Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] Most Information in Drug Development Is Lost

From the 9 March 2015 Newswise article

Lots of potentially useful medical information is getting lost. McGill researchers discovered this when they looked into the lack of reporting of information from “stalled drug” trials in cancer, cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

“Stalled drugs” are drugs that fail to make it to the market either because they prove to be ineffective or unsafe or both. Because only one in ten of the drugs that goes into human testing actually gets licensed, most of the information collected in developing new drugs is currently being lost. This is despite the fact that this information is critical for effective care, protecting patients, and discovering better drugs.

….

Findings from trials of stalled drugs:

1. Allow drug developers to discover what didn’t work, and then adjust the compound or method of delivery so that it might work for other conditions. For example, the drug Viagra failed initially as a drug for treatment of angina. We now know it to be a very effective drug for erectile dysfunction.

2. Help us learn about the safety of other approved drugs. Often, trials of experimental drugs generate valuable evidence about the safety of approved drugs – especially if the approved drugs are in the same chemical family.

3. Help drug discoverers learn about the limits of animal models and other experimental techniques. “When a drug works in animal models but not in patients, we have an opportunity to study why our model fell short and to improve it,” says Amanda Hakala, a Master’s student who is first author on the study.

4. Contain safety and efficacy information that might be useful in other parts of the world. Often, drugs that are considered unsafe and ineffective in one part of the world are approved in another. “Failure to publish these trials deprives patients in those other jurisdictions of state of the art evidence of safety and efficacy,” says Kimmelman.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Further Study Necessary To Better Utilize Nature’s Medicine Cabinet

From the 15 December 2011 Medical News Today article

There are probably at least 500 medically useful chemicals awaiting discovery in plant species whose chemical constituents have not yet been evaluated for their potential to cure or treat disease, according to a new analysis by a New York Botanical Garden scientist who has more than 15 years of experience in collecting plants for natural-products discovery programs.

Currently, 135 drugs on the market are derived directly from plants; the analysis indicates that at least three times as many disease-fighting substances have yet to be found that could be developed into drugs or used as the basis for further drug research.

“Clearly, plant diversity has not been exhausted, and there is still great potential in the plant world,” said James S. Miller, Ph.D., Dean and Vice President for Science at the Botanical Garden.

Dr. Miller’s analysis, “The Discovery of Medicines from Plants: A Current Biological Perspective,” is published in the December issue of the peer-reviewed journal Economic Botany. …

[Web site of journal is here, for options on how to get the article for free or at low cost, click here]

Dr. Miller argues that one possible explanation for the low yield is the relatively crude way in which plant extracts were tested for their pharmaceutical potential. Plants may contain as many as 500 to 800 different chemical compounds, but the screening programs of the late 20th century used extracts made from a whole plant or at best extracts that contained many hundreds of compounds.

Under those circumstances, one compound may interfere with the action of another, or the amount of one compound may be too small to register in a mix of hundreds of chemicals.

To correct this problem, new technologies now allow researchers to separate complex mixtures of natural products into a “library” of relatively pure compounds that can be tested individually. A 2002 study demonstrated that testing such libraries dramatically improves discovery rates. …..

Read the entire news article

December 15, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Drug regulators are protecting profits over patients, warn researchers

From a 10 May Science Daily article

ScienceDaily (May 10, 2011) — Medicines regulators are protecting drug company profits rather than the lives and welfare of patients by withholding unpublished trial data, argue researchers on the British Medical Journal website.

They call for full access to full trial reports (published and unpublished) to allow the true benefits and harms of treatments to be independently assessed by the scientific community.
Despite the existence of hundreds of thousands of clinical trials, doctors are unable to choose the best treatments for their patients because research results are being reported selectively, write Professor Peter Gøtzsche and Dr Anders Jørgensen from the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark.
Selective reporting can have disastrous consequences. For example, Rofecoxib (Vioxx) has probably caused about 100,000 unnecessary heart attacks in the USA alone, while anti-arrhythmic drugs have probably caused the premature death of about 50,000 Americans each year in the 1980s…..

…Journal Reference:
P. C. Gotzsche, A. W. Jorgensen. Opening up data at the European Medicines Agency. BMJ, 2011; 342 (may10 1): d2686 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d2686 [Links to the free full text of the article]


Click here to read the rest of the Science Daily article

May 11, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Math may help calculate way to find new drugs for HIV and other diseases

Math may help calculate way to find new drugs for HIV and other diseases

Technique finds best drug candidates among millions of choices

Princeton researchers, Christodoulos Floudas and Meghan Bellows-Peterson, have developed a way to use mathematical models to take some of the guesswork out of discovering new drugs. Using the technique, they have identified several potential new drugs for fighting HIV. The image on the screen shows a graphic of their drug candidate (red) attached to HIV (blue).

From the February 4, 2011 Eureka news alert

Using mathematical concepts, Princeton researchers have developed a method of discovering new drugs for a range of diseases by calculating which physical properties of biological molecules may predict their effectiveness as medicines.

The technique already has identified several potential new drugs that were shown to be effective for fighting strains of HIV by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

“The power of this is that it’s a general method,” said Princeton chemical and biological engineering professor Christodoulos Floudas, who led the research team. “It has proven successful in finding potential peptides to fight HIV, but it should also be effective in searching for drugs for other diseases.”

Floudas, the Stephen C. Macaleer ’63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science, and Princeton engineering doctoral student Meghan Bellows-Peterson collaborated on the study with researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Their findings were reported in the Nov. 17, 2010, issue of Biophysical Journal.***

The researchers’ technique combines concepts from optimization theory, a field of mathematics that focuses on calculating the best option among a number of choices, with those of computational biology, which combines mathematics, statistics and computer science for biology research.

In the case of HIV, the challenge for the Princeton team was to find peptides — the small chains of biologically active amino acids that are the basic building blocks of proteins — that could stop the virus from infecting human cells….

 

***For information on how to get this article for free or at low cost click here.

 

 

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

   

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