Your internet has a drugs

16 06 2009
Whiz Kids: Alec & Shanna and The Computer That Said NO To Drugs!

Whiz Kids: Alec & Shanna and The Computer That Said NO To Drugs!

Computers and drugs, do they mix?

So the last post didn’t quite Pharm me all out as it was supposed to, so here’s a few remaining links in my medical marketing and related sturf I’d like to purge from my chest before they become totally irrelevant:

  1. Dose of Digital has a Top 10 marketing ideas for Pharma. I wonder if the critics agree with any of these (such as doing away with branded websites)
  2. Tips for using Twitter as a pain log (also advice on when to ignore your doctor)
  3. The UK National Health Service (NHS) has engaged the community online with a remarkably well done website. Not only does it provide health advice, contact details and news – it also responsibly examines health claims made by the UK media and lets you know the real story between red meat and sperm.
  4. The U.S. FDA has made steps towards global domination: In January it set up its first permanent base in Costa Rica
  5. A bit more technical, an article on establishing standards in biomarkers research. Biomarkers are molecular tests used to type diseases like cancers to determine which treatments are the best for you.
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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.

Read the rest of this entry »





Oils ain’t oils: the essentials

2 06 2009

ResearchBlogging.orgYou may have noticed my general feeling about so-called “alternative medicine” is that there is no “alternative” to medicine. One of my friends puts it another way:

Q. What do you call an alternative medicine that works?

A. Medicine.

There is no grand pharmaceutical conspiracy against natural remedies. Once a treatment demonstrates value to medical science, it will become accepted as medicine. That’s why, while you last month science bloggers descended upon a laughably flawed acupuncture study flouted as proof of effect and tore it to pieces, I doubt there’ll be a similar response at this a new international study currently in print that shows essential oils may have a role to play in combating infections caused by multi-resistant microbes.

It’s actually quite a well done study, with interesting results that provide an opportunity for the complementary medicine industry to clean up it’s act and get on board with whole evidence-based medicine paradigm, rather than remaining in the realm of snake oil and shamanism.

Read the rest of this entry »





Pandemic is not a synonym for crisis

1 06 2009

…necessarily. In this case it’s more SNAFU.

I read this weekend’s Sunday Herald during lunch today. There was a double page spread on the growing “Swine Flu Crisis!” (251 Infected!*).

While I’m not sure if this graph is actually based on real figures, it does put the pandemic in perspective:
song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

The threat of Mexican flu is quite relative. This strain may only turn out as bad as regular flu. But regular flu isn’t something to sniff at. Each year influenza occurs on a pandemic scale, this kills about 250,000 – 500,000 worldwide. So when the health authorities are saying “this is just like seasonal influenza”, they may be quite right to downplay the threat, but there is still a threat – SNAFU.

Was that enough mixed messages?

 

Hattip for GraphJam: Cheshire

*It’s now over 300, but didn’t reach 800. Either Mexican flu (or the testing labs) took the weekend off, or it’s possibly slowing down.





Swine flu arrives in Australia

30 05 2009

I think we are getting to the stage where it’s pretty hard to deny that the current A/H1N1 Mexican Flu is a pandemic strain of flu. This made a lot of what I was planning to blog a bit obsolete (that’s why you should blog direct).

This week in Australia confirmed cases have been pretty much doubling each day. When I was putting together my flu resources for blogging on Tuesday, it was in the 20s. On Wednesday it jumped to just over 50. Yesterday it was near 100. Ten Late News just told me it’s 209. Will it be 1000 by the end of the weekend, or maybe it’ll hit a peak by 500?

The good(?) thing about the current form of the virus is that while it appears highly infectious, it doesn’t seem particularly lethal or morbid. But it doesn’t change the fact that influenza is a potentially lethal disease – so the less people who get infected in the first place the better (that’s directed at you anti-vax wingnuts and idiots planning swine flu parties). It also isn’t reassuring that the Spanish Influenza pandemic in the early 20th century was initially mild(-ish) and became increasiningly virulent.

Some stories from the past week of pandemic emergence:

To follow the Australian governments official pandemic phase alert, visit here.

For global information – I recommend the Google-Rhiza Labs interactive map project by Dr Niman.





Pandemic panic epidemic

28 05 2009

I have a few posts lined up about swine flu. With Australian cases of A/H1N1 Mexican influenza have been steadily creeping up, I should try and get them out before we all die or something.

But i’ll take my chances and post them tomorrow, it’s getting quite late.

However I just loved that one of my friends back home pasted this on facebook. The local paper is panicking that some cruise ship that dropped of some infected passengers in Sydney (more about them later) has detoured so that instead of being distantly offshore of the Queensland coast in the Great Barrier Reef, it is now slightly less distantly offshore of the Queensland coast in the Great Barrier Reef. [Insert dramatic tone].

I’m struggling to work out how exactly it could travel along the east side of Australia without at some point being “off the coast of Rockhampton” (I’m going to just ignore the Bully momentarily forgetting that Rockhampton is not on the coast).





More than medicine

26 05 2009

Hot on the heels of discussions about Pharma and digital media – GSK has recently launched a corporate blog More Than Medicine. They aren’t the first Big Pharma to do so, Johnson & Johnson is also present in the blogosphere with JNJ BTW.

The idea behind the blogs is to create a more comfortable dialogue between these large overarching organisations and the end-product consumers (i.e. you and me).

J&J: “Everyone else is talking about our company, so why can’t we?

GSK: “Our goal is to encourage an open, productive discussion about a range of topics .. that doesn’t sound like it’s written in ‘legalese’.

Already GSK has been called out for having pseudonymous bloggers – but while it might somewhat detract from their claim to broad openness, it’s hardly a rare thing amongst bloggers (ummm… does yours truly qualify?*) Relationships don’t have to be built up on a first name basis.

Already the two blogs have very different styles, and showcase positive ways in which Pharma can successfully harness this new media. Read the rest of this entry »