Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pelvic Bone with Fetal Heads on Stand

Medical training device, or avant garde sculpture?  You decide.  Available for $386 at Simulaids.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The new gossip-mongers

“Is there Gawker ethics? I mean, I guess there’s Gawker ethics. It’s a dangerous thing to talk about,” says Gawker Media founder Nick Denton.  Read Ben McGrath's fascinating profile of Denton in The New Yorker. 

GSK to pay $750 million

GlaxoSmithKline will pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that it sold tainted products.  Read about it here.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is on the run

"Julian Assange moves like a hunted man. In a noisy Ethiopian restaurant in London’s rundown Paddington district, he pitches his voice barely above a whisper to foil the Western intelligence agencies he fears. He demands that his dwindling number of loyalists use expensive encrypted cellphones and swaps his own as other men change shirts. He checks into hotels under false names, dyes his hair, sleeps on sofas and floors, and uses cash instead of credit cards, often borrowed from friends"

So begins a New York Times profile of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which Assange himself calls a "character assassination."   Read about Assange's response in the Huffington Post here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You'll take our inconclusive opinion and like it

After Runi Limary was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, she sent a blood sample to Myriad Genetics for testing. "The lab report revealed Limary had an unusual variation in the BRCA 1 gene, but Myriad couldn't determine whether it was a dangerous mutation or a benign, uncommon one." Limary tried to get a second opinion, but couldn't: Myriad holds a monopoly on testing because it own patents on the BRCA genes. More here.

The Incredible Shrinking Doctor

Proponents of evidence-based medicine, comparative effectiveness research and insurer incentives argue these tools can promote health and cut costs by ensuring that doctors are using "best practices" when treating patients. The common element in these strategies is reducing doctor discretion in treating individual patients in favor of the treatments that appear to have worked best for populations. The New York Times reports on UnitedHealthcare's plan to offer doctors an additional fee "to encourage doctors to follow standard treatments rather than opting too often for individualized and unproven courses of therapy, which can include the most expensive drug combinations." Read about it here.

Hormones run amok

If your spayed dog or cat is in heat, stop letting it lick that hormone cream off of you. The New York Times' Tara Parker-Pope reports on how some of the 440,00 prescriptions for topical estrogen products for post-menopausal women end up in their pets and children.

NPR: "How to Win Doctors and Influence Prescriptions"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making it interesting

Here is a suggestion from my angry brother, on my White Coat, Black Hat talk tomorrow at the U bookstore.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blood doping for enrolling clinical trials

Cancer patients have gotten blood transfusions for the purpose of meeting eligibility criteria for clinical trials.
Read letter by Canadian researchers in NEJM.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Follow-up to Carlat's "Dr. Drug Rep"

In Daniel Carlat's article, "Dr. Drug Rep," which appeared in the New York Times Magazine in November of 2007, Carlat describes his experience of being a "detail man" for the Wyeth antidepressant Effexor. Years ago when investigating patient responses to commonly used antidepressants, I found an online petition to take Effexor off the market, authored and signed by enraged former and current Effexor users. Many of the patient comments echo Carlat's nagging concerns that he was hesitant to mention during his industry-funded "physician education" lunch talks, especially those regarding withdrawal effects. See the petition and patient comments, here.

Play Their Hearts Out

For a brief period in the late 1990s, George Dohrmann was the most hated man in Minnesota.  As a sports reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he broke the story of how Jan Gangelhoff, a university tutor, had written papers and taken exams for at least 20 players on the University of Minnesota men's basketball team.  Governor Jesse Ventura denounced him; hate mail poured in; Dohrmann won a Pulitzer Prize and soon left the state to take a job with Sports Illustrated.

His new book is Play Their Hearts Out, an eight-year investigation into the ugly, cut-throat world of "grassroots" basketball, where kids as young as eight years old are manipulated and exploited by shoe-company executives, sports reporters, college recruiters and wannabe coaches on the make.  Dohrmann will read from his book tonight at 7 pm at the Edina Barnes and Noble at 3225 W. 69th Street.  More information about the book can be found here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Botox for the prostate

No, that is not a mistake.  You read that correctly.  Check out the study here.

The rent is too damn high

The Troubled Waters emails

What did the president know and when did he know it?  The Troubled Waters emails have been helpfully posted online at the FRPE website

Dollars for Docs

ProPublica has just released a brand new searchable database of doctors on the pharma payroll.  Try it out here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Your man in Ghana

"Anas Aremeyaw Anas is a Ghanaian investigative journalist with many disguises—from addict to imam—and one overriding mission: to force Ghana’s government to act against the lawbreakers he exposes."  Read a profile of this remarkable journalist in The Atlantic.

PatientsLikeMe and Patient Data “Scraping” Scandal

"The Wall Street Journal caught Nielsen “scraping” personal data from, a site where people with medical problems go to discuss their meds and symptoms. But don’t kid yourself that PatientsLikeMe is the victim here: Its entire business model is about selling private patient information to the highest bidder." Read here

Book 'em

If you want to protect patients, says Paul Thacker, you need to start prosecuting pharma CEOs.  Read it here.

The Corrections

 "One of the many fascinating pieces of information contained in this recent report from Youth Today, a newspaper for workers in the youth corrections field, is this: In 2008, the Texas Youth Commission was spending an average of $60,000 a month on the powerful anti-psychotic drug Seroquel.
For those keeping score, that’s a rate of $720,000 a year."  Read about it in Focal Point.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sorry, folks

Karen Himle and Robert Bruininks issue a Friday afternoon apology for the "Troubled Waters" debacle. Classic. Problem solved.

Here's the Star Tribune story.

Clinical trialists rebut Mother Jones article, "Making a Killing"

The Clinical Trials Guru from Don Walters on Vimeo.

Normal fakery in medical science

"Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science."  Read the article in The Alantic.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Missing nurse has 24 hours to take vaccine or die of malaria

A UK nurse was apparently intentionally infected with malaria in an Oxford vaccine trial. Now he is missing.  Read more here.

Pfizer's other bad antidepressant

"An analysis just published by BMJ, the British Medical Journal, pans reboxetine, calling it 'an ineffective and potentially harmful antidepressant.'"  Read more at the NPR health blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Walk it off, crybaby

What do Wall Street bankers and whining pharmaceutical executives have in common?  Read it here.

How the drug industry buys health journalists

Next week, the National Press Foundation offers an all-expenses-paid, educational program on cancer issues for journalists, with all expenses paid by Pfizer," writes Gary Schwitzer.  And a lot of journalists don't see the problem.  Read about it here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

News flash: bribery is illegal, even overseas

The feds are investigating a number of drug companies again, this time for their work overseas.  According to the WSJ, this time it is for "bribing government-employed doctors to purchase drugs; paying company sales agents commissions that are passed along to government doctors; paying hospital committees to approve drug purchases; and paying regulators to win drug approvals."  Read more here.

The Art of the Pitch

Jack Hitt speaks about writing a query letter at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.  Listen here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Another diet drug goes down

Same old story: FDA approves diet drug; diet drug proves to be dangerous; FDA pulls diet drug from market.  This time, it's Meridia.  Read about it here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sex-offending doctors continue to practice with no oversight

According to the Chicago Tribune, doctors on probation for sex offenses in Illinois are allowed to keep practicing without oversight.  Read about it here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Guatemala syphilis studies

Susan Reverby, the historian who discovered evidence that the US government infected Guatemalans with syphilis in the 1940s, writes about her experience on the Bioethics Forum.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Diabetes = Dollars

As Tara Bannow reports in the Minnesota Daily, the U and the Mayo Clinic are seeking up to $350 million in public and private funding to extend their partnership aimed at finding a cure for diabetes within the next decade.

It will be interesting to see how they pitch it to the Legislature.

HCMC to shut out nonresident poor

The Star Tribune reports that starting early next year, the state's largest public hospital will no longer give non-emergency care to out-of-county residents who are uninsured. HCMC estimates the move could save $600,000 a year.

The article also mentions that Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson is arguing that illegal immigrants shouldn't get help from HCMC if the hospital is going to deny care to taxpayers from other counties. But a majority of commissioners disagree.

"The County Board rejected amendments offered by Johnson that would have restricted care to U.S. citizens or immigrants with a green card, and that would have tracked how many of them got treatment. Most commissioners judged those policies either unworkable or unfair."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Did Nixon try to assassinate an investigative reporter?

Or was it just his plumbers?  In the new book, Poisoning the Press, Mark Feldstein tells the story of how Charles Colson and G. Gordon Liddy hatched a plan to kill the reporter Jack Anderson.  David Corn explains it all here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson's Canadian job letter

"I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person." (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)"

"Nothing beats having good references."

Read the whole thing in The Montreal Gazette..

Side Effects May Include Lawsuits

Today's New York Times has a lengthy article on the explosion of prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs, Pharma's marketing strategies and the resulting patient lawsuits. It's all here: disease-mongering, ghost-writing, payments to prominent doctors... Where have I heard this before?

Boston Globe picks up Guatemala story

Wellesley professor unearths a horror: Syphilis experiments in Guatemala
By Stephen Smith
Globe Staff / October 2, 2010

Picking through musty files in a Pennsylvania archive, a Wellesley College professor made a heart-stopping discovery: US government scientists in the 1940s deliberately infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in experiments conducted without the subjects’ permission...

The story is here.

Front page, New York Times, Oct. 2

U.S. Apologizes for Syphilis Tests in Guatemala

From 1946 to 1948, American public health doctors deliberately infected nearly 700 Guatemalans — prison inmates, mental patients and soldiers — with venereal diseases in what was meant as an effort to test the effectiveness of penicillin.

The story is here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Channeling Dorothy Sayers

For me, Carl's latest story in The New Yorker brought to mind Agatha Christie mysteries and a touch of Miss Marple. (Nothing like a cozy murder, eh, dearies?) But for another reader, it evoked one of Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

Read the letter to The New Yorker here.

My disgruntled brother

As promised, the website.  Find it here.

Reuters story on Guatemala syphilis experiment

Oct. 1, Filed at 1:35 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States apologized on Friday for an experiment conducted in the 1940s in which U.S. government researchers deliberately infected Guatemalan prison inmates, women and mental patients with syphilis. The story is here.