Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Pharma on Facebook / Google+ in Medicine and Pharma?

From the 8th July Pharmaphorum blog posting by Wendy Blackburn

There’s been much discussion around the pharmaceutical industry’s use of social media, especially Facebook. Is it worth the risk for pharma to engage in this uncontrolled space? Will consumers really “like” a medication in a place where they’re more likely to play Farmville? And what options does pharma have considering Facebook’s recently-announced policy changes?…

[The post goes on to say there are at least 150 pharmaceutical related Facebook pages , including those by corporations, brands (those dedicated to a single presription drug), unbranded pages (usually centered around a condition as diabetes), and those including games and/or applications.]

[The article goes on to discuss the legalities and Facebook policies concerning comments at pharma Facebook pages.]

[Some excerpts]

Facebook changes the game for pharma

“Starting today, Facebook will no longer allow admins of new pharma pages to disable commenting on the content their page shares with people on Facebook,” Facebook told pharmas in a May 17 email posted by Intouch Solutions on its blog. “Pages that currently have commenting disabled will no longer have this entitlement after August 15th. Subject to Facebook’s approval, branded pages solely dedicated to a prescription drug may (continue to) have commenting functionality removed.”

– Medical Marketing & Media Magazine….

For companies that decide they still want to be on Facebook, there are a number of options:

1. 24/7 monitoring and moderation or a “community management” model

2. Moderation applications that place a temporary “hold” on comments prior to publication

3. Branded Facebook pages, where Facebook will still allow comment disabling

4. Personal representation or company “spokesperson”

5. Advertising

6. Word filters


Google+ in Medicine and Pharma? 

From the 14 July 2011 Science Roll item
There have been some articles and blog entries lately focusing on whether Google+ could be used in medicine or pharma. I’ve been trying to use it more actively in the past couple of days and it’s still a question for me to figure out whether I should separate my professional Facebook and Google+ activities. A few comments from fellow bloggers:

Could Google+ be Pharma’s Answer to Social Media Marketing?

“Google launched a beta version of its own social network just a couple of days ago, Google+.  While many news reports over the past day or so  suggest that Google+ offers some great features, most also suggest that the network is probably no reason for people to abandon their FaceBook page as an alternative.

However, could Google+ offer a FaceBook alternative for pharma companies?  “…..

[Click here for the rest of the Science Roll article]

Google+ is a social media site (currently in beta & for invited users only) similar to Facebook.

An introductory video, review….

July 12, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Many get antidepressants for no psychiatric reason

Many get antidepressants for no psychiatric reason

From the February 4, 2011 Health Day news article by Frederik Joelving

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – More than a quarter of Americans taking antidepressants have never been diagnosed with any of the conditions the drugs are typically used to treat, according to new research.

That means millions could be exposed to side effects from the medicines without proven health benefits, researchers say.

“We cannot be sure that the risks and side effects of antidepressants are worth the benefit of taking them for people who do not meet criteria for major depression,” said Jina Pagura, a psychologist and currently a medical student at the University of Manitoba in Canada, who worked on the study.

“These individuals are likely approaching their physicians with concerns that may be related to depression, and could include symptoms like trouble sleeping, poor mood, difficulties in relationships, etc.,” she added in an e-mail to Reuters Health. “Although an antidepressant might help with these issues, the problems may also go away on their own with time, or might be more amenable to counseling or psychotherapy.”

The researchers tapped into data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiologic Surveys, which include a nationally representative sample of more than 20,000 U.S. adults interviewed between 2001 and 2003.

Roughly one in ten people told interviewers they had been taking antidepressants during the past year. Yet a quarter of those people had never been diagnosed with any of the conditions that doctors usually treat with the medication, such as major depression and anxiety disorder.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 15 million American adults suffer from major depression, and 40 million more have anxiety disorders.

Although the survey didn’t include all mental illnesses that might have led doctors to prescribe an antidepressant — say, obsessive-compulsive disorder or to help quit smoking — other experts said the new findings are not exaggerated.

“Reviews of claims records, which are diagnoses actually given by health care professionals, suggest that only about 50% of patients who are prescribed antidepressants receive a psychiatric diagnosis,” said Dr. Mark Olfson, a psychiatrist at Columbia University in New York.

“These findings raise questions about the clinical appropriateness of antidepressant treatment selection for many primary care patients,” he added in an e-mail to Reuters Health.

With sales of $9.9 billion in 2009, up three percent since the previous year, antidepressants rank fourth among prescription drugs in the U.S., according to IMS Health, a company that analyzes the pharmaceutical industry.

Popular brand names include Pfizer’s Zoloft, Forest Laboratories’ Lexapro and Eli Lilly’s Prozac.

While studies have shown the drugs may help some people with depression, they come with a price tag — and not only the $100 or more that a month’s supply can cost. Some users experience sexual problems or gain weight, for instance.

“Nearly all medication has side effects, so there are undoubtedly a large number of Americans who are taking antidepressants that may not be effective at treating their conditions, yet they suffer from the side effects,” said Jeffrey S. Harman, an expert in health services at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who was not involved in the new study.

“Not to mention inappropriate use of our health care dollars that comes along with inappropriate prescribing,” he added in an e-mail.

Still, Harman said the findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry***, didn’t necessarily mean doctors are prescribing more antidepressants than they should.

“As far as overprescribing, I don’t think you can say that it is occurring as a blanket statement,” he explained. “There are undoubtedly many people being prescribed antidepressants that may not be effective for them, but there are also millions of Americans suffering from depression who are not being prescribed antidepressants or are being prescribed them at a suboptimal dose.”

Pfizer did not comment directly on the new findings, but told Reuters Health it was dedicated to ensuring “that patients and their doctors have the most up to date medical information on which to base their treatment decisions.”

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/eXPVSL*** Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, online January 25, 2011.

 

*** For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, please click here

 

 

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tipping points — the future of the pharmaceutical industry

Tipping points — the future of the pharmaceutical industry

From the February 4, 2011 Eureka news alert

This declining trend is blamed on a failure of innovative drive in the industry, failure of the UK to support basic research, failure of venture capital to invest in early stage research, or failure of the Health Service to provide smart procurement.

A research centre funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) shows that radical reform of the drugs industry regulatory system must be an important part of the solution to ensure a productive and profitable pharmaceutical sector, both globally and in the UK.

Researchers from the ESRC’s Innogen centre have studied the innovation models in the pharmaceutical industry and how the industry has been able to remain sustainable for so long. The results of their research show that the lengthy and expensive regulatory system that now applies to most products of the life sciences is causing innovation failure.

Regulation has a large impact on the kinds of product that are developed by any industry sector: it is designed to ensure that products are safe, effective and of high quality. Innogen’s research demonstrates that the impacts of regulation in pharmaceuticals are more far-reaching: they determine overall company strategies; which types of companies succeed; and ultimately the structure and dynamism of the sector as a whole. Under current circumstances regulation prevents the development of the radically innovative technologies that could provide opportunities for the sector to become more effective in developing innovative products. Innogen research has predicted that the industry is approaching a tipping point in the not too distant future.

Professor Joyce Tait comments “We do not need less regulation, but smarter regulation, that can deliver expected standards of safety and efficacy, are flexible enough to respond to new scientific discoveries and can do so more efficiently than our current systems within a shorter time frame.”

Innogen research also shows that policymakers and governments need an understanding of all the major causes and relevant options available. Radical regulatory reform for the life science industries needs to be a priority in discussions regarding the future of the industry. Reform could provide the lever to profitably unleash the creativity that has been so effectively generated from public funding of basic science, leading to something closer to the innovative performance that we have seen in information and communication technologies over the past twenty years.

 

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

How do data exclusivity periods affect pharmaceutical innovation?

How do data exclusivity periods affect pharmaceutical innovation?

Study is first to estimate financial and social impact of extending exclusive access to clinical trial data for conventional drugs

From a January 6, 2011 Eureka news alert

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — January 6, 2011 — Pharmaceutical companies and generic drug manufacturers have long been at odds over regulations about “data exclusivity,” the period of time before generic manufacturers can make use of valuable clinical trial data.

A new study in the January 2011 issue of Health Affairs *** is the first to calculate the financial and social costs of limiting access to trial data — and finds that extending the term of exclusive access will lead to higher drug costs in the short term but also to more than 200 extra drug approvals and to greater life expectancy in the next several decades.

“Elected officials are unlikely to embrace legislation that would result in higher drug prices, but our research suggests that legislation to extend data exclusivity would spur innovation that would benefit future generations,” explained Dana Goldman, lead author, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC and Norman Topping Chair in Medicine and Public Policy at USC.

The pharmaceutical companies that introduce new drugs are currently granted five years of exclusive access to the clinical trial data they submit during the approval process. An extension of three years is available if new applications arise and a six month extension is granted if the drug is approved for use in pediatric populations.

In 2007, the National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy called for extending this “data exclusivity” term to the longer period used in Europe, ten to 11 years. But generic manufacturers have argued for shorter limits so that they can bring less expensive versions of drugs to patients sooner.

“Unfortunately, the health policy literature contains no information about the effects such a policy would have on innovation, population longevity and social welfare,” said Darius Lakdawalla, research director at the Schaeffer Center at USC and associate professor in the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development.

In the first study to directly address these issues, the researchers estimate that extending the term of data exclusivity to 12 years would increase the lifetime revenue of a drug by 5 percent, on average.

With empirical evidence that profits drive drug innovation, this longer term would lead to an additional 228 drug approvals over the next fifty years and an increase of 1.7 months in average life expectancy, according to the study.

John Romley, an economist with the Schaeffer Center at USC and research assistant professor at the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development, acknowledged the trade-off between current and future generations: “Americans in the early 2020’s would bear the cost of increasing drug spending. However, people turning 55 in 2060 could expect increased life expectancy as a result of innovation in the interceding years — that is, new drugs brought to market because of lengthier data exclusivity.”

***Click here for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Ways Medical Conflicts of Interest Are Disguised

From a November 22, 2010 blog item by Martha Rosenberg

Still, disclosure is tricky for medical journals whose lifeblood is often drug ads and reprints of articles for drug companies to pass out to physicians. Here are some of the ways conflicts of interest are finessed. 


Omnibus Disclosure. All of a study’s authors are listed with all the pharma links in one block of solid type. Who goes with whom? You’ll never know, but the author with no links sure isn’t happy about shared guilt. 


Initials. “R.L.T. has consulted for Merck” is set in 8-point type at the end of the article. Will readers return to the study’s start, five pages ago, where there are eight authors, four with first names that begin with R? 


Disclosures You Have to Work For. COIs of CME faculty are often given online, but the information is tucked away in a pull-down, scroll menu. It is user-unfriendly—like the drug side effects found on the scrolling ads on the same site. 


One Disclosure Is Enough. When a previous article is cited in journal letters sections, the author disclosures are said to “be found with the original article.” Surely you have that issue, published four months ago, on your desk. 


Protective Coloring. Disclosures of drug company links are embedded between government grants and charitable foundations. Government grants and charitable foundations are not conflicts of interest. 


Paying Customers Only. Twenty million citations of medical literature appear on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website. Many have authors’ institutions and e-mails. But do the abstracts show COIs? Not unless you’re a paid subscriber. Password please. 


Paying Customers Only, Even When You Are Reading a Hard Copy. In hard copies of the Aug. 5 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the disclosures of authors of “Suicide-Related Events in Patients Treated with Antiepileptic Drugs” are absent and said to be found with the “full text” of the article at NEJM.org. 



November 29, 2010 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Librarian Resources | , , , | Leave a comment

What Drug Companies are Paying Your Doctor – “DollarsForDocs”

From an October 21, 2010 Open Medicine blog item

The American broadcaster, National Public Radio (NPR), recently ran a story about doctors who get money from drug companies to promote their drugs.  ProPublica has created a free database with the names of doctors and the amount they’ve received from pharmas.

http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/

“Drug companies have long kept secret details of the payments they make to doctors for promoting their drugs. But seven companies have begun posting names and compensation on the Web, some as the result of legal settlements. ProPublica compiled these disclosures, totaling $258 million, into a single database that allows patients to search for their doctor. Receiving payments isn’t necessarily wrong, but it does raise ethical issues. “

Similarly, NPR posted a story that shows more of the disclosures. Note: pharmaceutical sales in the US in 2009? $300 billion dollars~!

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130654426

NPR has links to health, business, science news, and much more at its home page. There are also options for podcasts and RSS feeds.

 

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

   

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