketing content on the app? That's asking too much.
According to Duff Wilson of the New York Times, doctors who generally resist pharma marketing aren't safe from drug companies should they choose to use a "free" program such as Epocrates. (Shouldn't be a huge surprise.)

"Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, has certainly found the marketing channel to be an effective way to reach doctors. 'The beauty of the work we do with Epocrates is that we literally put ourselves in the palm of their hand,' said Dr. Freda Lewis Hall, chief medical officer at Pfizer."

Read the whole article, here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Genetic Testing for Sports Genes

According to this article in the Washington Post "at least two companies have begun selling tests that claim to help match youngsters with the sports they are genetically programmed to play best. The DNA scans, the first of an expected wave of attempts to use genes to enhance athletic performance, can steer children toward games they are most likely to win — and perhaps get scholarships to play." Wow.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Not just for eyelashes anymore

Latisse, the eyelash enhancer, is currently being experimented as a treatment for baldness. Check it out in the NY Times.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The most highly paid pharma executives?

The winner for 2010 is Johnson & Johnson CEO Bill Weldon, with $28.7 million.  Read about it at Fierce Pharma.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Court Hears Arguments In Data Mining Case"

Monday, April 25, 2011

A social media clinical trial?

The WSJ reports on an intriguing new clinical trial of lithium for ALS -- conducted on PatientsLikeMe.  Read about it here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just say no to Oxycontin money

"A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health organization that has been criticized for its advocacy of controversial uses of narcotic painkillers says it has decided to stop taking money from the drug industry."

"UW made the announcement after an April 3 investigative report in the Journal Sentinel revealed that its UW Pain & Policy Studies Group had taken about $2.5 million over a decade from companies that make opioids. The money came while the group pushed for what critics say was a pharmaceutical industry agenda not supported by rigorous science: the liberalized use of narcotic painkillers for non-cancer chronic pain."

John Fauber reports in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Supreme Court to hear prescription data mining case

Is data mining legal?  Pharmacies sell electronic prescription records to data miners like IMS Health, which in turn sells them to pharma.  Pharma uses the data to track doctor's prescriptions, so that it can tell whether its marketing tactics are having any effect.  But many doctors and patients object to this, and some states have started to put limits on the practice.  On April 26 the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc. et. al, on the constitutionality of Vermont’s data mining law.  Read about it here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kid getting bullied at school? Maybe she needs plastic surgery!

ABC News covered this story of a 7-year-old girl getting plastic surgery to avoid bullying. Hmmm...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"About half of U.S. adults take vitamins and other dietary supplements"

An article on Huffington Post discusses federal data on vitamin and supplement consumption in the United States. And considering what we discussed on Tuesday about the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, these data are somewhat alarming.

The most inspiring pharmaceutical leaders

PharmaVoice magazine seeks nominations for its annual list of the most inspiring figures in the pharmaceutical industry.

"These individuals should view industry trends as challenges not burdens, as opportunities not obstacles. They should embody panache and conviction. They should be leaders who plan for the future rather than respond to change. They should be innovative, creators of out-of-the box and breakthrough strategies, products, and services. They should be pioneering new paths and lifting their companies to new heights."

The nomination form is here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Coming to a slum near you

Skin bleaching seems to be the new fad in the slums of Jamaica, and its supposedly hit dangerous proportions. According to the article, "Most Jamaican bleachers use over-the-counter creams, many of them knockoffs imported from West Africa. Long-term use of one of the ingredients, hydroquinone, has long been linked to a disfiguring condition called ochronosis that causes a splotchy darkening of the skin. Doctors say abuse of bleaching lotions has also left a web of stretch marks across some Jamaicans' faces." Read more of this interesting story here.

Friday, April 08, 2011

King of Walks

Ben McGrath has a terrific article about the Barry Bonds doping scandal in the March 28 issue of The New Yorker, but sadly, you need a subscription to read it.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Kidneys on your news feed

Roxy Kurze was desperate to find a kidney donor for her husband Jeff. She posted a bulletin on Facebook seeking someone of blood type O that was willing to help. Success! Read more here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Double-standard for autism therapy

Minnesota will pay for your child's intensive autism therapy -- but not if you are poor.  Maura Lerner reports in the Strib.  (For background, read part one of Lerner's two-part series.)

Think before you take that purple pill

The FDA is warning patients about PPIs -- again.  Read about it here.

Monday, April 04, 2011

"Cardiac Consultants Seem to Help Biotronik Device's Sales"

Can hiring physicians as consultants for biotech companies be a marketing scheme? Interesting but definitely not surprising. Check out this New York Times article.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Probably for the better

Johnson & Johnson recently decided to cancel an upcoming clinical trial for its injectable antipsychotic, Invega Sustenna, citing a "reconsideration of priorities." Probably a smart move, considering the recalls that the company has done in the last few months for other products. Yikes! Check it out at the Wall Street Journal.

Walgreens purchases ""

To compete with CVS, Walgreens changes its business strategy.

Buying kidneys

Should patients be allowed to buy a kidney for transplantation?  The LA Times hosts a debate.

Maternity tourism

Official have shut down a house in San Gabriel, California that they say was home to “maternity tourists” -- well-to-do women from China who had paid tens of thousands of dollars to deliver their babies in the United States, so that the children would become automatic American citizens.  Read about it in the New York Times.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ethicator vs Ethicist

The Ethicator explains why you should write your own recommendation letters. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Newsflash: Being happy is good for your health

But not the kind of happy you'd necessarily think of immediately. It's eudaimonia that you need to help reduce your risk factors for diseases. Check it out at the WSJ.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The ethics and dangers of treating children with height-boosting drugs

Alice Dreger, on human growth hormone for cosmetic purposes.  Read it here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

More on the Markingson case

This time by Naomi Freundlich on HealthBeat.  Read it here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Guinea Pig Registry?

Do we need to register Phase I trial subjects?  Pharmalot asks the question, in response to a new JAMA article.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ethicist says: write your own recommendation letters and have your professor sign them

Seriously.  Read it in the Times.

JAMA names a new editor

It's Dr. Howard Bauchner, 59, a professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University.  Read about it here.

Should big PR firms that represent drug companies also run scientific societies’ media operations?

Cohn & Wolfe, one of the world’s largest premier PR and communications firms, is running the press office at the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) conference that starts at the end of the month.  Read more here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

InstyMeds on Steroids

Apparently, computerized prescription dispensers are all the rage. The hospital pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, has completely robotized its prescription dispensing system. According to a UCSF press release, "Once computers at the new pharmacy electronically receive medication orders from UCSF physicians and pharmacists, the robotics pick, package, and dispense individual doses of pills. Machines assemble doses onto a thin plastic ring that contains all the medications for a patient for a 12-hour period, which is bar-coded. This fall, nurses at UCSF Medical Center will begin to use barcode readers to scan the medication at patients’ bedsides, verifying it is the correct dosage for the patient." Watch the robot in action, here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sainfort and Jacko indicted

"Two University of Minnesota professors are facing charges for bilking another school out of thousands of dollars."  Watch the bizarre video here. 

The indictment is here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


InstyMeds, headquartered in Minneapolis, makes prescription drug vending machines.  Read about it in The Atlantic.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Red Market

"Sometimes the market in body parts is exploitive: Desperate people are paid tiny sums for huge donations. Other times it is ghoulish: Pieces are stolen from the recently dead. And every so often, the resource grab is lethal—people are simply killed for their organs. Welcome to the red market."

See the going rates for body parts here.

Can I buy my PhD dissertation?

The Ethicator responds.

Expiring patents threaten pharma profits

Duff Wilson reports.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Head Transplant

Head Transplant: The Truly Disturbing Truly Real Story from Jim Fields on Vimeo.

Talk to a psychiatrist? Not a chance.

Today's psychiatrists write prescriptions in 15-minute intervals and outsource therapy to others.  Read it in the Times.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

When Experiments Travel

"Even though bioethicists agree that studies causing that much harm to participants would be very unlikely today, they are nonetheless concerned with new ethical questions stemming from moving huge numbers of U.S.-sponsored clinical trials overseas to developing countries."  NPR reports.

The Patient Empowerment Network?

Have a look.

Friday, March 04, 2011

When medicine got it wrong

Exoskeleton: Medical consumerism backwards

The eLeg was developed as a way of making a healthy body better (HULC, below) but is now evolving to serve the needs of the disabled.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

"Vampire face-lifts"

Plastic surgeons are riding the Twilight wave to market cosmetic procedures. Check it out.

Do dying research subjects know what they've signed up for?

Why do dying cancer patients sign up for clinical trials designed only to test the toxicity of a drug?  The answer is not what you'd hope.  Read about it in the New York Times.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Why has the Office of Human Research Protection gone to sleep on the job?

Ever since Jerry Menikoff took the helm of OHRP, investigations of wrongdoing have slowed.  Last year the number of cases it investigated dropped to an all-time low.  What's the story?  Have a look here.

Operators are standing by

Send your moral questions to The Ethicator.

Facebook improves your mental health...unless you're this poor baby.

Cornell University researchers have conducted a study on Facebook's effects on mental health. They found it to have a positive impact, contrary to the Slate article posted in this blog last month. Not entirely convincing, but hey, I guess as long as your birth name isn't "Facebook," you'll probably be ok.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Matt Lamkin on brain-boosting drugs, in The Chronicle

Stimulants are second only to weed as the drug of choice for college students.  Should they be banned?  Matt Lamkin says no.  Read it here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why do doctors order so many expensive tests?

According to an article in Time, found here, advanced radiology tests are being used more often by doctors. This isn't news, but the discussion of the motivation behind the use of the tests, and the need for reform is interesting.

The Corporate Pursuit of Happiness

Cutting edge research from Stanford Business School suggests companies can boost sales by persuading consumers that buying the companies' products will make them happier. Marketing will never be the same.

Tattoos as Makeup? Read the Fine Print

Apparently tattooing your face doesn't always work out so well, the Times reports.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Our discussion in class on enhancements and identity reminded me that I should pick up some Neuticles (testicular implant) for my sister's dog. He just hasn't been acting like himself since the big snip...

Undoubtedly, these are top of the line nuts:

"Neuticles allows your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and aids in the trauma associated with altering....Neuticles not only replicate the pet's testicles in size, shape weight and feel - but the new UltraPLUS featuring ScarRetard has features not available on human implants. Yes- Neuticles are that advanced!"

And if dogs are anything like humans, the snipped pups without Neuticles probably face constant bullying from the other males who still have testicles to flaunt.

Or not.

FDA to the Rescue

The FDA already knew that there was something wrong in those alcohol wipes that have sickened many since 2009. But they chose to ignore it. Whoda thunk the FDA would be *that* incompetent? Oh wait.....question answered.
Read more at MSNBC.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Corporate University

Bill Gleason examines the disturbing parallels between the University of Minnesota and Brown University, at The Periodic Table.

"Take on Depression" on Facebook. (Then take your Seroquel)

John Mack investigates an AstraZeneca Facebook discussion.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Money won't buy you health insurance

Even if you're rich.  A software executive explains.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A chance to cut is a chance to collect

Why are women getting so many surgical biopsies?  Follow the money, says the Times.

"The bigger the earlobes, the more prosperous you are"

Ethnically-targeted cosmetic surgery, in the Times.

Friday, February 18, 2011

FDA approves X-Ray Vision Pills

AstraZeneca settles more Seroquel suits, but the University of Minnesota clears Charles Schulz -- again

AstraZeneca has settled another batch of lawsuits over its fraudulent marketing of Seroquel, reports FiercePharma, but the University of Minnesota has cleared its Chair of Psychiatry, Charles Schulz, of any wrongdoing.  Read about it in City Pages.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Health Care Renewal on the Markingson suicide

 Dr. Roy Poses of Brown University weighs in on the University of Minnesota's inadequate response to the Markingson case on  Health Care Renewal.  He concludes:
"Of course, since Mr Rotenberg is responsible for, among other things, reducing the university's legal liability, one could see how he might not want to delve further into this case.  As we noted earlier, it is not clear that previous "exhaustive" investigations asked the questions that needed to be asked, or had access to all the relevant data.  The issues are not whether their was criminal conduct, or even civil liability, but whether the university is presiding over good science and protection of research subjects.

So we should be worried, of course, that commercial firms sponsor research on human beings mainly to serve marketing objectives, and that university faculty and administrators go along, allowing their formerly prestigious universities' names to be added to the research in exchange for the money they so much want to keep themselves living in the style to which they are accustomed. We ought to be particularly worried when these universities seem to forget about their mission to find and disseminate new knowledge in favor of defending the work that continues to bring in the money."

SoDak Abortion Providers, invest in Kevlar

South Dakota is attempting to legalize killing abortion providers. Who's next?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Psychotropic cocktails in the US military

"After a decade of treating thousands of wounded troops, the military’s medical system is awash in prescription drugs — and the results have sometimes been deadly."  The New York Times reports.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

University of Minnesota exonerates itself

More coverage of the refusal to investigate the Markingson suicide, on Pharmalot.  Also, Science reports here,
noting that the university's stance seems to have "hardened."

Fake Dentist, Real Teeth

A 71-year-old man has been running an under-the-table dental operation out of his Sugar Hill, GA home. He has no medical or dental license at all, but apparently took a few classes in college in Ukraine. Well, I sure hope he visits a legit dentist for his own dental care. Check it out here.

MinnPost: Bioethicists respond to U of M Regents' refusal to appoint outside panel

MinnPost weighs in on the refusal of the Board of Regents to investigate the Markingson suicide.  Read about it here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

U to bioethicists: Thanks for your concern, but we already got away with this

The Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota has responded to a request by university bioethicists to investigate the suicide of Dan Markingson.  The answer is no.  Read about it in The Pioneer Press. (Also here, or here, or here.)

Multiple Sclerosis Patient Support Groups

I was just checking out what would be available in the Net. There were some good links to the MS Society and local MS groups. There was also the below.

How I fight MS, sponsored by EMD Serono, a division of Merck, sponsored by Elan Pharmaceuticals, maker of Tysabri, sponsored by Copaxone,
CCSVI Multiple Sclerosis Liberation Procedure Abroad through WorldMed Assist is a unique approach to first-class medical care by sending patients to Mexico.

PMS relief...finally!

Relief from PMS: drugs and minor surgical procedures! I wonder who was behind this "news" article.

Pharma's celebrity shills

Which celebrities work for pharma?  Have a look at BNET Pharma, but take Gary Schwitzer's quiz first.  (Spoiler alert: Antonio Banderas is the Nasonex bee.)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Schulz scandal on

Maia Szalavitz weighs in on the University of Minnesota psychiatry scandal at  Read it here.

Australian medical journal bans drug company ads

Emergency Medicine Australasia will no longer accept advertisements from the pharmaceutical industry, its editors have announced, arguing that such ads harm patient care.  “It is time to show leadership and make a stand, and medical journals have a critical role to play in this. At Emergency Medicine Australasia, we have, therefore, drawn a line in the sand and have stopped all drug advertising forthwith. We invite other journals to show their support and follow suit by declaring their hand and doing the same.”  Read about it at Pharmalot.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


So...the University of Minnesota's very own CIDRAP cites a Finnish study about a supposed link between the H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine "Pandemrix" (made by the ever so popular GlaxoSmithKline) and narcolepsy. Hmmm...might there be some confounded data here?
Try not to fall asleep when you read it here.

Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships

One- and two-year Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships for 2011-12 will be awarded to outstanding Graduate School students with interdisciplinary dissertation topics who would benefit from interaction with faculty at one of the University's interdisciplinary research centers or institutes.

Recipients of the 2011-12 fellowship will receive a stipend of $22,500 for the academic year beginning September 2011, plus full tuition. Eligible recipients are also covered by comprehensive health insurance, including subsidized dependent and dental care.

For application instructions, and more information, visit

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Is U of M department of psychiatry chair in the pocket of AstraZeneca?

Charles Schulz, the Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, is under scrutiny for his controversial work with AstraZeneca and the suicide of a young man from St. Paul.  Read about it here, in the City Pages.

Mayo Tweets on Mysterious Wrist Pain

Here's the story I was talking about in class today...

There looks to be some substantial research to support this approach, I think Dr. Berger just took it a step further for diagnosis (which is what this communication is about).

What's in that pill?

"A French father-of-two is to take GlaxoSmithKline to court on Tuesday, alleging the British firm's drug to treat Parkinson's disease turned him into a gay sex and gambling addict."  Read more here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Alta Charo on the FDA, at the U

New Technologies and Old Statutes:
Challenges for 21st Century Food and Medical Product Regulation

Prof. R. Alta Charo, JD
University of Wisconsin and U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
11:30AM - 1:00PM
Theater, Coffman Memorial Union

Prizes for Prostates

No kidding.  Free tickets to see the Atlanta Hawks if you pledge to get a PSA test.  Gary Schwitzer explains.

Zombie Nutritionist Recommends All-Brain Diet

"STONY BROOK, NY—In a dramatic reversal of decades-old medical wisdom, the late Dr. Albert Rossum, director of the O'Bannon Institute For Postmortem Nutritional Studies, recommended an all-brain diet for zombies Tuesday."  The Onion reports.

Call for papers

"The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected."  Read more here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Healthy packaged foods at Wal-Mart!

Last week, word hit the street that Wal-Mart has plans to make their packaged foods "healthier." Genuine concern for public health or PR scheme? Hmmm...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clinical Trials on Trial

Vulnerable people are increasingly targeted as subjects for clinical research.  Have we forgotten the lessons of past abuses?  Osagie K. Obasogie writes about clinical trials and exploitation in New Scientist.

Pharmaceutical Alliances and the Politics of Prescription Drug Reform in Post-War America

February 4, 2011
12:15 to 1:30 pm, in 1-450 Moos Tower on the
University of Minnesota campus

"Pharmaceutical Alliances and the Politics of Prescription Drug
Reform in Post-War America"

Speaker: Dominique Tobbell, PhD
Assistant Professor, Program in the History of Medicine; Oral
Historian, Academic Health Center History Project, University of Minnesota

Another reason to stay away from Facebook

It will make you miserable.  Read more in Slate.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Because Correlation is *Clearly* Causation

So...supposedly you can figure out which of those naughty but cute little daycare kids will be a future criminal. It might be time to get those kids on some sort of Prozaquelidone before it's too late! Check it out at The Daily Mail.

Virtual healthcare

You know how Metro Transit buses have advertisements above the handrails? All of the advertisements on a bus I rode a few days ago were for this "online clinic"...strange.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Did Newsweek kill a story to please Pfizer?

Read about it here.

Does expensive medical care mean worse care?

What if you could both lower medical costs and give patients better care?  In The New Yorker, surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande writes of a remarkable experiment in Camden, New Jersey.  The article is not available online, but you can listen to an interview with Gawande on Fresh Air here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A test for Alzheimer's?

An FDA advisory committee has recommended approval of a new imaging test for Alzheimer's disease, as Gina Kolata reports in a characteristically enthusiastic article in the Times.  But others have warned of the dangers of diagnosing Alzheimer's by testing for amyloid plaques, which are present in a third of normally functioning elderly adults.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is your army on drugs

"A June 2010 internal report from the Defense Department's Pharmacoeconomic Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio showed that 213,972, or 20 percent of the 1.1 million active-duty troops surveyed, were taking some form of psychotropic drug: antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedative hypnotics, or other controlled substances."  Read more here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter

Wendell Potter, author and former insurance executive, will discuss his book, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans, on Wednesday, January 19 at 4:00 p.m. at the University of Minnesota Bookstore in Coffman Memorial Union.

Read more here.

South Africa's God Committee

In November 1962, Life magazine published Shana Alexander's article, "They Decide Who Lives, Who Dies," about a Seattle committee charged with deciding which patients would get dialysis.  The same drama is playing out today in South Africa.  Read about it here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Odds of having an IVF baby? There's an app for that.

According to an article found on "British researchers have devised a formula which they say gives a highly accurate prediction of the potential success of IVF, to help couples decide whether to try the treatment. They have made it available online as a simple computer calculator application, and say it will soon be available for download on Apple's iPhones and other mobile devices."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Got Restless Legs?

The CNN Health Blog, "Paging Dr. Gupta," discusses "Restless Leg Syndrome" and if there is any truth to that label. Check it out here.