Rx-ky business

16 06 2009

Well, AFM called me up on the Insight post for painting my town¹ a little too apologetic for our phriends in Pharma (possibly due to some comments I made on this post of his, and these over at The Scientist, and also just today on Flickr…) .

So I guess I should make some self-apologetics, that my point has *not* been that Pharma is cute and cuddly and can always be trusted – c’mon they are industry – the wonderful Merck saga unfolds beyond just deceptive journals – this sort of awful ‘hit list’ language to “neutralise” and worse, “discredit”, critical doctors makes me cringe (and if you’re sick of hearing about Vioxx, you can get upset at Lilly’s innapropriate off-label Zyprexa marketing instead). There is nothing I can concoct to attempt to downplay the totally unethical nature of that sort of behaviour, to me it is indefensible. There are bad elements out there. Even if we rule the Vioxx shenanigans as an exceptional exception (which is the closest I can get to a defence) just take a look at the US statistics on Pharma fines and settlements made by over the last 9 years (and that just to the government, does not include private parties, class actions etc.)

Pharmaceutical companies are corporations. And yes, they are motivated by making money. And AFM is right, some guy in marketing will try to put that goal ahead of making quality medicines. But let’s remember that’s also what these companies are about making medicines. Medicines that help people. People do not get into this industry because they want to hurt people.

And that is where I start to get annoyed by anti-Pharma movements.

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Who is testing cancer vaccines?

15 06 2009

ResearchBlogging.orgAs I wrap up my “Pharma is your Phriend” series, lets take a look at some more research.

This is a very interesting analysis of cancer vaccine trials using data mining from Open Access journal, Immunome Research.

The authors have taken advantage of there being quite a lot of publicly available information on clinical trials these days (yes, it is there, if you know where to look¹) to amass a whole host of information on cancer vaccine clinical trials for a type of analysis known as data mining.

There own summary of the results reads:

This application enables rapid extraction of information about institutions, diseases, clinical approaches, clinical trials dates, predominant cancer types in the trials, clinical opportunities and pharmaceutical market coverage. Presentation of results is facilitated by visualization tools that summarize the landscape of ongoing and completed cancer vaccine trials. Our summaries show the number of clinical vaccine trials per cancer type, over time, by phase, by lead sponsors, as well as trial activity relative to cancer type and survival data. We also have identified cancers that are neglected in the cancer vaccine field: bladder, liver, pancreatic, stomach, esophageal, and all of the low-incidence cancers.

Two cool things I learned from the paper were: Vaccines for cancers have been in development since the 1970s, and melanoma has been the cancer studied most for a vaccine, even though the first ones out to market have been for cervical cancer (expect melanoma vaccines in the next 1-5 years?).

But as we are looking to shift this discussion towards the pharmaceutical industry, let’s look at who runs clinical trials (Pop up: Figure 2a).

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Just a reminder, or is it?

24 05 2009

ResearchBlogging.orgThe decision on what medicines you are prescribed can be a matter of life or death. These decisions need to be based purely on what is best for you, the patient, not on who has the flashiest marketing campaign.

Medicines Australia, the national self-regulatory body for the pharmaceutical industry, is in the process of revising its Code of Conduct for 2010. The code is based mostly on ensuring that any marketing its members engage in is based primarily on accurately educating health-care professionals, and that their activities will withstand professional scrutiny and not bring the industry into disrepute.

The new code is expected to heavily crack down on the use of once ubiquitous Brand Name Reminder – all those free give-aways brand logos emblazoned on them. All brand name reminders will be expected to cost less than $20 and be directly relevant to the clinical setting – an umbrella or coffe mug is definite no, but this might also cover generic office equipment – like USB sticks, mousepads, sticky notes and pens.

Is this ban based on evidence? Sadly, yes. And even items under $20 may still cause some influence. And Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggest the mere presence of logos can influence how a doctor thinks about what he prescribes. But that influence may be a good thing. It depends on how he was educated. Read the rest of this entry »








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