Dr. Rath Health Foundation

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The Pharmaceutical "Business with Disease"

Up to date news and comment about the "Business with Disease".

December 30, 2007

Drug firms probed over Iraq cash
GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have been asked to hand over papers as part of a probe into bribes allegedly paid to Saddam Hussein's former Iraq regime. The Serious Fraud Office is examining allegations of bribes paid to secure lucrative contracts in breach of Iraq's 1996 to 2003 oil-for-food programme.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

December 27, 2007

Disgraced Former FDA Official Marketing Lilly Drug
As a 33-year-old Wall Street insider known for recommending hot medical stocks, many were surprised when physician Scott Gottlieb was named FDA deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs in 2005. "Gottlieb has an orientation which belies the goal of the FDA," said Dr. Jerome Kassirer, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. "The appointment comes out of nowhere," said former FDA Commissioner Donald Kennedy. "Anything but a reassuring signal," said Time magazine. As critics feared, soon after assuming the number two FDA position, Gottlieb had to recuse himself from resource planning for a possible bird flu epidemic because of financial ties to Roche and Sanofi-Aventis. He also had to bow out of work related to Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble and five other drug companies. When three people in a multiple sclerosis drug trial lost blood platelets and one died, he called stopping the study "an overreaction" because the disease not the drug might be to blame.
Read article at scoop.co.nz (New Zealand)
Comment: Now that he's left the FDA, Gottlieb is helping sell Lilly's osteoporosis drug Evista which the company was convicted in 2005 of marketing, off label, for anti cancer and heart disease purposes. In other words, this is the famed "revolving door", between U.S. government agencies and their friends in the "business with disease", at its very worst.

December 27, 2007

Drug reactions 'kill thousands'
Almost 3,000 people have died in the past three years after suffering serious side-effects or allergies to their medicines, say official figures. More than 13,000 others in the same period had an "adverse drug reaction", but survived with hospital treatment. The statistics, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, include damage caused by "over the counter" drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: Shocking though they are, these statistics are almost certainly an underestimate, as medical experts warn that as few as one in 10 deaths and other serious complications are being reported.

December 25, 2007

Nigerian Judge Detains Pfizer Officials
KANO, Nigeria (AP) - A judge in Nigeria has ordered the arrest of three top officials of the U.S.-based drug company Pfizer Inc., saying they failed to honor an order to appear in court over a $2 billion suit the company is facing for a 1996 drug trial, court papers showed. Judge Shehu Atiku, sitting in the northern city of Kano on Monday, said his ruling Nov. 6 that the officials of the Pfizer subsidiary in Nigeria should appear in court were not heeded at that resumed sitting. The officials to be arrested include the head of Pfizer in Nigeria, Ngozi Edozien and senior officials Lare Baale and Segun Donguro, the court papers said.
Read Associated Press news story at google.com

December 22, 2007

FDA issues new safety warning for fentanyl patch
Potent painkiller implicated in hundreds of deaths
The government issued a new safety warning Friday for a skin patch containing a potent painkiller that has been implicated in hundreds of deaths, saying the patch poses risks that doctors and patients often fail to understand.
Read article in the San Francisco Chronicle (USA)
Comment: A medical journal study published this summer identified fentanyl, a narcotic as much as 100 times more powerful than morphine, as the suspect drug in more than 3,500 accidental deaths reported to the FDA from 1998 to 2005.

December 20, 2007

Pfizer Is Sued Over Lipitor Marketing
A former Pfizer Inc. official in a lawsuit accused the company of illegally boosting sales of its top-selling drug Lipitor through an elaborate campaign of misleading educational programs for doctors. Jesse Polansky, claims that the educational campaign was a key part of a marketing strategy that "led thousands of physicians to prescribe Lipitor for millions of patients who did not need medication" and could be harmed by overly aggressive treatment. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in February 2004. It was immediately sealed to allow federal prosecutors time to decide if they wanted to intervene in the case. In August, the government said it wouldn't intervene, lifting the seal. Pfizer was served a copy of the suit yesterday, according to Dr. Polansky's lawyer, Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.
Read article in the Wall Street Journal (USA)

December 16, 2007

A risky drug may get wider market
The FDA may approve Zyprexa for kids, despite its significant side effects in adult use.
It sounds like a cosmic, FDA joke: The Food and Drug Administration approves the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa to treat adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It becomes a market wonder, a bestseller. But the side effects turn out to be dangerous; some patients develop diabetes. Some 30,000 people sue the manufacturer, Eli Lilly. The pharmaceutical giant shells out more than $1-billion to settle the cases. Here comes the punch line: Though studies show that kids are even more susceptible to Zyprexa's dangerous side effects, now Lilly wants the government's seal of approval for adolescents to use it. And the FDA is about to say yes.
Read article in the St. Petersburg Times (USA)

December 13, 2007

China Shuts Down Leukemia Drug Maker
China's food and drug safety agency has revoked the license of a company responsible for making tainted leukemia drugs blamed for causing leg pains and partial paralysis among dozens of patients. State-owned Shanghai Hualian Pharmaceutical Co., a unit of China's biggest drug maker Shanghai Pharmaceutical (Group) Co., will also be fined the highest amount allowed under law and profits from the sale of the contaminated drugs will be confiscated, the State Food and Drug Administration said in a statement on its Web site seen Thursday. Some Shanghai Hualian executives were detained by police on suspicion they deliberately withheld information about violations of production standards during the investigation, the SFDA's statement said.
Read Associated Press news story at google.com

December 11, 2007

Avandia heart risks seen at the population level
The findings of clinical trials have linked the use of thiazolidinediones, a class of diabetes drugs, with congestive heart failure and possibly heart attacks. Now, new research indicates that these associations, at least with Avandia, also apply to individuals in the community, and not just clinical trials
Read article at reuters.com

December 7, 2007

European Commission Accused Of Pushing DTC
Several associations have accused the European Commission of supporting pharma companies in trying to make direct-to-consumer advertising for medicinal products legal. Four groups representing complementary health insurers, independent medical bulletins and patient advocates have issued a joint press release claiming: “The European Commission is supportive of the industry’s moves: its ‘consultations’ are little more than an attempt to sway public opinion.”
Read article at pharmalot.com

December 6, 2007

Family blames Champix for man's suicide
The family of a man who killed himself while taking a ''wonder pill" to help him give up smoking have blamed his death on side effects of the drug. Omer Jama hoped the Champix tablets were the cure that would end his 15-year addiction to smoking - but his family are certain that they led him to take his own life. Last week American drug safety experts issued a warning about the pill and suicide.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

Advisory Panel Rejects New Use for Cancer Drug
A federal advisory committee voted yesterday that Genentech's drug Avastin should not be approved as a treatment for breast cancer. By a 5-4 vote, the committee decided that Avastin's ability to delay the worsening of cancer did not outweigh the drug's toxic side effects, especially since women getting Avastin did not live significantly longer in the end.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

Bristol-Myers to Eliminate 4,800 Jobs
Bristol-Myers Squibb said yesterday that it would cut approximately 10 percent of its work force of 43,000 employees, continuing a year of pharmaceutical industry layoffs as drug makers adapt to a more competitive environment. Besides layoffs, the company said it would sell or close half its 27 manufacturing plants worldwide, farm out some manufacturing and winnow its portfolio of more than 500 products by about 60 percent.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

December 5, 2007

Nigeria quits talks with Pfizer over deadly drug trials: official
KANO (AFP) - Nigeria's Kano state has quit out-of-court talks with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer over allegedly illegal drug trials that led to the deaths of 11 children in 2006, a senior justice official said Wednesday. "Kano state government is no longer inclined towards holding any direct discussions with Pfizer, its retained counsel or employees," said a letter from justice commissioner Aliyu Umar addressed to Pfizer lawyer Anthony Idigbe. Nigeria alleges that Pfizer used an untested meningitis drug, Trovan, without authorisation on 200 children during a triple epidemic of meningitis, measles and cholera in which over 12,000 people died. It says that the drug testing led to 11 deaths and more than 180 cases of deformity.
Read article at Yahoo News

December 3, 2007

Hundreds get sick from Gardasil cancer vaccine
MORE than 17 girls a week have been experiencing adverse reactions such as seizures and numbness after taking cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil since it became widely distributed in April. But the Department of Health and Ageing, while revealing the number of reactions, is refusing to release the details of them - despite growing controversy overseas, including links to at least seven deaths. There have been previous reports in Australia of young girls fainting, experiencing seizures, dizzy spells and paralysis, including 20 students at a Melbourne private school who reported being sick after having an injection in late May. The Daily Telegraph can reveal that as of November 30 there have been 496 adverse reaction reports filed to the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA).
Read article from the Daily Telegraph at news.com.au (Australia)

Diabetes drug link to weak bones
A commonly-prescribed drug for type 2 diabetics may increase the risk of brittle bone disease, say researchers. Tests on mice found that rosiglitazone (Avandia), which is used to boost the effects of insulin, could be interfering with new bone formation.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: An earlier study had already suggested that Avandia could lead to bone fractures in men as well as women. Other research, meanwhile, suggests that Avandia can increase the risk of heart attack by more than 40 percent and that one in every 50 patients taking it over a period of 26 months will have to be hospitalised for heart failure. In the United States, it has been estimated that Avandia's toxic effects on the heart caused as many as 205,000 heart attacks, strokes and death from 1999 to 2006.

November 29, 2007

FDA panel wants extra warnings on Glaxo asthma drugs Advair, Serevent
GlaxoSmithKline's best-selling drug Advair, manufactured in part at a plant in Zebulon, may get new warnings on its label highlighting the drug's risk for children. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said late Wednesday that the asthma treatment's label should contain more information about its potentially deadly side effects in children. The FDA panel also said the information should be placed on the label of Serevent, another GSK asthma drug with the same active ingredient as Advair.
Read article in the Triangle Business Journal (USA)
Comment: Serevent and Advair already carry warnings, added in 2006, that say the drugs could increase the risk of asthma-related deaths.

November 28, 2007

Nigeria: Pfizer Blocks Prosecution
Pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, yesterday blocked the Federal Government from prosecuting it on criminal charges by obtaining an injunction restraining police from arraigning its officials. The Federal Government is instituting criminal charges against Pfizer before an Abuja Federal High Court for allegedly making Nigerian children "guinea pigs" for testing its meningitis drug in Kano in 1996. The government said the injunction is preventing it from prosecuting the multi-national company.
Read article at allafrica.com

November 28, 2007

FDA probes reported behavior changes
WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration recently said it has received reports of mood disorders and erratic behavior among patients taking the Pfizer Inc. drug Chantix. The drug won regulatory approval last year to aid adults trying to quit smoking and sales totaled $101 million. FDA said it is still gathering information about the drug, but advised doctors to closely monitor patients taking Chantix for behavior changes. The agency said the changes have often been reported within days or weeks of people first taking the drug.
Read article at timesleader.com (USA)
Comment: Some reports have linked Chantix to suicidal and violent behaviour. In the UK, meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that the UK's medicines watchdog, the MHRA, is to monitor the situation "closely" after 839 reports of adverse reactions to Champix. These reports include 50 cases of depression and 16 of suicidal thoughts.

November 27, 2007

Novartis' Myfortic poses fetal risks–FDA
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday that Novartis AG's organ rejection drug, Myfortic, increases risk of first-trimester miscarriage and birth defects. Novartis said in a letter to health-care providers that the drug will carry a new safety warning outlining the increased miscarriage risk and raised risk for malformations of the external ear and the face, such as cleft lip and palate. Other drug-related birth defect risks include anomalies of distal limbs, which include fingers and toes, and of the heart, esophagus and kidney.
Read article at reuters.com

November 26, 2007

Chinese drug association official stands trial for alleged bribe taking
A Chinese drug association official will stand trial in Beijing for allegedly taking bribes totaling 100,000 yuan (13,333 U.S. dollars), the Beijing Times reported on Monday. Last week, the public procurators office filed a document with the Xicheng District Court against Liu Yongjiu. It charged the former deputy secretary general of the China Pharmaceutical Association, a non-profit organization for pharmacists, had taken bribes from an advertising company and a pharmaceutical manufacturer, according to the newspaper.
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

November 26, 2007

Alzheimer drugs don't delay dementia onset-study
LONDON - Giving Alzheimer's drugs to people with early memory problems does not seem to delay the onset of the disease, researchers said on Tuesday.
Read article at reuters.com
Comment: Italian researchers found that in none of six clinical trials they examined did using Alzheimer's drugs significantly reduce the rate of progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

November 25, 2007

Dr. Drug Rep
Click here to read Daniel Carlat's revealing story, published in the New York Times magazine, about the year he earned $30,000 in supplemental income by giving "educational talks" to doctors on behalf of drug companies.

November 24, 2007

Additional warnings urged for 2 flu drugs
FDA finds Tamiflu, Relenza linked to bizarre behavior, deaths
WASHINGTON – Food and Drug Administration experts are recommending new label warnings about possible dangerous psychiatric side effects of influenza drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, according to FDA documents. The documents, posted Friday on the FDA Web site, were prepared for a meeting Tuesday of the FDA's Pediatric Advisory Committee. Studies revealed 596 cases in which patients who took Tamiflu experienced "neuropsychiatric events" such as delirium, delusions or hallucinations. The episodes sometimes led to impulsive behavior and self-injury. Tamiflu is made by Roche Holdings.
Read article in the Houston Chronicle (USA)

November 24, 2007

Drug group's campaign slammed by activists
Newspaper ads are half-truths, say critics
Health and consumer rights protection activists yesterday slammed the pharmaceutical industry for running adverts which mislead the public about the high cost of drugs. The statement is a reaction to full-page ads in several local newspapers. The reaction came one day after the industry, represented by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PRreMA), ran the ads that blame the high cost of drugs on improper regulations. The ads, "Stop Taxing Medicine", appeared in several newspapers. The activists said the ads contained half-truths about high drug costs. "They are trying to give a false impression that the high prices of pharmaceutical products are the result of inappropriate regulations," said Jakkrit Kuanpot, an academic at Wollongong University in Australia. "This information distorts the fact - how much they pay for such marketing strategy compared to research and development? "And they did not even mention the high profits they get from selling expensive drugs."
Read article in the Bangkok Post (Thailand)

November 21, 2007

Osteoarthritis painkiller is removed from sale
A painkiller taken by thousands of people for osteo-arthritis has been removed from sale because it may be linked to liver damage. The use of Prexige (lumiracoxib), which has been taken by 5,000 people in the last year, has been suspended by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. New data has found an increase in the number of cases of serious liver reactions which have occurred with the 100mg dose. In some cases the reactions have been in people taking the drug for less than one month.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

November 19, 2007

GlaxoSmithKline Spent $3.6M Lobbying
WASHINGTON – British pharmaceutical maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC spent more than $3.6 million in the first half of 2007 to lobby the federal government, according to a recent disclosure form. The company lobbied Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services on issues related to patent reform legislation, pharmaceutical regulation and foreign investment in the U.S.
Read article in the Boston Globe (USA)

November 13, 2007

Acne cure may raise suicide risk, says study
An acne drug prescribed to thousands of people could cause severe depression and even lead to suicidal thoughts, according to new research. Roaccutane, used to treat those suffering from severe acne, appears to interfere with the brain's use of serotonin – the feel-good hormone – a study published today found. In the United Kingdom 26 patients taking the drug have committed suicide. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency [MHRA] also recorded 19 attempted suicides, and 31 patients considering suicide, among those taking Roaccutane.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

November 11, 2007

Drugs for ADHD 'not the answer'
Treating children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with drugs is not effective in the long-term, research has shown. A study obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme says drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta work no better than therapy after three years of treatment. The findings by an influential US study also suggested long-term use of the drugs could stunt children's growth. It said that the benefits of drugs had previously been exaggerated.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

November 10, 2007

Britons excluded from US drug compensation
· Painkiller was withdrawn after fatal side-effects
· No payments to patients outside America, says firm
Merck, the US pharmaceutical giant, is to continue battling with hundreds of British claimants over its failed arthritis painkiller, Vioxx, in spite of agreeing yesterday to a settlement with US residents. Merck agreed a $4.85bn (£2.42 bn) settlement, one of the biggest in history, with US claimants who blamed the drug for heart attacks and other side-effects. But the company said this would not apply to British lawsuits or others round the world suing for compensation.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

November 9, 2007

Vioxx settlement to total $4.85bn
The maker of Vioxx has agreed to pay $4.85bn to settle legal claims that the controversial drug caused many users to suffer strokes and heart failure. Merck & Co said it was setting up a fund to compensate victims, adding that claimants would only receive payment if certain key conditions were met. To qualify, individuals must prove they suffered serious illness, at the most two weeks after they bought the drug. The deal may end multiple lawsuits but Merck has not admitted any liability.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

November 8, 2007

Rise in use of anti-depressants
Prescriptions issued in Scotland for anti-depressants have risen more than four-fold in less than 15 years, an NHS report has revealed. NHS Quality Improvement Scotland said for every 1,000 people there were 85 daily doses of the drugs dispensed in 2006, compared with 19 doses in 1992.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: Discussing these rises, Shona Neil, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health, pointed out that: "There are a lot of people being prescribed anti-depressants inappropriately." She also dismissed claims that the new anti-depressants carried fewer side effects.

November 7, 2007

Spain says 'thalidomide was sold'
The Spanish authorities have told the BBC that the birth-defect drug, thalidomide, was sold between 1957 and 1961. The admission will be seen as a victory for thalidomide campaigners who want their condition to be recognised. Until now the health ministry has refused to confirm that the drug was sold, which has led to confusion. A one line email was sent to the BBC which simply says: "Thalidomide was sold in Spain between 1957 and 1961." The president of AVITE - the Spanish thalidomide association - Pepe Riquelme said "It's very, very important for us that they have finally admitted this. It's a big step. It confirms what we knew - that we have been fighting for the right thing for all these years. It opens up a new path for us. It's going to be a long struggle, but we will win in the end."
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: More than 10,000 children in 46 countries were estimated to have been born with deformities as a consequence of their mothers using thalidomide during pregnancy. Astonishingly, therefore, despite the fact that it is clearly a highly dangerous chemical, the drug is still prescribed in some countries, including the United States, for the treatment of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer.

November 5, 2007

Heart Surgery Drug Pulled From Market
Pressured by regulators, the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG announced Monday that it had agreed to withdraw the controversial heart surgery drug Trasylol after a Canadian study suggested that it increased death rates. Dr. John K. Jenkins, a leading official of the Food and Drug Administration, said, "F.D.A. could not identify a specific patient population where the benefits of using Trasylol could outweigh the risks."
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

November 5, 2007

AstraZeneca's Crestor Fails A Heart Failure Study
More bad news for the drugmaker. The latest development is from a study that found its Crestor cholesterol pill didn't reduce deaths in older people with heart failure, which means AstraZeneca will have a hard time generating new scrips for such patients.
Read article at pharmalot.com

November 5, 2007

Study sheds light on failed heart drug
The official wall of silence surrounding the failure of Pfizer's artery-scrubbing drug torceptrapib lifted Monday, when researchers released a major study, called Illuminate, showing the drug sharply increased the rate of heart disease deaths.
Read article in USA Today
Comment: The researchers reported that torceptrapib raised the rate of heart attacks and other deadly events by 25%. Deaths rose by 40%. The drug was also found to be toxic to the adrenal gland, producing biological changes known to increase blood pressure and damage artery walls.

November 5, 2007

Risk said associated with Eli Lilly drug
A new experimental drug from Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. has been found to have a risk of major bleeding, sometimes even death, a report says.
Read article at physorg.com

October 31, 2007

Drug firms try to bribe doctors with cars
· Developing world 'easy target' for multinationals
· Gifts and pampering now norm, says report
Multinational drug companies are targeting doctors in developing countries with dinners and lavish gifts, such as air conditioners, washing machines and down-payments on cars, as incentives to prescribe their drugs, a report reveals today. The report from Consumers International (CI) says that self-regulation by the multinational drug giants has failed, citing drug adverts by companies such as Glaxo-SmithKline, Wyeth, Novartis and Pfizer that would be considered misleading in Europe, as well as the heavy promotion by all companies of products to doctors. The impact on patients is serious, the report says. "Up to 50% of medicines in developing countries are inappropriately prescribed, dispensed or sold," it says.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

October 29, 2007

Sleeping pills for kids top global list of bad products
Sleeping pills advertised for children, dangerous toys and bottled water taken from local reservoirs are among the world's worst products, a global consumer group said Monday. In announcing its bad products awards for 2007, Consumers International said the top prize went to the US subsidiary of Japanese firm Takeda Pharmaceuticals for promoting a sleeping drug for children. The company ran a television advertisement in the United States which used images of children, chalk boards and a school bus to sell its drug Rozerem.
Read article at physorg.com

October 26, 2007

Schoolgirls to get 'cancer jab'
Schoolgirls in England will be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer from September 2008, ministers are set to announce. It will go further than recommended by experts, with all aged 12-13 eligible, and a catch-up campaign up to 18.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: One of the vaccines that have been developed, Gardasil, made by Merck, is already reported to have been responsible for 3,461 adverse reactions, including eleven deaths, in the United States alone. In Australia, meanwhile, reports suggest that dozens of teenage girls have been sickened by Gardasil. In one case being investigated, a girl was left temporarily paralysed and unable to talk.

October 25, 2007

World Experts Demand End to Child Drugging in the US
On October 12, 2007, experts in the field of psychiatry and child development from all over the world arrived in Washington to attend the annual conference of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. This year's conference focused on one specific goal - to end the mass-prescribing of psychiatric drugs to children.
Read article at lawyersandsettlements.com

October 25, 2007

Glaxo cuts jobs to save £700m a year after profits slide
· US sales of top selling diabetes drug down 50%
· Tougher regulation and generics hurt entire sector
GlaxoSmithKline yesterday unveiled a cost-cutting programme that will involve job losses and the closure of manufacturing sites, as it reported third-quarter profits were hit by declining sales of its troubled diabetes treatment, Avandia. The world's second-largest drugs company said the restructuring programme would deliver annual pre-tax cost savings of up to £700m by 2010 but would need £1.5bn to implement. Chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier declined to say how many jobs were likely to go but 40% of the savings will be made in manufacturing, 40% in sales and the rest in research and development. Analysts said they expected the job losses to run into thousands.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

October 25, 2007

Heart drug may boost risk of death, FDA says
Mounting evidence reveals problems related to use of Trasylol
The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that accumulating evidence suggests a Bayer AG drug used to prevent excessive bleeding during heart bypass surgery increases the risk of death when compared with other drugs. The announcement came as a Canadian study comparing the safety and efficacy of the drug, Trasylol, with two others was halted. Preliminary results from that trial also suggested Trasylol increased the risk of death when compared with the other drugs.
Read article at MSNBC

October 25, 2007

Warning Is Sent to AIDS Vaccine Volunteers
S. Africans Among Recipients Who May Be at Higher Risk of Contracting Virus
South African AIDS researchers have begun warning hundreds of volunteers that a highly touted experimental vaccine they received in recent months might make them more, not less, likely to contract HIV in the midst of one of the world's most rampant epidemics. The move stems from the discovery last month that an AIDS vaccine developed by Merck & Co. might have led to more infections than it averted among study subjects in the United States and other countries.
Read article in The Washington Post (USA)

October 24, 2007

PM hosts first Business Council meeting
Gordon Brown has hosted his first Business Council meeting at 10 Downing Street after establishing the group earlier this year. The council's purpose is to provide advice on broad issues that affect enterprise, business and the long term productivity and competitiveness of the economy. Members of the group include Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco and Sir Alan Sugar of Amstrad. Other attendees included Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone and Sir William Castell of the Wellcome Trust.
Read the UK government's press release on the 10 Downing Street website
Comment: Given that Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxo SmithKline, is also a member of the group, Mervyn Davies, Chair of Standard Chartered and of the Business Council, must surely have had the pharma cartel cracking open the champagne when he explained that: "The Council provides the opportunity to bring highly-experienced business minds into a new dialogue with government." Click here to read the full list of Gordon's new friends.

October 24, 2007

Drug threat prompts lamb recall
Supermarkets across the UK have withdrawn batches of lamb distributed by an Anglesey company because of a health scare. Asda and wholesaler Makro have both been affected by the recall. According to the Food Standards Agency, the meat might contain traces of drugs and should not have entered the human food chain.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: The veterinary drugs involved include Doramectin, which is manufactured by Pfizer. Disturbingly, a spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency has described the effects of Doramectin on humans as "unknown."

October 24, 2007

Flu jabs 'fail to cut illnesses'
Flu vaccinations do not cut the numbers of elderly people being admitted to hospital with illnesses commonly triggered by the virus, government scientists claim.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)
Comment: As the article describes, additional research suggests not only is there little evidence that flu vaccinations are effective in elderly patients but that neither do they even save lives.

October 22, 2007

Thousands of Medical Students Urge Schools to Eliminate Pharmaceutical Marketing Influence
Thousands of medical students join together this week, National PharmFree Week, calling upon medical schools to ban pharmaceutical marketing influence from their campuses. National PharmFree Week is sponsored by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the nation's largest, independent medical student organization.
Read press release at prnewswire.com

October 21, 2007

Special report: Prescription medicines
Each year, Britons are dying in their thousands because of the side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Reported deaths are up 155 per cent in a decade – and experts are seeking new safeguards. Nina Lakhani reports
Thousands of patients are dying each year as a result of side effects from pills prescribed by GPs and hospital doctors. And while the number of deaths from suspected adverse reactions to prescription drugs has more than doubled in the past 10 years to 973 last year, medical experts warn that as few as one in 10 deaths and other serious complications are being reported. Doctors' poor prescribing skills and repeated failures to recognise accurately adverse drug reactions in patients have seen deaths multiply by about two and half times since 1996. Experts are calling for a revamp of the current warning systems designed to alert doctors to potentially lethal prescription drug treatments.
Read article in the Independent on Sunday (UK)

October 20, 2007

F.D.A. Panel Urges Ban on Medicine for Child Colds
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted Friday to ban popular over-the-counter cold products intended for children under the age of 6. The panel found there was no proof that the medicines eased cold symptoms in children, while there are rare reports that they have caused serious harm.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

October 19, 2007

FDA adding hearing loss risk for impotence drugs
U.S. regulators on Thursday said warnings about the risk of sudden hearing loss linked to popular drugs for impotence, including Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, would be added to the drugs' labels.
Read article at reuters.com
Comment: A review of the FDA's side effect data found 29 cases of sudden hearing loss with a relationship to the three drugs.

October 15, 2007

Study prompts concern about side effects of antiretrovirals
Metabolic abnormalities caused by side effects from antiretroviral drugs are becoming increasingly prevalent among Thais living with HIV/Aids, recent studies have found. According to a pilot study by Ramathibodi Hospital's Faculty of Medicine, published in the Journal of the Medical Association Thailand, the long-term toxicity of antiretroviral treatment has become more recognised through a variety of metabolic abnormalities including lipodystrophy, which affects body fat, and dyslipidemia, which affects the blood. The latest study, conducted among 56 patients at the hospital, showed a high prevalence of lipodystrophy and dyslipidemia in Thai patients undergoing antiretroviral treatment.
More than 66% of the patients that took part in the study experienced health problems such as high levels of fat in their blood, high blood pressure, abnormal fat redistribution, cardiovascular and kidney disease, diabetes, and insulin resistance.
Read article in the Bangkok Post (Thailand)

October 15, 2007

Patients Warned as Maker Halts Sale of Heart Implant Part
The nation's largest maker of implanted heart devices, Medtronic, said yesterday that it was urging doctors to stop using a crucial component in its most recent defibrillator models because it was prone to a defect that has caused malfunctions in hundreds of patients and may have contributed to five deaths.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

October 14, 2007

New FDA Center Rife With Risks
The Food and Drug Administration is moving with unprecedented speed to launch a drug research center to be paid for by companies it regulates. The goal of the Reagan-Udall Foundation, approved by Congress and signed into law late last month, is to streamline and improve the development of drugs and medical devices, a goal long sought by regulators and the biggest players in the industry, such as Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, and Johnson & Johnson.
Read article at forbes.com

October 5, 2007

Polio outbreak in Nigeria sparked by oral vaccine
A polio outbreak in Nigeria was caused by the vaccine designed to stop it, international health officials say, leaving at least 69 children paralyzed.
Read article in USA Today

October 4, 2007

Judicial Watch Uncovers New FDA Records Detailing Deaths in 1,824 Adverse Reaction Reports Related to HPV Vaccine
Judicial Watch Sues FDA for Producing "Partial Response" to FOIA Request
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released new documents obtained from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, detailing 1,824 reports of adverse reactions to the vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil, including as many as eight deaths related to the vaccine.  Judicial Watch had previously obtained 1,637 reports relating to Gardasil on May 15, 2007, bringing the known total to 3,461 adverse reactions including eleven deaths since FDA approval. 
Read article at judicialwatch.org (USA)

October 4, 2007

Health Canada pulls osteoarthritis drug Prexige
Health Canada warned consumers on Thursday about potential liver-related adverse effects, including hepatitis, linked to the anti-inflammatory medicine Prexige. The federal agency said that after conducting a review, it will no longer allow the sale of the Cox-2 selective inhibitor drug, which is used to treat osteoarthritis in adults. The drug has been available in Canada since November 2006 and is made by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG.
Read article on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

October 3, 2007

Kentucky Sues Purdue Over OxyContin
A group of 120 Kentucky counties, along with various cities and the state, tomorrow plan to file a class-action lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and its parent for its marketing of the OxyContin painkiller, a highly addictive and controversial med that became known as Hillbilly Heroin. This appears to be the first time that a group of local governments have banned together to go after the drugmaker. And the move follows a recent settlement in which Purdue Pharma and three present and former execs agreed to pay $634.5 million to settle federal felony charges related to deceiving docs about the potential for abusing OxyContin.
Read article at pharmalot.com

October 3, 2007

Pfizer's Steere May Be Arrested By Interpol
Here's a hardball tactic for you. Even as out-of-court settlement talks are under way between Pfizer and the Nigerian state of Kano, which is suing the drugmaker for $2.75 billion, the government's justice commissioner, Aliyu Umar, threatened to have Steere, a Pfizer director and former ceo, and nine other Pfizer employees arrested if they fail to appear on November 6 to face criminal charges. At issue are charges that Pfizer illegally conducted an unauthorized Trovan trial on about 200 children at a government hospital during a triple epidemic of measles, cholera and meningitis in which 12,000 people died. The episode led to the death of 11 children and various deformities - including deafness, blindness, paralysis and brain damage - in 189 others.
Read article at pharmalot.com

October 2, 2007

Women Not Warned About SSRI-Related Lung Birth Defect
A study of nearly 500,000 women by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in the September 18, 2007, Annals of Internal Medicine, found that nearly 50% of women taking a prescription drug that could cause birth defects did not receive warnings to avoid pregnancy.
Read article at countercurrents.org

October 1, 2007

A Library Packed With Pharma Documents
That's what the the Library and Center for Knowledge Management at the University of California at San Francisco Library wants to create. In fact, they've already got a small version. Called the Drug Industry Document Archive, it houses reams of studies, government reports, company documents and news articles concerning Neurontin, which Warner-Lambert - later bought by Pfizer - was charged with marketing off-label. Based on their success in creating the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, which has helped legislators, policy makers and consumer advocates probe the tobacco industry, the center now wants to expand the DIDA into a full-blown resource that has endless searchable documents about pharma. Already, an unnamed New York law firm is willing to donate 20 million pages of Merck documents about Vioxx.
Read article at pharmalot.com

October 1, 2007

UPDATE: FDA Conducts Safety Review Of Bone-Building Drugs
The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it's conducting a safety review of bone-building drugs to see if there's a link to atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. The FDA said the review was prompted by an article in the New England Journal of Medicine's May 3 edition that suggested an increased rate of serious atrial fibrillation in older women treated with Reclast, made by Novartis AG (NVS), and Fosamax, by Merck & Co. (MRK).
Read article at money.cnn.com (USA)

September 30, 2007

FDA Officials Sued Over Conflicts of Interests Part I
A lawsuit recently filed in a federal court in Ohio against FDA officials on behalf of terminal cancer patients provides a rare window into the inner workings of an agency hijacked by pharmaceutical industry giants and stacked with insiders by President George Bush to guard against any threat to the profits of his top campaign contributors. The lawsuit's complaint describes a conspiracy orchestrated by top FDA officials to basically drive a small company, Dendreon, out of business with the obvious goal of eliminating competition in what has become a thriving new industry involving the treatment of men with prostate cancer.
Read article at lawyersandsettlements.com

September 29, 2007

Ban Sought on Cold Medicine for Very Young
Safety experts for the Food and Drug Administration urged the agency on Friday to consider an outright ban on over-the-counter, multisymptom cough and cold medicines for children under 6.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)
Comment: The reviewers wrote that there is little evidence that these drugs are effective in young children, and there are increasing fears that they may be dangerous. From 1969 to 2006, at least 54 children died after taking decongestants, and 69 died after taking antihistamines, the report said. And it added that since adverse reactions are reported voluntarily and fitfully, the numbers were likely to significantly understate the true toll of these drugs.

September 28, 2007

FDA Fails To Oversee Clinical Trial Safety
That's the finding of a report to be released Friday by Dan Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. The FDA didn't know the number of trials being conducted; audited fewer than 1 percent of the testing sites and, on the rare occasions when inspectors did appear, generally showed up long after the tests had been completed, The New York Times reports. The failure affects millions who participate in these trials.
Read article at pharmalot.com

September 28, 2007

Bristol-Myers to pay $515m fine
US drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb and a subsidiary have agreed to pay more than $515m (£251.7m) to settle allegations of marketing certain drugs illegally.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

September 27, 2007

Women's health group seeks ban on HPV immunization
Says studies haven't looked at long-term effects of the vaccine and booster shots
A Quebec women's health group is calling for a moratorium on a provincial program to immunize girls against the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer, warning the long-term effects of the Gardasil vaccine are not known. "We are concerned because there are potential dangers on many levels," said Lydya Assayag, director of the Réseau québécois d'action pour la santé des femmes. "We are dealing with a vaccine that was approved only in 2006. So, it's very recent. The clinical studies haven't looked at the long-term effects of the vaccine and the booster shots that have to be given four years or five years later."
Read article from The Gazette at canada.com

September 23, 2007

Arkansas Plans Lawsuit Over Antipsychotics
Dustin McDaniel told lawmakers two days ago that he's planning to file a lawsuit within a month seeking up to $600 million against Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson's Jannsen Pharmaceutica over "improper and unlawful marketing" of antipsychotics paid for by the state Medicaid program, The Arkansas Democrat & Gazette reports.
Read article at pharmalot.com
Comment: McDaniel is the Attorney General for Arkansas.

September 20, 2007

Deaths Associated with HPV Vaccine Start Rolling In, Over 3500 Adverse Affects Reported
As Canada, in large part due to aggressive behind the scenes lobbying, rolls out the not-comprehensively-tested Merck HPV vaccine for girls as young as nine, a look at developments on the vaccine south of the border should cause Canadians serious concern. In the United States a similar lobby campaign by the same company launched the mass HPV vaccination of girls beginning in June last year. In just little over a year, the HPV vaccine has been associated with at least five deaths, not to mention thousands of reports of adverse effects, hundreds deemed serious, and many that required hospitalization.
Read article at lifesite.net

September 19, 2007

The Drug Safety Blindfold
A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that serious adverse drug events reported to the FDA were up by a large margin (260%) from 1998-2005.
Read article at clinpsyc.blogspot.com

September 19, 2007

Pharma Marketers to Spend $2.2B in Online Ads in '11
Online advertising spending by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry will reach US$ 975 million in 2007 - a gain of 19 percent over 2006, according to eMarketer, reports Hospital Buyer. The pharmaceutical category will account for 4.5 percent of the total US online ad spending in 2007, down from 4.9 percent in 2006, according to the forecast; but by 2011 the category is forecast to reach $2.2 billion and account for 5 percent of US online ad spending
Read article at marketingvox.com

September 18, 2007

New York State and City Sue Merck Over Vioxx
Seeking to recoup tens of millions spent by government-financed health programs on prescriptions for Vioxx, New York State and New York City joined yesterday in filing a lawsuit against Merck, the drug's maker, which withdrew the painkiller from the market in 2004 because of dangerous side effects. The lawsuit, filed yesterday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, accuses Merck & Company of intentionally concealing the dangers of Vioxx, and therefore defrauding the state Medicaid program, which paid for the prescriptions. The drug was used to treat arthritis and migraines but led to a high risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

September 18, 2007

Less than one-third of women aware of landmark hormone therapy study, researcher finds
Despite the huge publicity generated by a 2002 study on the potential dangers of hormone therapy for postmenopausal women, new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that only 29 percent of women surveyed knew about the study two years later.
Read article at physorg.com

September 17, 2007

Hyperactivity Drugs to Be Studied for Heart Risk
Drugs used by 5 million children and adults in the U.S. to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder will be studied by U.S. health agencies to determine whether they raise heart risks. The study will examine data from 500,000 patients who have taken the medications from 1998 to 2005, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement today. The drugs, including Shire Plc's Adderall, Johnson & Johnson's Concerta and others, generated about $1.9 billion in sales during the first six months of 2007, according to IMS Health Inc., a Norwalk, Connecticut- based market research company.
Read article at bloomberg.com (USA)

September 15, 2007

Effectiveness of drugs 'overstated because of biased testing'
Pharmaceutical companies are overstating the effectiveness of their drugs, and may be placing patients at greater risk, because animal laboratory studies they fund are biased, it was claimed yesterday. A survey of nearly 300 animal-test studies involving six different experimental drugs suggested that such flawed methodology is rampant in the drug-testing industry.
Read article in The Independent (UK)

September 15, 2007

Forced by the government to go to the conventional doctor…
It can't happen here… Or can it?

On September 2, in a speech in Iowa as he campaigned for President, former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) gave a startling and chilling indication of what's ahead if his plan for government-controlled socialized medicine is enacted in the United States. Similar to all of the other Democrats running for their party's nomination for President in 2008, Edwards has made providing universal health care for everyone in America - which is socialized medicine under a more palatable, benign-sounding name - a central part of his platform. According to the Associated Press account of his speech: Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care. "It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care," he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. "If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK." He noted, for example, that women would be required to have regular mammograms in an effort to find and treat "the first trace of problem."…
Click here to read article by Peter Barry Chowka

September 14, 2007

UK pension funds vie to lead court action over GSK drug
Two UK pension funds are vying to lead a US class-action lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), accusing the pharmaceutical giant of misleading the market over its controversial diabetes pill Avandia. North Yorkshire Pension Fund and Avon Pension Fund, local government schemes that together manage more than £3 billion in assets, have both applied to be lead plaintiff in the case - a US term for the institution fronting a lawsuit on behalf of other investors. Although UK funds frequently join US class-action lawsuits as minor players, it is highly unusual for them to seek such a prominent role.
Read article in The Times (UK)

September 12, 2007

Bereaved Mom Hunts Purdue Pharma Execs
Marianne Skolek is angry, and she won't rest until the individuals who she believes are responsible for her daughter's death are punished. In her view, those individuals are the execs at Purdue Pharma, which sells OxyContin. In 2002, her 29-year-old daughter was prescribed the painkiller for a herniated disk and wound up dying of heart failure, leaving behind a 6-year-old son.
Read article at pharmalot.com

September 12, 2007

U.S. reports of drug reactions triple
Reports of dangerous side effects and deaths from widely used medicines almost tripled between 1998 and 2005, an analysis of U.S. drug data found. The number of deaths and serious injuries from prescription and over-the-counter drugs climbed from 34,966 to 89,842 during the study of reports to the Food and Drug Administration. Potent narcotic painkillers including Oxycontin, sold generically as oxycodone, were among 15 drugs most often linked with deaths in the study. Drugs frequently linked with serious nonfatal complications included insulin, the arthritis drugs Vioxx and Remicade, and the antidepressant Paxil. The report adds to recent criticism of FDA oversight on drug safety, including its handling of serious problems connected with Vioxx, which was removed from the market in 2004.
Read article at LEF Daily News (USA)

September 11, 2007

Long-term use of diabetes drug increases heart attack risk by more than 40 percent
An analysis of four studies involving more than 14,000 patients found that long-term use of the diabetes drug rosiglitazone (Avandia®) increased the risk of heart attack by 42 percent and doubled the risk of heart failure, according to a new report from researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.
Read article at physorg.com

September 10, 2007

Antidepressants given to babies
Medical authorities are mystified and concerned at figures suggesting antidepressant drugs are being prescribed for children, some less than a year old. Records of the national drug buying agency Pharmac suggest thousands of prescriptions a year are being written for children under 10. Antidepressants are powerful psychiatric drugs with potentially severe side-effects.
Read article in the New Zealand Herald
Comment: A few weeks ago, commenting on a report urging that children as young as 8 should be prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, we asked whether it was possible for the morals of the unscrupulous and exploitative pharmaceutical business with disease to sink any lower. That question, it would seem, has just been answered: Yes.

August 26, 2007

Pharmageddon: the prescription pill epidemic
Britain is in the grip of a prescription drug-taking epidemic, with unprecedented numbers of medicines being handed out by GPs, costing billions of pounds and stretching already tight NHS resources to breaking point. Prescription drug use has increased by 27 per cent in the past the five years and the NHS drug bill topped £10bn in 2006. GPs prescribed 918 million medicines last year compared with 721 million five years ago, according to figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday. Health experts put rocketing prescription numbers down to medical advances, but also point to poor prescribing by GPs, growing public demand for a "pill for every ill" and aggressive marketing tactics by the pharmaceutical industry, which prompted one MP to warn that the UK is heading towards what he called "pharmageddon".
Read article in The Independent (UK)

August 23, 2007

Docs Ignore Patient Complaints Of Side Effects
A new study of 650 patients who were prescribed a cholesterol med found that 87 percent who experienced an adverse symptom, such as memory or nerve pain, or memory loss, spoke to their doc about a possible connection. Most of the time, patients initiated discussion of a possible link between the drug and the side effects. And the docs were very likely to dismiss a connection even when literature existed to support the contention.
Read article at pharmalot.com

August 23, 2007

Big Pharma Is Only Out To Maximize Its Profit
I have been a pharmacist for a long time. I was a tunnel-visioned apologist for the pharmaceutical manufacturers for decades. Then they morphed into what is now called "Big Pharma" and they mutated. They are beginning to look like the enemy of the average American's pocketbook. Their shareholders drool over piles of cash. Big Pharma is not in existence to cure, ameliorate or treat illness first. Their primary purpose is to make a profit – period. The companies will do this any way they can. They create demand by advertising on TV. They court doctors like you went after a prom date. They do buy meals. They do give gifts. They do send people who cooperate on junkets.
Click here to read pharmacist Jim Plagakis' Letter to the Editor of the Galveston County Daily News

August 21, 2007

Minn. Law Sheds Light on Drug Companies
A groundbreaking Minnesota law is shining a rare light into the big money that drug companies spend on members of state advisory panels who help select which drugs are used in Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled. Those panels, most comprised of physicians, hold great sway over the $28 billion spent on drugs each year for Medicaid patients nationwide. But aside from Minnesota, only Vermont and Maine require drug companies to report payments to doctors for lectures, consulting, research and other services. An Associated Press review of records in Minnesota found that a doctor and a pharmacist on the eight-member state panel simultaneously got big checks – more than $350,000 to one – from pharmaceutical companies for speaking about their products.
Read article at physorg.com
Comment: John E. Simon, a psychiatrist appointed to the panel in 2004, earned more than $350,000 from drug companies between 2004 and 2006. Pharmacist Robert Straka served from 2000 to 2006 and collected $78,000 from various drug makers during that time. About a third of the drugs on the state's preferred drug list are made by companies that paid Simon, Straka or both.

August 21, 2007

Plaintiffs Find Payday Elusive in Vioxx Cases
In Carol Ernst's eyes, two years ago she won a measure of justice. On Aug. 19, 2005, a Texas jury awarded Mrs. Ernst $253.5 million after concluding that Merck & Company and its painkiller Vioxx had caused the death of her husband, Robert, in 2001. At a news conference after the verdict, Mrs. Ernst said she was pleased that jurors had punished Merck for hiding Vioxx's heart risks. "This has been a long road," she said. "I just know that it was a road that I had to run and I had to finish." But her comfort was premature. Merck, the third-largest American drug maker, appealed the verdict – which Texas laws on punitive damages automatically reduced to $26.1 million. Until higher courts rule on the appeal, Merck is not obligated to pay. So Mrs. Ernst, 62, has yet to receive any money. In fact, none of the 45,000 people who have sued Merck, contending that they or their loved ones suffered heart attacks or strokes after taking Vioxx, have received payments from the company.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

August 20, 2007

Pain medicine use has nearly doubled
People in the United States are living in a world of pain and they are popping pills at an alarming rate to cope with it. The amount of five major painkillers sold at retail establishments rose 90% between 1997 and 2005, according to an Associated Press analysis of statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 200,000 pounds of codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and meperidine were purchased at retail stores during the most recent year represented in the data. That total is enough to give more than 300 milligrams of painkillers to every person in the country.
Read article in USA Today

August 17, 2007

Drug Trade Group Spent $10.7M Lobbying
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $10.7 million in the first half of 2007 to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form. The group, known as PhRMA, lobbied on issues related to Medicare, patent reform, international trade and drug fees, importation and safety, according to the form posted online Tuesday by the Senate's public records office. The group – whose members include Amgen Inc., Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer Inc. – lobbied Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and other agencies.
Read article at forbes.com

August 17, 2007

Depression is 'over-diagnosed'
Too many people are being diagnosed with depression when all they are is unhappy, a leading psychiatrist says. Professor Gordon Parker claims the threshold for clinical depression is too low and risks treating normal emotional states as illness. Writing in the British Medical Journal, he calls depression a "catch-all" diagnosis driven by clever marketing.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

August 16, 2007

Parents Warned Cough Medicines Imperil Infants
Hoping to halt the growing number of injuries to infants and toddlers, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory Wednesday warning parents never to give cough and cold medicines to children under the age of 2 unless instructed to do so by a doctor. The warning is part of a broad reassessment by the agency of the safety of the popular medicines, which have been blamed for hundreds of adverse reactions and a handful of deaths in children under the age of 2.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

August 15, 2007

Protection Racket?
The FDA and Avandia
The FDA's latest campaign to protect the profits of a drug company over the safety of Americans is unprecedented, and the organizers include a gang of current and former FDA officials largely credited with turning the nation's regulatory beagle into a lapdog for Big Pharma under the Bush Administration.
Read article by EVELYN PRINGLE at counterpunch.org

August 12, 2007

Deaths spark painkiller ban
A PAINKILLER used by 60,000 Australians has been ordered off the shelves after the deaths of two people. The Therapeutic Goods Administration yesterday announced the urgent recall of the drug Prexige, used to treat osteoarthritis and acute pain.
Read article in the Brisbane Times (Australia)
Comment: The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) made the decision after receiving reports of eight people who suffered serious liver reactions, including two deaths and two liver transplants. Six of the reports occurred since the beginning of July.

August 11, 2007

Pfizer Facing 4 Court Cases in Nigeria
KANO, Nigeria — A security guard in this dusty Nigerian city is living with tragedy – a 14-year-old son whose dazed eyes, slow speech and uneven gait signal brain damage. Mustapha Mohammed says he knows who to blame – Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug maker. New York-based Pfizer is facing four court cases – two filed by the Nigerian government and two by officials in the northern Nigerian state where Mohammed lives – over a decade-old drug study that included Mohammed's son. The company, which denies any wrongdoing, is accused of using a 1996 meningitis epidemic to push through a sloppily managed drug study that contributed to death in some and infirmities in others.
Read article in the Washington Post (USA)

August 10, 2007

Children as young as 8 "should get statins"
Children as young as eight should be prescribed cholesterol-lowering statins, a report urged.
Read article at metro.co.uk
Comment: Is it possible for the unscrupulous and exploitative pharmaceutical business with disease to sink any lower than this?

August 8, 2007

J&J Sues Red Cross Over Its Symbol
This can't be a good public relations move. The health care giant, which uses a red cross as its trademark, filed a lawsuit today against the American Red Cross, demanding the charity halt its use of the red cross symbol on products it sells to the public, the Associated Press reports. The suit, filed in US District Court in New York, marked the breakdown of months of behind-the-scenes talks, and prompted an angry response from the Red Cross. "For a multibillion dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statut…simply so that J&J can make more money, is obscene," Mark Everson, the Red Cross president, tells the AP. He goes on to accuse J&J of "bullying" the organization.
Read article at pharmalot.com

August 8, 2007

UK foot and mouth 'possible sabotage'
A probe into Britain's new foot and mouth disease outbreak has focused on whether staff at an animal vaccine firm may have spread the virus, possibly deliberately.
Read article at news.com.au

August 6, 2007

Under the influence
Savvy marketing whets our appetite for prescription pharmaceuticals. Consumers, doctors, researchers – no one is immune.
Read Melissa Healy's Los Angeles Times article at ahrp.blogspot.com

August 5, 2007

Drug warnings fall flat
Bayer hides bad news; a researcher doesn't, and takes heat
When William "Sonny" Morrill went in for heart bypass surgery, his wife was so sure he would recover she bought him new pajamas. But three days after the operation, the 61-year-old Sarasota resident died from kidney failure and a triple whammy of heart attacks. Melissa Morrill ultimately came to grips with her loss. Then last year she read about two studies suggesting a link between Trasylol, a drug used to reduce bleeding during bypass procedures, and the unexplained symptoms that killed Sonny. The studies fueled her suspicions. But it was how Bayer AG, the drug company that makes Trasylol, reacted to those studies – and how federal regulators handled it – that pushed her over the top.
Read article in the St. Petersburg Times (Florida, USA)
Comment: Melissa Morrill, Sonny's widow, is among a dozen patients or their families that have sued Bayer, claiming that the use of Trasylol caused death or irreparable injuries. To date, however, the FDA has taken no action against the company.

August 5, 2007

UK farm virus inquiry focuses on nearby lab
The urgent investigation into the return of foot-and-mouth disease to British farming was on Sunday night focused on how the virus might have been carried from a nearby laboratory owned by Merck of the US and Sanofi-Aventis of France, the pharmaceuticals companies.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

August 5, 2007

Virus leak causes FMD in southern England – newspaper
LONDON, August 5 (Itar-Tass) - The source of foot-and-mouth disease found in southern Britain is a U.S. pharmaceutical company, the Mail on Sunday weekly reported. British specialists said the strain of food-and-mouth disease found in cattle on a farm in the county of Surry, was similar to the one used at a nearby laboratory. The government-funded Institute for Animal Health's Pirbright Laboratory, which is studying the disease, is located some six kilometers from the affected farm. A number of sources reported that it hosted an international drill last month during which live viruses of foot-and-mouth disease were used.
Read article on the ITAR-TASS News Agency website (Russia)

August 5, 2007

UK farm virus inquiry focuses on nearby lab
The urgent investigation into the return of foot-and-mouth disease to British farming was on Sunday night focused on how the virus might have been carried from a nearby laboratory owned by Merck of the US and Sanofi-Aventis of France, the pharmaceuticals companies.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

August 3, 2007

Lawmaker Calls for Registry of Drug Firms Paying Doctors
An influential Republican senator says he will propose legislation requiring drug makers to disclose the payments they make to doctors for services like consulting, lectures and attendance at seminars. The lawmaker, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, cited as an example the case of a prominent child psychiatrist, who he said made $180,000 over just two years from the maker of an antipsychotic drug now widely prescribed for children. Mr. Grassley is one of several lawmakers to propose a federal registry of such payments. Minnesota, Vermont and Maine already have similar registries, and other states are considering them. The proposals are a response to growing concerns that payments from drug makers can affect doctors' prescribing habits, increase the cost of health care and, in some cases, endanger patients' health.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)
Comment: Perhaps not surprisingly, the drug industry opposes such registries…

August 2, 2007

Probe into cancer patients' death
Two patients at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital have died after a suspected overdose of cancer medication.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: The tragic manner in which these two patients died is a direct result of their cancers having been treated using the pharmaceutical industry's poisonous patented chemicals. Crucially, therefore, had the same mistake been made using natural therapies – in other words, if these two patients had mistakenly been given five times the ideal dose of vitamins, as opposed to toxic drugs - they would not have died as a result. Hopefully, therefore, recent scientific breakthroughs in the areas of vitamin research and cellular health will eventually make these sort of tragedies a thing of the past.

July 30, 2007

F.D.A. Panel Votes to Keep Diabetes Drug on Market
A federal drug advisory committee voted 20 to 3 late this afternoon that Avandia, a controversial diabetes drug made by GlaxoSmithKline, raises the risks of heart attacks, but it then voted 22 to 1 that the drug should nonetheless remain on the market.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)
Comment: Dr. David Graham, a drug safety officer at the F.D.A., called for the drug's withdrawal and estimated that its toxic effects on the heart had caused as many as 205,000 heart attacks, strokes and death from 1999 to 2006. For every month that Avandia is sold, he said, another 1,600 to 2,200 patients are likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes, some of them fatal.

July 30, 2007

MeNZB Approaches Another Milestone
The current cluster of meningococcal disease cases in the Wellington region has resulted in the MeNZB vaccine reaching a sad milestone. One hundred New Zealand children who were promised 'protection' by being fully vaccinated with the MeNZB vaccine have now contracted meningococcal disease. Unpublicised research published by the Ministry of Health also shows that the MeNZB vaccine actually increases the risk of babies getting the epidemic strain of meningococcal disease and does not protect babies as promised…
Read press release at scoop.co.nz (New Zealand)
Click here for a list of Open Questions for the Media to ask the New Zealand Minister of Health.

July 29, 2007

Lawsuit: Doctors reckless with drugs
Doctors over-prescribed drugs at the California hospital that is home to the renowned Betty Ford Center for addiction, a pharmacist's lawsuit alleges.
Read article at physorg.com

July 28, 2007

UNTESTED VACCINE SURFACES IN POLIO OUTBREAK
A potent new vaccine introduced in Uttar Pradesh by the WHO has had no safety tests; the rash of new polio cases in the state may've been caused by the vaccine itself, reports Mihir Srivastava.
Read article in Tehelka (India)

July 27, 2007

Scientists link diabetes drugs to heart failure
US may ban treatments used by hundreds of thousands in UK
Two of the most commonly used drugs for diabetes, which were taken by hundreds of thousands of mostly overweight people in the UK last year, are causing widespread heart failure, scientists warn today. Use of the drugs, prescribed by doctors for type II diabetes, has doubled in the past three years as a consequence of a growing obesity problem. Last year 1.8m prescriptions were written across the UK, which scientists say equates to several hundred thousand patients taking the drugs which are recommended for use across the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice). But researchers today call on Nice to think again, revealing that as many as one in every 50 patients taking the drugs Avandia (rosiglitazone) and Actos (pioglitazone) over a period of 26 months will have to be hospitalised for heart failure.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

July 26, 2007

Confirmed: A Link Between Breast Cancer and Hormone Therapy
Breast cancer incidence parallels estrogen-progestin use among menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Read article at Scientific American.Com (USA)

July 26, 2007

AstraZeneca unveils new job cuts
Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has said it is now planning to cut 7,600 jobs as it tries to make annual savings of $900m (£440m). The firm had already announced it was to axe 3,000 positions, but has now raised its target. Staff in Britain, Sweden, Germany, France, the US and Canada will be hit by the cuts, AstraZeneca said. The firm is under pressure after a series of setbacks with drugs it has been developing.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

July 24, 2007

Slump in sales of Avandia likely to wipe £100m off Glaxo revenue
GlaxoSmithKline is expected by analysts to report a fall in revenue of more than £100 million after a collapse in sales of Avandia, its diabetes medicine, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Read article in The Times (UK)

July 24, 2007

Statins could increase cancer risk
Drugs taken by millions of people to cut the dangers of suffering of heart attacks or strokes could increase the risks of developing cancers, scientists say.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

July 23, 2007

Child depression drug use soars
The number of prescriptions handed out to children under 16 for depression and mental health disorders has quadrupled in a decade, official figures indicate. GPs in England wrote more than 631,000 such prescriptions for children in the last financial year, compared to just 146,000 in the mid-1990s. But at the same time, figures suggest the rate of mental health problems in the young has not changed markedly.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

July 20, 2007

Bush To Veto Ban On Mercury In Vaccines
Clear links to neurological disorders ignored, removed from animal vaccines but fine for babies
President Bush is to veto a bill that would ban mercury in flu vaccines for children despite its known links to autism and other neurological disorders and despite the fact that he pledged in 2004 to support such a move when campaigning for re-election.
Read article at infowars.net

July 20, 2007

Acomplia drug patients at psychiatric risk
A weight-loss drug used by thousands of UK patients should not be taken by people on anti-depressants, a European health watchdog warned yesterday. The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said it was recommending that anyone taking anti-depressants or suffering ongoing major depression should not take rimonabant, which is sold under the brand name Acomplia. About 41,000 patients in the UK have been treated with rimonabant since it was launched here in June 2006. The Department of Health's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had received reports of psychiatric reactions to Acomplia in the UK. "Three hundred and sixty-four (364) psychiatric reactions have been reported," it said.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

July 19, 2007

Merck faces shareholder lawsuits
A US court has revived shareholder lawsuits against drugs giant Merck for allegedly concealing the health risks of its arthritis painkiller Vioxx. A federal appeal court has sent the lawsuits back to the New Jersey federal judge who dismissed them in May 2006. Vioxx, once a $2.5bn-a-year earner, was taken off the market in 2004 after it was found users had a high risk of heart attack, stroke and death. The shareholders group claims Merck directors covered up these risks. The appeals court said US District Judge Stanley R Chesler should have allowed the plaintiffs to amend their original complaint with additional materials.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

July 17, 2007

Are vaccines a waste of time?
Children are given 25 vaccines by the age of 15 months. But many are for diseases that are extremely rare – and which they're naturally immune to. As the doctor who challenged MMR fights for his career, the author of a new book asks if other jabs are worth the risk.
Read article in the Evening Standard (UK)

July 15, 2007

DANGERS OF MMR JAB 'COVERED UP'
Health officials were yesterday accused of covering up serious risks linked with the controversial MMR jab before it was introduced. According to a secret dossier, five cases were reported of potentially deadly brain inflammation following the use of MMR in Canada before it became part of standard childhood vaccinations in Britain. The internal documents from the Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation also reveal reports that another brand of MMR had caused "neurological complications" from the measles component of the vaccine in the US. Despite this, from 1988 both brands were administered routinely without any warning of serious risk until they were withdrawn four years later – because of health fears.
Read article in the Daily Express (UK)

July 13, 2007

Diabetes drug side effect reports triple
In the month after a surprising analysis revealed possible heart risks from the blockbuster diabetes drug Avandia, reports of side effects to federal regulators tripled. The sudden spike is a sign that doctors probably were unaware of the drug's possible role in their patients' heart problems and therefore may not have reported many such cases in the past, several experts said. It also shows the flaws of the safety tracking system and suggests that a better one might have detected a potential problem before the drug had been on the market for eight years.
Read article in USA Today

July 13, 2007

A Chinese Reformer Betrays His Cause, and Pays
Zheng Xiaoyu once ranked as one of the most powerful regulators in China. He rose from modest beginnings to help create and lead Beijing's version of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. But last March, locked up in the Qincheng Prison here, he wrote a short confession. "Why are the friends who gave me money all the bosses of pharmaceutical companies?" he wrote in his letter, entitled How I Look on My Mistakes. "Obviously because I was in charge of drug administration." In his confession, Mr. Zheng acknowledged that during his eight-year tenure, he had accepted gifts and bribes from eight drug companies that sought special favors: a car, a villa, furniture, cash. And corporate stock. All told, he and his family accepted gifts valued at more than $850,000 – in a country where the average worker earns less than $2,000 a year. For his crimes, the 62-year-old was executed on Tuesday, making him one of the highest-ranking Chinese officials ever to be put to death.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

July 11, 2007

HRT 'no benefit' to older hearts
More evidence that hormone replacement therapy could be harming, not protecting the hearts of older women has been published. Research into 5,000 women from the UK, Australia and New Zealand suggests women over 60 are more at risk of heart and blood problems. The British Medical Journal study backs major US research which revealed risks for millions of women worldwide.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

July 11, 2007

Pharmaceuticals sector in dire straights
The pharmaceuticals sector is shrinking, leading to job losses, rising import ratios and the closure of manufacturing plants, Business Report wrote on Wednesday. It said this emerged from the draft of the new Genesis Analyticals report on the growth potential of the sector. The study, commissioned by the office of the presidency, paints a gloomy picture of the industry. It points to government pricing policies, Medicines Control Council procedures and the small number of local manufacturing plants as the main reasons for the decline. The study has found that since 1994, 35 pharmaceutical plants have closed and the number of people employed has fallen from 16 000 in 2000 to 11 000 at present.
Read article on the Independent Online website (South Africa)

July 10, 2007

NHS gives wrong treatment to 500 hospital patients a week
Hospital staff gave the wrong treatment to the wrong patient on almost 25,000 occasions last year, leading to deaths, serious injury and long-term harm, official figures show. Errors in identifying patients led to at least 500 a week getting the wrong operation the wrong drugs or diagnostic tests, the National Patient Safety Agency said.
Read article in The Independent (UK)
Comment: Last year, the UK's National Patient Safety Agency reported 41,000 medication errors between July 2005 to July 2006, which caused 36 deaths. A further 2,000 patients suffered "moderate or severe harm." In 2005, the UK's National Audit Office reported that nearly one million errors or safety lapses had occurred in the previous year, causing 2,000 deaths.

July 10, 2007

Former head of China's drug watchdog executed in Beijing
Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), was executed on Tuesday morning with the approval of the Supreme People's Court. Zheng, 63, was sentenced to death on May 29 by the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court after being found guilty of taking 6.49 million yuan (about 850,000 U.S. dollars) in bribes and dereliction of duty. Zheng appealed for leniency in a second hearing of his case on June 12, pleading that the penalty was "too severe" and asking the court to reconsider the sentence. He also gave evidence that implicated other officials in the case. The Higher People's Court of Beijing rejected Zheng's appeal on June 22 and upheld the death sentence.
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

July 9, 2007

Does everyone need a pill?
Pharmaceutical companies want us to play doctor. Sickness sells, but I'm not buying.
Read Joanne Law's article in the Los Angeles Times (USA)

July 8, 2007

China suspends sale of leukemia drug made by Shanghai company
China 's drug watchdog has suspended the sale of methotrexate, a drug often used to treat acute leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis, made by Shanghai Hualian Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. The drug has caused adverse reactions in several leukemia child patients in three hospitals of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Shanghai, according to the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA).
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

July 6, 2007

MANIA
The shocking link between psychiatric drugs, suicide, violence and mass murder
From Columbine to Virginia Tech, every time another headline-making mass murderer is discovered to have taken antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs, rumors and speculation abound regarding the possible connection between the medications and the violence. Now, reports the July 2007 edition of WND's elite monthly Whistleblower magazine, the time for speculation and guessing is over. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable, says Whistleblower's groundbreaking investigative report: Mood-altering psychiatric drugs – taken every day by tens of millions of Americans, including millions of children – actually can push some users over the edge into mania, suicide and horrific violence.
Read article at worldnetdaily.com

July 6, 2007

'1.5m wrongly told they have heart disease'
Heart disease medication is being massively over-prescribed with thousands of people being wrongly told that they are in danger of developing cardiovascular problems, according to a study. A new and sophisticated approach to calculating risk has shed radical new light on the issue. A British Medical Journal study says that there are flaws in the traditional method and suggests that current estimates of the number of people in danger of the disease are 1.5 million too high. Using the new test, the BMJ estimated that the number of people at risk had been overpredicted by 35 per cent. Consequently, many patients have likely been prescribed unnecessarily anti-cholesterol drug statins, inflating the annual £2 billion bill to the NHS.
Read article in The Times (UK)

GPs 'bombarded' by drug companies
Drug companies are bombarding GPs with promotional materials and inducements, campaigners say. A poll of 200 GPs by consumer group Which? found they received four visits per month on average from drug reps. They also received five promotional mailings about new drugs a week, and inducements to attend conferences.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: In just one month, one GP was offered nine conference places and 13 meals, and received nine visits from drug reps, 10 letters, 21 leaflets, two patient information booklets and one training DVD. This amounted to 22 companies contacting her about 31 drugs.

July 4, 2007

Pfizer Asks Nigeria Court to Dismiss Case
Pfizer Inc. asked a court Wednesday to dismiss a state-level civil case seeking US$2 billion in damages over allegations the company conducted a drug experiment that led to deaths and disabilities among children more than a decade ago. Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, has denied those charges, which are at the heart of a separate case filed by the federal government that's seeking US$7 billion.
Read article in the Washington Post (USA)

July 3, 2007

EU urged to fund generic drug industry
Europe must fund the creation of a generic drugs industry in poor countries as the long-term solution to the developing world’s health crisis, the European parliament will demand next week. If the European Union does not act, MEPs from all parties have threatened to block ratification of a modification of the intellectual property protection regime that protects drug patents. The 1994 Trips agreement, hammered out at the World Trade Organisation, is under pressure from Brazil and Thailand, which have issued compulsory licences for domestic companies to make copies of branded medicines. Western drugmakers say that without patent protection they will invest less in research on new products.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)
Comment: The question at stake here essentially boils down to this: Should “drugmakers” in poor countries be granted licenses to produce toxic and ineffective generic knock-offs of equally toxic and ineffective "branded" drugs? If the answer is “yes”, then the net results will simply be a reduction in profit margins (from indescribably massive, to almost as indescribably massive) and patients being poisoned at less cost…

Vioxx Caused Heart Attacks In Two Weeks!
This is one study many people have been waiting three years to see - except Merck people. Known as Victor, the study suggests that increased heart risks associated with Vioxx began immediately after people took the painkiller. That contradicts Merck’s assertion, since it withdrew Vioxx in September 2004, that the drug caused serious heart risks only after 18 months of use.
Read article at pharmalot.com (USA)

'Bone risk' blow for Glaxo diabetes drug
D rugs giant GlaxoSmithKline faces a new public relations disaster after a study suggested its diabetes drug Avandia could lead to bone fractures in men as well as women.
Read article at thisismoney.co.uk

June 30, 2007

FDA Officials Criticized for Secrecy
For years, the public calendars of two top federal drug safety officials were largely blank _ devoid of the required detail about their contacts with the industry they regulated. Open government experts and lawmakers said it is only the latest example of the lack of transparency at the Food and Drug Administration and a violation of the spirit of open government. The FDA attributed it to administrative oversight. A review by House Republican staff found the public calendars for Drs. Janet Woodcock and Steven Galson virtually empty. Woodcock is a deputy FDA commissioner and former drug chief. Galson is current drug chief.
Read article in the Washington Post (USA)

June 28, 2007

Drug makers must warn patients of risks, Justices rule
Drug companies cannot escape liability for harmful prescriptions in West Virginia by laying all responsibility on doctors, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled June 27.
Read article in the West Virginia Record (USA)

June 26, 2007

The Age of Autism: Study sees vaccine risk
A new, privately funded survey finds vaccinated U.S. children have a significantly higher risk of neurological disorders -- including autism -- than unvaccinated children. In one striking finding, vaccinated boys 11-17 were more than twice as likely to have autism as their never-vaccinated counterparts. The telephone survey of parents representing a total of 17,000 children appears to be the first of its kind -- and contrasts starkly with several government-backed studies that have found no risk from vaccines.
Read article at sciencedaily.com (USA)

July 2, 2007

Is Your Doctor Tied to Drug Makers?
It’s no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry is appalled at proposals to set up a national registry of its gifts and payments to doctors. Too much information might lead patients to suspect that their doctors are choosing costly medicines out of gratitude to the manufacturers rather than for the best medical or economic interests of their patients. The drug companies ply doctors with a wide range of gifts, everything from free lunches for busy doctors and their staffs while sales representatives extol the virtues of their latest drugs to subsidized trips to vacation spots for conferences billed as educational events. The companies also pay large sums to doctors for consulting or for conducting research. These payments, which can mount into the hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of years, look suspiciously like inducements to promote or prescribe the companies’ drugs.
Read editorial in the New York Times (USA)

June 27, 2007

The Plan to Rescue Merck!
A review of news reports about Merck, the giant pharmaceutical company headquartered in Whitehouse Station , New Jersey , reveals the company and government overseers are fervently involved in rescuing the $23 billion drug manufacturer from the doldrums of lawsuits, recalls, and drug patent expirations. Since 2002 Merck's stock has slid from ~$70 to ~$35 per share. These days, the concern is more about Merck's stock price than new cures for disease. Government agencies appear to be working hand-in-hand with Merck in its rescue effort, granting ' priority review' of new drugs and vaccines that Merck plans to bring to market and mulling over limits on product liability suits that would prevent litigants from receiving payment for pain and suffering for side effects caused by drugs like Merck's Vioxx.
Read article at knowledgeofhealth.com

Psychiatrists Top List in Drug Maker Gifts
As states begin to require that drug companies disclose their payments to doctors for lectures and other services, a pattern has emerged: psychiatrists earn more money from drug makers than doctors in any other specialty. How this money may be influencing psychiatrists and other doctors has become one of the most contentious issues in health care. For instance, the more psychiatrists have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed a new class of powerful medicines known as atypical antipsychotics to children, for whom the drugs are especially risky and mostly unapproved.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

June 26, 2007

Prozac linked to osteoporosis
Common anti-depressants may increase the risk of osteoporosis in the elderly, new research suggests. Two separate American studies found that people who used Prozac and Seroxat developed thinner bones than those who did not take them.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

June 24, 2007

Huge weight gains reported by patients on prescription drugs
Thousands of people who take prescription medicines for everyday conditions are gaining large amounts of weight as an unexpected side effect, scientists have warned. Researchers, who found that some patients were putting on up to 22lbs in a year, say that the drugs may even be contributing to the nation's rocketing obesity epidemic. All of the patients they studied, on medication for conditions as diverse as diabetes, epilepsy, depression, high blood pressure and schizophrenia, showed evidence of weight increase.
Read article in The Independent (UK)

Sex Virus Vaccine Linked to Three Deaths
THREE deaths have been linked to the controversial sex virus jab health officials want to give to all 12-year-old girls. Doctors suspect the jab, which protects against a sexually transmitted human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer, may also be linked to 1,700 “adverse reactions”.
Read article in the Sunday Express (UK)

June 22, 2007

The Big Profits in Biowarfare Research
Corporate America's Deadliest Secret
A number of major pharmaceutical corporations and biotech firms are concealing the nature of the biological warfare research work they are doing for the U.S. government. Since their funding comes from the National Institutes of Health, the recipients are obligated under NIH guidelines to make their activities public. Not disclosing their ops raises the suspicion they may be engaged in forbidden kinds of germ warfare research. According to the Sunshine Project, a nonprofit arms control watchdog operating out of Austin, Texas, among corporations holding back information about their activities are: Abbott Laboratories, BASF Plant Science, Bristol-Myers Squibb, DuPont Central Research and Development, Eli Lilly Corp., Embrex, GlaxoSmithKline, Hoffman-LaRoche, Merck & Co., Monsanto, Pfizer Inc., Schering-Plough Research Institute, and Syngenta Corp. of Switzerland.
Read article at counterpunch.org

June 20, 2007

What Big Pharma Is Planning
Big Pharma must reinvent itself, to avoid a giant collapse, says a just-released report.
Read article at knowledgeofhealth.com

June 19, 2007

 Drug, Food Risks Stay Secret as Inquiries to U.S. FDA Pile Up
Claudia Krcmarik can't get documents about her father-in-law's death during a medical study. Meryl Nass keeps asking for records she thinks will show an anthrax vaccine is dangerous. The American Bakers Association's request for a paper on the safety of imported honey has languished. All filed public information requests with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at least four years ago and have yet to receive what they asked for -- even though American law says agencies must release records ``promptly.'' The FDA's 20,365 unfilled requests for information exceed the totals for the departments of Defense and Justice. One company, FOI Services Inc., accounts for 44 percent of the backlog, according to the agency. Researchers, consumer groups and individuals say the delays limit their ability to alert the public to food and drug dangers and to hold the FDA accountable.
Read article at bloomberg.com (USA)

June 18, 2007

Japan struggling with Tamiflu dilemma
Japanese officials have confirmed hundreds of citizens have displayed abnormal reactions after ingesting the prescription flu medication, Tamiflu.
Read article at physorg.com

£1m a month on youngsters’ ‘chill-out pills’
The NHS is spending more than £1 million a month on so-called “chill pills” that help to calm hyperactive children, figures show. Doctors in Britain wrote almost 7,500 prescriptions a week for Ritalin, the drug that is used commonly when attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has been diagnosed in children. The treatment costs about £200 a year per child and is likely to cost taxpayers £12.48 million this year, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.
Read article in The Times (UK)

June 12, 2007

Autism test cases against US begin
Suits say disorder linked to vaccines
Lawyers began arguments yesterday in the first of several test cases that may help decide whether the government should pay millions of dollars to parents of children with autism. Nearly 5,000 parents say that vaccinations caused their children to develop autism and many of their claims have been pending for five years. The hearing was held at the "federal vaccine court" set up by Congress 20 years ago when a series of vaccine scares nearly crippled the industry.
Read article in the Boston Globe (USA)

June 8, 2007

China's drug watchdog suspends production, marketing of IBS drug
China 's drug watchdog on Friday ordered the suspension of production, sale and use of Zelnorm, a drug taken for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after the medicine was linked to an increase risk of heart attacks and strokes. The State Food and Drug Administration said it had made the decision because "the risks of Zelnorm outweigh the possible benefits for some patients based on analyses from home and abroad."
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

June 7, 2007

F.D.A. Issues Strictest Warning on Diabetes Drugs
The Food and Drug Administration has called for the toughest safety warning on two diabetes drugs, Avandia and Actos, whose health risks have become a focus of Congressional concern. That decision, disclosed on Wednesday by the F.D.A. commissioner at a packed House hearing, comes more than a year after the agency’s safety reviewers strongly recommended just such a step. And it occurs amid a Congressional investigation into why the agency delayed its warnings about Avandia for years. In a written statement, the commissioner, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, said the agency has asked the makers of Actos and Avandia to carry the more prominent warning, a so-called black box warning, of its heart risks because “despite existing warnings, these drugs were being prescribed to patients with significant heart failure.”
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

US regulator tried to smear scientist in fight for Glaxo drug
The head of the US food and drug administration has admitted his staff attempted to smear a scientist who raised doubts about Avandia - the GlaxoSmithKline diabetes drug that has been linked with a high incidence of heart attacks.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

June 6, 2007

Health alert over HIV drug
HIV sufferers who take the antiretroviral drug, Viracept, should contact their doctors immediately, British health officials said tonight, after the medicine was found to contain a substance that can cause cancer.
Read article in The Times (UK)

Diabetes Drug Still Has Heart Risks, Doctors Warn
A medical study intended to demonstrate the heart safety of a well-known diabetes treatment seems, instead, to have added to the controversy over the drug. Its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, says preliminary results of the clinical trial provide reassurance that the drug, Avandia, an oral medication for Type 2 diabetes that has been used by an estimated seven million people worldwide, does not raise the risk of a heart attack or death from cardiovascular disease. Influential doctors said that the data published online yesterday in a major medical journal did nothing to ease their concerns about the heart risks. The doctors raised their concerns in three editorials accompanying the Avandia study in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

June 5, 2007

Nigeria: Drug Test - FG Sues Pfizer for $7 Billion
Drugs giant, Pfizer, came under greater pressure yesterday when the federal government went to court to seek $7billion in damages and compensation for the 200 children affected by an illegal drug test in Kano . The case is in addition to one before the Kano High Court which also kicked off yesterday. The government accused Pfizer of testing a new antibiotic on the children without the consent of their illiterate parents. The Federal High Court in Abuja said it would fast track the case. The case is being brought by the Attorney General on behalf of the Kano state government.
Read article at allafrica.com

Drug Company Funding Of Drug Trials Greatly Influences Outcome
In head-to-head trials of two drugs, the one deemed better appears to depend largely on who is funding the study, according to an analysis of nearly 200 statin-drug comparisons carried out between 1999 and 2005. UCSF researchers examined 192 published results of trials comparing one cholesterol-lowering statin drug to another, or to a non-statin drug. Their findings found that two links stood out. If the reported results favored the test drug, the trial was about 20 times more likely to be funded by the maker of the statin rather than the comparison drug company. Even more striking, they say, if the conclusions or interpretation of the drug trial -- which reflect the impressions of the trial investigators -- favored the test drug, the trial was about 35 times more likely to be funded by the maker of that drug rather than the comparison drug.
Read article at sciencedaily.com

May 31, 2007

Kano govt sues Pfizer, demands for $2 billion - For using 200 children to test drugs
THE Kano State government has sued drug maker, Pfizer, for its alleged role in the deaths of children who received an unapproved drug during a meningitis epidemic in 1996, court papers showed on Wednesday. Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug maker, said in a statement that the allegations were untrue and it acted ethically. The attorney general of Kano State filed five claims for damages totalling $2.075 billion before a state high court. The defendants are Pfizer, its Nigerian subsidiary and seven individuals who worked for the companies in 1996. “The plaintiff contends that prior to the treatment by the first defendant (Pfizer), the children treated... which children number 200, did not have the medical conditions or disorders which they suffered after being treated,” the suit said.
Read article in the Nigerian Tribune

May 29, 2007

Doubts over obesity pill claims
Some of the health benefits claimed for a new weight loss drug may not be justified, say experts.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: In trials, the drug - rimonabant - had no effect on levels of "bad" cholesterol, and little or no effect on blood pressure. Not good for a drug that costs £720 a year…

Corrupt drug chief sentenced to death
CHINA'S former top drug regulator was sentenced to death in a Beijing court this morning on charges of bribe taking and negligence. Zheng Xiaoyu, once the director of State Food and Drug Administration, was given a death penalty at the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court on the charges of pocketing 6.49 million yuan (US$840,000) in bribes and dereliction of duty, Xinhua news agency reported. Zheng may appeal to a higher court within 10 days, according to China's criminal procedure law. Otherwise he will be executed in seven days after the sentence takes effect.
Read article in the Shanghai Daily (China)

May 28, 2007

Drugs might breed violence
Attacks on staff rise at Western State Hospital
Violence has been a growing problem at Western State Hospital for years. If present trends continue, one in four of the Lakewood mental hospital’s more than 1,700 workers can expect to be assaulted by a patient in 2007, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries. For years, hospital administrators have blamed the violence on familiar causes: not enough staff members, not enough money and increased societal violence that leads to the admission of more-violent patients. But they don’t have the data to back up those assertions. A News Tribune analysis of drug-prescribing trends at Western since 1999 finds another possible factor: Western is giving more patients psychiatric drugs with side effects that can include extreme agitation and aggression.
Read article in The News Tribune (USA)

May 25, 2007

Government knew of HIV risk from imported blood
Expert panel decided against import ban - since then 1,757 have died
The government's advisers on medicine knew that patients were at risk of contracting Aids from imported blood products as early as 1983, but ruled against a ban because of fears it would cause a shortage of supply. Minutes obtained by the Guardian of a meeting held on July 13 1983 reveal that the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) knew that "patients who repeatedly receive blood clotting-factor concentrates appear to be at risk" of Aids. They also knew that the risks were highest if the blood products came "from the blood of homosexual and IV drug users in areas of high incidence - eg New York and California" and for those who repeatedly received high doses of the blood plasma products.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

Ignoring the Warnings, Again?
The latest findings on Avandia, a top-selling diabetes drug, raise concerns both about its safety and about the way the manufacturer and the Food and Drug Administration have responded to signs of danger. It would be rash to make definitive judgments until the F.D.A. completes a detailed analysis. But the handling of this case bears disturbing resemblances to the Vioxx debacle, in which early warning signs were ignored by its manufacturer until the evidence of serious harm became inescapable and the drug was pulled from the market.
Read editorial in the New York Times (USA)

May 24, 2007

FDA study said to show Avandia risk
The government's own evaluation of the diabetes pill Avandia confirms the heart risks reported in a study earlier this week and suggests that as many as 60,000 to 100,000 heart attacks might be linked to its use since it came on the market eight years ago, a leading member of Congress said Thursday. In a floor statement placed in the Senate record, Sen. Charles Grassley also said that safety watchdogs within the federal Food and Drug Administration "several months ago" recommended a "black box" on the drug's label — the strongest possible warning. It is the first confirmation that the FDA's own analysis of Avandia and shows a similar magnitude of heart attack risks — dangers that were first publicly raised in a medical journal report published earlier this week.
Read article in USA Today

May 23, 2007

Judicial Watch Uncovers Three Deaths Relating to HPV Vaccine
Event Reports Obtained from FDA Detail 1,637 Adverse Reactions to Gardasil
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released documents obtained from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, detailing 1,637 reports of adverse reactions to the vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil.  Three deaths were related to the vaccine.  One physician’s assistant reported that a female patient “died of a blood clot three hours after getting the Gardasil vaccine.”  Two other reports, on girls 12 and 19, reported deaths relating to heart problems and/or blood clotting. 
Read article at judicialwatch.org (USA)

May 22, 2007

Vaccine linked to sickness
FEDERAL Health Minister Tony Abbott and health authorities have urged parents not to panic over reports that dozens of teenage girls have been sickened by a new cervical cancer vaccine. In one case being investigated, a girl was left temporarily paralysed and unable to talk after receiving the Australian-developed Gardasil vaccine. Health authorities have denied the cases are directly related to the immunisation.
Read article at news.com.au (Australia)

Pill threat to wild fish
Traces of synthetic female hormone from the contraceptive pill present in rivers can decimate wild fish populations, according to the first study to reveal the effects of the low levels of oestrogen hormones that are now present in municipal waters worldwide. The study suggests that the impact of this cocktail of oestrogens, most notably from the pill, on aquatic life - and perhaps humans - could be more far reaching than previously thought.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

Glaxo shares drop on drug worries
Shares in UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline fell for a second day after US research said its diabetes drug Avandia raised the risk of heart attacks. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests the drug, which was approved in 1999, may raise the risk of heart attacks by 43%.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

May 21, 2007

Drug firms and patient groups join in fight to overturn advertising ban
Pharmaceutical industry seeks to unlock market
Critics say EU reform talks are shrouded in secrecy
Drug companies in Europe, faced with declining sales and a shortage of new products, appear to be making ground in their attempt to enlist a major new ally in their struggle for profits - the patient. Sales soared in the US after companies were allowed to advertise their prescription medicines on TV and radio and in magazines and newspapers. Patients in America began demanding more drugs and specific, expensive brand-name drugs from their doctors. Now the firms want to target the UK in the same way, and are strongly challenging a ban on direct consumer advertising in the EU.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

Former drug official accused of taking bribes
A HIGH-RANKING official of the State Food and Drug Administration has been charged with pocketing bribes and malfeasance three days after the administration's former chief stood trial on the same charges, Beijing Times reported today. Cao Wenzhuang, the former director of the Drug Registration Department, was charged with taking two million yuan (US$260,417) in bribes from pharmaceutical companies for drug registrations, the report said. The accusations against Cao, a former secretary of ex-chief Zheng Xiaoyu, were heard after Zheng's trial for taking bribes of more than five million yuan began at Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court last Thursday. Zheng, who has already been expelled from the Communist Party of China, is now under a further investigation that has involved 31 people, including several senior officials of the administration, according to previous reports.
Read article in the Shanghai Daily (China)

Big pharma to expand in Asia
Multinational drug companies intend to expand their investments and operations in Asia in the coming months despite concerns about corruption and patents, a survey by PwC, the consultancy firm, has found. One third of multinationals with bases in Asia intend to expand through acquisitions or by building greenfield sites in the region during the next year. Three-quarters of local pharmaceutical companies emphasise exporting outside their local market as an important goal. The plans are made in the context of the region's fast growth, which suggests Asia may be the world's largest pharmaceuticals market in coming years, despite continuing competition.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

Coming soon: the shopping channel run by drug firms
Four of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies are proposing to launch a television station to tell the public about their drugs, amid strenuous lobbying across Europe by the industry for an end to restrictions aimed at protecting patients. Pharma TV would be a dedicated interactive digital channel funded by the industry with health news and features but, at its heart, would be detailed information from drug companies about their medicines. A 10-minute pilot DVD, seen by the Guardian, featured a white-coated doctor discussing breast cancer and a woman patient who reassured viewers that "there are many new treatments available".
Read article in the Guardian (UK)
Comment: Four companies, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis and Procter & Gamble, are behind the pilot. The European Patient Information Channel, as industry is calling it, is backed by a number of influential patient groups that are themselves heavily funded by drug companies.

UNESCO official criticises some pharmaceutical firms
A senior UNESCO official has criticised multi-national pharmaceutical firms which conduct clinical trials in developing countries without adequately informing their volunteers of the possible risks involved in such researches. UNESCO's assistant director general in charge of Social and Human Sciences, Dr. Pierre Sane observed that due to lack of ethical standards in scientific researches, such pharmaceutical companies did not bother to obtain informed consent from volunteers participating in their trials. Sane spoke Friday at Kenya's Egerton public University, near Nakuru town, 170 km west of Nairobi where he inaugurated a bio-ethics center. He lamented that thousands of people in Africa were being enticed by money and other goodies to participate in scientific trials without fully understanding their possible risks.
Read article at africa-interactive.net

May 18, 2007

Nigeria: 1996 Drug Trial - Knsg Sues Pfizer for $2.7bn
The Kano state government has sued Pfizer International Limited, its sister Nigerian subsidiary and seven others over alleged use of 200 children as "guinea pigs" in a drug trial in 1996 in Kano. The government is demanding the payment of over 2.7bn dollars from the defendants whom it accused of causing the death of the children among others.
Read article at allafrica.com

May 15, 2007

15-Year Follow-Up Schizophrenia Study: NoDrugs = Better Chance at Recovery
Recent public disclosures about the harmful effects of FDA-approved psychotropic drugs and corroborating evidence from patient outcome and mortality studies reveal that psychiatry's fixation on drugs as the treatment of choice is a toxic prescription for debilitating adverse effects; an impediment to recovery; and premature death. A 15-year prospective follow-up study compared recovery outcomes in schizophrenia patients treated with antipsychotics and those untreated or treated without drugs was just re-published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases (May 2007). It was funded by the US Public Health Service and the National Institute of Mental Health. The findings from this 15-year study confirm previous international outcome studies: 40% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who were NOT on antipsychotic drugs showed periods of recovery and better global functioning compared to only 5% of patients taking antipsychotics.
Read article at ahrp.blogspot.com

May 14, 2007

Antidepressant prescribing soars
The number of prescriptions for antidepressants in England has hit a record high despite national guidance advocating alternative treatments. More than 31 million prescriptions for drugs such as Prozac were issued in 2006 - a 6% rise on the year before. The figures come as two studies showed "startling" benefits of country walks in people with depression. Mind, the charity that reported the findings, said GPs should consider "ecotherapy" as a valid alternative.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

The Danger in Drug Kickbacks
The explosion in the use of three anti-anemia drugs to treat cancer and kidney patients illustrates much that is wrong in the American pharmaceutical marketplace.
Read editorial in the New York Times (USA)

Fears over NHS cancer drug costs
Cancer doctors have told the BBC they fear the NHS will not be able to afford the new generation of cancer drugs. Specialists are already arguing that patients may have to pay for more drugs themselves, with the issue becoming pressing as new drugs are developed. But some patients offering to pay for a cancer drug are being told they would have to meet all their care costs.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

May 11, 2007

Narcotic Maker Guilty of Deceit Over Marketing
The company that makes the painkiller OxyContin and three of its current and former executives pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court here to criminal charges that it had misled doctors and patients when it claimed the drug was less likely to be abused than traditional narcotics. The company, Purdue Pharma, agreed to pay $600 million in fines and other payments to resolve the criminal charge of “misbranding” the product, one of the largest amounts ever paid by a drug company in such a case. The three executives, including its president and its top lawyer, also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of misbranding the drug. Together, they agreed to pay $34.5 million in fines.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

May 10, 2007

AMSA RELEASES PHARMFREE SCORECARD GRADING MEDICAL SCHOOLS’ POLICIES ON PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ACCESS AND INFLUENCE
First annual survey and scorecard finds many schools lacking comprehensive policy
Of all U.S. medical schools, only five received a grade of "A" on the American Medical Student Association’s 2007 PharmFree Scorecard. The scorecard, which ranks medical schools according to their pharmaceutical influence policies, is the first of its kind and provides students with important new information about their medical school choices.
Read press release on the American Medical Student Association's website

Dead, fired attorneys’ Medicare fraud probe linked to White House
Senator McCaskill knew about dead attorneys before Senate Gonzales hearing
According to Medical Supply Chain CEO Samuel Lipari who is suing hospital supply company Novation LLC, Missouri Democratic Senator Claire C. McCaskill knew that seven U.S. attorneys—two assistants who turned up dead, three assistants who resigned or were fired and two U.S. attorneys who were also forced out—had something in common: all seven were investigating Medicare and Medicaid fraud in the United States healthcare system involving overcharging for hospital supplies and medical fees amounting to billions of dollars in fraud. Lipari’s suit against Novation has ties to the White House in that the President’s brother Jeb Bush joined the board of directors of Novation member Tenet Healthcare on April 12, 2007 and George W’s cousin’s company wrote software for hospital equipment global reference numbers, raising questions as to why Jeb Bush has become associated with a company involved in multiple lawsuits and fraud probes.
Read article at tomflocco.com (USA)

Senators who weakened drug bill got millions from industry
Senators who raised millions of dollars in campaign donations from pharmaceutical interests secured industry-friendly changes to a landmark drug-safety bill, according to public records and interviews. The bill, which passed 93-1, grants the Food and Drug Administration broad new authority to monitor the safety of drugs after they are approved. It addressed some shortcomings that allowed the painkiller Vioxx to stay on the market for years after initial signs that it could cause heart attacks. However, the powers granted to the FDA in the bill's original version were pared back during private meetings. And efforts to curb conflicts of interest among FDA advisers and allow consumers to buy cheaper drugs from other countries were defeated in close votes.
Read article in USA Today

Drugs adviser raises charity fear
Concerns have been raised about the links between pharmaceutical firms and charity patient groups by the body that advises the NHS on which drugs to use. Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, said charities had to be wary of pharmaceutical donations. And he urged charities to question the cost of drugs more.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

May 9, 2007

Doctors Reap Millions for Anemia Drugs
Two of the world’s largest drug companies are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors every year in return for giving their patients anemia medicines, which regulators now say may be unsafe at commonly used doses. The payments are legal, but very few people outside of the doctors who receive them are aware of their size. Critics, including prominent cancer and kidney doctors, say the payments give physicians an incentive to prescribe the medicines at levels that might increase patients’ risks of heart attacks or strokes. Industry analysts estimate that such payments — to cancer doctors and the other big users of the drugs, kidney dialysis centers — total hundreds of millions of dollars a year and are an important source of profit for doctors and the centers. The payments have risen over the last several years, as the makers of the drugs, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson, compete for market share and try to expand the overall business.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

May 4, 2007

Epilepsy drug may lower children's IQ, study shows
Women who took an epilepsy drug during their pregnancy are at greater risk of having children with lower IQ, according to a study. Taking the drug valproate - which is already at the centre of a British court action after claims that it has damaged children - seems to double the chance that the woman's child will be born with mental retardation. Around 140 British families claim their children are suffering from foetal anti-convulsant syndrome because their mothers took valproate during pregnancy. The syndrome encompasses a range of neural, behavioural and physical disorders such as cleft palate and spina bifida, learning difficulties, behavioural problems and abnormalities in movement, speech, vision and hearing.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

May 3, 2007

Over-the-counter drug use concern
The dangers of becoming addicted to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are going unrecognised, doctors warn. In the British Medical Journal, Chris Ford and Beth Good say they have seen three patients addicted to drugs containing codeine in recent months. All began using the drug as recommended, but their use grew. The drug companies' trade association said there was guidance in packs, but researchers said the public needed to be more aware of the addiction risks.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

May 1, 2007

Big Pharma Gets its Hooks into Seton Hall Law School
For decades, the pharmaceutical industry has marinated the medical profession in millions of dollars of free samples, lunches, trips, and fees.The goal - influence, power, profits. Now, the industry has another target - the legal profession. Last week, industry leaders Schering-Plough Corporation, sanofi-aventis, Johnson & Johnson and Bristol Myers Squibb and the pharma law firm Gibbons PC - announced that they will donate a total of $9.1 million to establish the Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey. "This is what they have been doing with doctors for the last five decades -shaping young doctors' minds," said Peter Rost, a former vice president at Pfizer and author of The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman (Soft Skull Press, 2006). "Now they want to shape the minds of young lawyers."
Read article at ahrp.blogspot.com

Aspirin may increase stroke risk
Healthy older people who take regular aspirin to prevent stroke may actually be increasing their risk. In the past 25 years the number of strokes associated with blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin or warfarin has risen seven-fold, a UK study found. The risk is particularly high in the over 75s and aspirin may do more harm than good in healthy older people, The Lancet Neurology paper reported.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

April 26, 2007

Pills to avoid diabetes 'unjust'
Taking prescription drugs to prevent diabetes cannot be justified when lifestyle changes are just as effective, say US scientists. Trials show rosiglitazone pills do work, but so does weight loss, which is a safer and cheaper way to avoid type 2 diabetes, the researchers argue. In the British Medical Journal, they warn about turning healthy people into patients and the risk of side effects.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

Protease Inhibitors Linked to Increased Heart Attack Risk
The use of protease inhibitors to treat HIV is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, according to a large observational study. The risk increase is 16% a year, which amounts to about a doubling of the risk of myocardial infarction over five years, reported Nina Friis-Møller, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Copenhagen, and colleagues, in the April 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The magnitude of the increase, found in the Data Collection on Adverse Events of Anti-HIV Drugs (DAD) study, is similar to that seen for diabetes or cigarette smoking, Dr. Friis-Møller and colleagues added.
Read article at medpagetoday.com

Texas Legislators Block Shots for Girls Against Cancer Virus
A revolt by lawmakers has blocked Gov. Rick Perry’s effort to make Texas the first state to require sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. In a 135-to-2 vote that appeared veto-proof, the Texas House gave final passage on Wednesday to a Senate bill that bars the state from ordering the shots until at least 2011. Even many supporters of the governor resented Mr. Perry’s proposal as an abuse of executive authority.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

April 25, 2007

Most doctors get money, gifts from industry
Virtually all doctors in a national survey of six specialties reported some sort of relationship — from free lunches to payments for consulting and lecturing — with medically related industries such as those for drugs or medical devices, a report says today.
Read article in USA Today

April 21, 2007

Ruling puts Texas Vioxx lawsuits on hold
More than 1,000 personal injury lawsuits filed in Texas over the once-popular pain medication Vioxx were put on hold Friday after a judge ruled the drug's manufacturer had given adequate warnings about the drug. State District Judge Randy Wilson, based in Harris County, granted a motion by Merck & Co. Inc., the drug's manufacturer, to dismiss part of a lawsuit filed by Ruby Ledbetter. Merck's attorneys argued a 2003 Texas law prevents Ledbetter from claiming she wasn't properly warned about Vioxx. The law, passed as part of tort reform efforts, says a drug manufacturer is not liable in allegations it failed to provide sufficient warnings about its product if the drug in question came with warnings approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Read article in Business Week (USA)

April 18, 2007

Multiple cancer medications pose patient risk
Many cancer patients are at risk for potentially dangerous drug interactions because of the number of different medications they take for multiple conditions, say Canadian researchers, who caution that steps must be taken to avoid these dicey combinations. In a study appearing today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto found that almost 30 per cent of 405 cancer patients studied were taking drugs that put them at risk for at least one adverse drug interaction. At least nine per cent of the interactions could have had severe effects -- including being potentially fatal -- and 77 per cent were of moderate severity and could have resulted in serious health problems, the study showed.
Read article in The London Free Press (Canada)

HRT linked to ovarian cancer risk
A large UK study has found hormone replacement therapy significantly increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Figures from the Million Women Study suggest 1,000 extra women in the UK died from ovarian cancer between 1991 and 2005 because they were using HRT. The researchers, writing in the Lancet, said HRT increased the risk of ovarian, breast and womb cancers.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

April 16, 2007

ADHD: too many kids on drugs?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Scotland is currently under scrutiny. This June sees the publication of the first part of an audit from NHS watchdog Quality Improvement Scotland (QIS) into the care and treatment of Scottish children with difficulties of attention, concentration and impulsivity.
Meanwhile, at an international conference about ADHD held at Edinburgh University last month, neurologist Baroness Susan Greenfield warned of the potentially harmful long-term effect of drugs commonly used to treat ADHD on the developing brains of young children. This is particularly pertinent given the 10-fold increase from 1996 to 2004 in Scottish prescriptions for methylphenidate - the generic name for the psychoactive drug widely known as Ritalin.
Read article in The Herald (Scotland/UK)

Americans fed up with drug industry influence, FDA corruption, reveals remarkable Consumer Reports survey
More than four out of five Americans think drug companies have too much influence over the Food and Drug Administration, and 84 percent believe that advertisements for prescription drugs with safety concerns should be outlawed, reveals a striking new survey from Consumer Reports. The survey results, released today, are based on a telephone survey of 1,026 American adults conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. They reveal the Food and Drug Administration to be alarmingly out of touch with the concerns of the American people.
Read article at newstarget.com

April 15, 2007

FDA whistle-blower shifts Arcoxia fight to Europe
Food and Drug Administration whistle-blower David Graham isn't content with helping to keep Merck's drug Arcoxia off just the U.S. market, because that still leaves 63 countries in which the arthritis medication is sold. Graham, of the agency's Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, warned an FDA advisory panel Thursday that Arcoxia would be "a potential public-health disaster" because it raises heart attack and stroke risk. The panel voted 20 to 1 against recommending approval of Arcoxia, which critics have likened to Vioxx, the arthritis drug Merck withdrew in September 2004 because of cardiovascular safety concerns. The FDA typically follows the advice of its advisory panels.
Graham said Friday that he wants to figure out how many extra strokes and heart attacks may have occurred in Europe since Arcoxia went on the market there in 2004. "I'm hoping that in Europe they reconsider this drug," he said. "It's clearly killing people."
Read article in USA Today

April 13, 2007

German court allows screening of thalidomide drama after cuts
A television drama about the thalidomide scandal which led to thousands of women giving birth to disabled children, has sparked a bitter row between the film-makers and the creators of the drug, 50 years after the anti-morning sickness pill came on to the market. The two-part drama, produced by the Cologne company Zeitsprung for the channel Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR), seeks to dramatise the shocking events surrounding the way the drug came on to the market, and how the victims - many of whom were born without limbs after their mothers took the drug during pregnancy - were subsequently treated.
Read article in The Guardian (UK)

Drug giants accused of ignoring fake medicines that kill millions
The world's major drug companies have been accused of turning a blind eye to the multibillion-dollar trade in fake medicine that has resulted in an explosion of child malaria deaths in developing countries. Governments have not tackled the problem and pharmaceutical companies are burying the issue, afraid that any publicity given to their medicines being faked will lead to a fall in the sale of the genuine product, according to a documentary.
Read article in The Independent (UK)

April 12, 2007

April 2007 Big Pharma Litigation Update - Drugs (Part II)
The anti-epileptic drug, Depakote (valproate), marketed by Abbott Laboratories, is one of the most heavily prescribed medications for off-label use. Experts say the evidence of harm caused by Depakote is just beginning to emerge. According to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania psychiatrist, Dr Stefan Kruszewski, a recognized expert on psychotropic drugs, "we can anticipate a continuing series of tragic outcomes from the massive overuse of Depakote, secondary not only to birth defects and death, but also due to anemias, hepatic disease, obesity, diabetes type II, pancreatitis and other serious systemic and neurological dysfunctions."
Read article at lawyersandsettlements.com

FDA Advisory Panel Nixes New Cox-2
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted 20-1 today against approving Merck's new arthritis pain pill, known as Arcoxia. After listening to the company's presentation, the FDA reviewer's analysis, and a devastating critique offered by FDA safety officer David Graham, one could only wonder why Merck brought this Vioxx clone before the committee. It also makes one wonder why over 60 European countries have approved the drug, which appears to have all the same heart attack risks of other Cox-2 inhibitors. The evidence that the drug reduced the gastrointestinal side effects of other pain pills like ibuprofen or naproxen (sold over-the-counter as Aleve) was marginal at best, and was clearly outweighed by the more serious cardiovascular side effects. And, the bottom line was that the drug provided no more additional pain relief than any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs).
Read article at gooznews.com

April 11, 2007

Patients Diagnosed Schizophrenic and Bipolar to boost Seroquel Sales
For over a decade, drug makers have been influencing doctors to diagnose patients, especially those covered by public health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, with mental illnesses to justify the over-prescribing of the new class of drugs known as "atypical" antipsychotics. For instance, Seroquel, marketed by AstraZeneca, is only FDA approved to treat acute manic episodes associated with bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia, and yet it is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. Astra reports that over 16 million patients have taken Seroquel since it came on the market in 1997, and the drug had sales of close to three and a half billion dollars in 2006, according to SEC filings.
Read article at lawyersandsettlements.com

Pfizer Lobbies Against Negotiated Prices + Looming $400 Million Settlement for Bextra/Celebrex Kickbacks
There is far more lurking beneath last week's $35 million Pfizer settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. That settlement involved criminal marketing of Genotropin (human growth hormone) for unapproved uses and for giving kickbacks to a pharmacy-benefits manager. We called the non-prosecution agreement a sweetheart deal with the U.S. Attorney who praised Pfizer for "acting responsibly." Below, Dr. Peter Rost, the former Pfizer vice president whose False Claims lawsuit blew the whistle on Pfizer's criminal conduct (thereby triggering the US Attorney's suit), identifies the unnamed pharmacy management company--ExpressScripts--and provides insight about what he believes is taking place behind the scenes. If he is right--and so far what he had claimed about Pfizer has been proven right--Pfizer and ExpressScripts have been concurrently engaging in far more substantive criminal activities. According to Dr. Rost, the kickbacks that Pfizer paid to ExpressScripts for placing Genotropin on the formulary, came out of Pfizer's Bextra/Celebrex budget.
Read article at ahrp.blogspot.com

April 7, 2007

Pharmaceutical Fraud? Prescription for Disaster Documentary
The US government spends billions every year to finance scientific research and yet a country like America has an epidemic of heart diseases, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders and environmental diseases which is impressive if compared to underdeveloped countries. Why, after so many years of huge research investments, aren’t we closer to eliminating these diseases? And why do you think pharmaceutical companies and conventional medicine have such a strong bias against any alternative approach that doesn't involve the assumption of pharmaceutical products that have often been proved harmful? Gary Null, a popular member of the Nutrition Institute of America, has produced a shocking video documentary that explores the relationships that exist between lawmakers, lobbyists, medical schools and the FDA. In the documentary, US Congressman Maurice Hinchey states that “The largest part of the FDA operations are financed directly by pharmaceutical industries”.
Watch video and read summary on masternewmedia.org website

April 5, 2007

Pfizer drug distribution deal triggers market investigation
Alliance Boots, which is the subject of a £10bn takeover bid, yesterday found itself at the centre of an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) inquiry into how medicines are distributed in the UK . The OFT's move was triggered by Pfizer's decision to pump all of its drugs through Alliance Boots' wholesale arm UniChem, which prompted a furious backlash from independent pharmacists, MPs, doctors and rival wholesalers. The exclusive distribution deal took effect last month despite attempts by eight wholesalers to seek a court injunction to prevent it.
Read article in The Independent (UK)

High doses of ibuprofen raise heart attack risk
The common pain killer ibuprofen has been found to increase an existing risk of having a heart attack or a stroke in people who suffer from arthritis, research shows today. For some the risk was nine times higher. The findings bring more anxiety to the millions of arthritis sufferers in Britain as they follow a series of research studies that have shown increased risk of heart disease from the pain killers they take to ease the condition.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

April 4, 2007

Drug Makers Want Women of Childbearing Years
Drug makers are hell-bent on recovering the antidepressant customer base represented by women of childbearing years. With doctors now reluctant to prescribe the drugs to pregnant women, a new recruitment scheme has cropped up. Screening programs are being set up all over the country to screen every pregnant woman for mental disorders. The name-brand selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, or SSRIs, with a stake in this controversy, include Paxil, by GlaxoSmithKline; Zoloft, from Pfizer; Prozac by Eli Lilly; Celexa and Lexapro, from Forest Laboratories; and Luvox, from Solvay.According to one of the world's leading experts on SSRIs, Dr David Healy, a professor at the University of Wales College of Medicine, "there is quite a movement at the moment to say all pregnant women are depressed."
Read article at opednews.com

April 3, 2007

Drugs Are in the Water. Does It Matter?
Residues of birth control pills, antidepressants, painkillers, shampoos and a host of other compounds are finding their way into the nation’s waterways, and they have public health and environmental officials in a regulatory quandary. On the one hand, there is no evidence the traces of the chemicals found so far are harmful to human beings. On the other hand, it would seem cavalier to ignore them. The pharmaceutical and personal care products, or P.P.C.P.’s, are being flushed into the nation’s rivers from sewage treatment plants or leaching into groundwater from septic systems.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

The secret history of Big Pharma's role in creating and marketing heroin, LSD, meth, Ecstasy and speed
Most consumers think that street drugs are in an entirely different class than prescription drugs, and they believe that pharmaceutical companies would never manufacture or sell street drugs. But guess what? As you'll read here, drug companies actually invented many of the street drugs now considered to be the most devastating, including heroin and meth ("ice"). Here are seven facts you probably never knew about the connection between street drugs and pharmaceutical companies:
Read article at newstarget.com

New cancer tests could do more harm than good, says specialist
A new generation of tests for cancer could do more harm than good by increasingly diagnosing tumours which may not pose an immediate health risk, according to a leading cancer specialist.
Read article in The Guardian (UK)

April 2, 2007

BASF exits amino acids with lysine plant closure
BASF has announced that it will be ceasing production of lysine at its plant in Gunsan , South Korea , marking the end of its amino acid activity in the face of shrinking margins.
Read article at nutraingredients.com
Comment: Dr. Rath’s research with lysine has produced compelling results against heart disease and cancer. BASF, a multi-national chemicals manufacturing corporation, is a f ormer member of the IG Farben cartel.

April 1, 2007

Spending on Lobbying Thrives
Drug and health products industries invest $182 million to influence legislation
Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other health products spent nearly $182 million on federal lobbying from January 2005 through June 2006, a Center for Public Integrity study of disclosure records shows. Of that total, drug companies and their trade groups spent most of it, or $155 million, lobbying on a variety of issues ranging from protecting lucrative drug patents to keeping lower-priced Canadian drugs from being imported to the United States Drug interests employed about 1,100 lobbyists to do their bidding in each of the past two years.
Read article on the Centre For Public Integrity website (USA)

March 31, 2007

Novartis cuts forecast on ban
The US Food & Drug Administration yesterday ordered Novartis, the Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, to withdraw its best-selling irritable bowel syndrome drug Zelnorm from the market after identifying cardiac side-effects. The regulator's move will freeze almost all sales of the medicine, Novartis' 12th highest seller, which generated revenue of $561m worldwide last year including $488m in the US. Novartis reduced its financial forecasts on the back of the announcement, saying net sales growth in local currency were "above 5 per cent" in place of "mid to high single-digit" reported
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

March 30, 2007

CPC official stresses need to fight corruption in drug administration
A senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Friday called for more efforts to fight corruption in the food and drug administration departments. He Yong , deputy secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said at a conference of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) that food and drug administration departments at all levels should step up efforts to fight commercial bribery and sales of fake medicine. Officials who take bribes and extract advantages from pharmaceutical companies will be severely punished, He said.
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

Merck finds tonic in clever turn of phrase
It took just a few words to allow Merck to seize control again of the patent on its once-weekly dose of Fosamax, a blockbuster osteoporosis drug. The patent for the most popular dosage form of the US drugmaker's $3bn-a-year drug was, surprisingly, invalidated in the US, its biggest market, in 2005. It had suffered a similar fate in 2004 in the EU until another twist came this week. On Wednesday, the removal of one short phrase closed a patent loophole and the European Patent Office stunned generic drugmakers by reinstating the patent for Fosamax.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

Sedatives linked to pneumonia, strokes
More than 100,000 elderly people with dementia are being sedated with drugs linked to increased risk of pneumonia, strokes and heart attacks. The first long-term study of a class of drugs called neuroleptics found patients taking them died on average six months earlier than those switched to placebos. According to the Alzheimer's Research Trust, the drugs are being used to sedate up to 125,000 dementia patients in the UK despite a warning from the Committee on Safety of Medicines three years ago.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

March 29, 2007

Parkinson's drug pulled after reports of heart damage
A drug used by several thousand patients with Parkinson's disease is being pulled from the market because of reports of heart valve damage. The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that pergolide, sold under the name Permax and also in generic versions, is being withdrawn at the agency's request.
Read article in USA Today

March 27, 2007

NZ vitamin C row hits Ribena firm
The makers of Ribena have been fined for misleading the New Zealand public over vitamin C levels in the drink. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the fruit cordial, pleaded guilty to making incorrect health claims. The ruling comes three years after two Auckland teenagers found the drink contained almost no trace of vitamin C. Glaxo, which has been fined 227,500 New Zealand dollars ($163,700; £83,333), blamed testing methods and "incorrect labelling" for the confusion.
Read article at BBC News (UK)
Comment: Some people might argue that it is contrary to the financial interests of powerful pharmaceutical companies to add vitamin C to their products, but we’ll leave you to make up your own minds on that one….

Take this pill and shove it!
Drug sales representatives say they are increasingly disillusioned amid signs of industry cutbacks and tougher government regulations.
Big Pharma, already reeling from mounting competition and tightening government regulations, now has another problem to deal with: an oversupply of sales reps, many of whom are fed up with what they describe as an increasingly restrictive work environment, according to drug industry officials.
Read article at cnn.com (USA)

March 26, 2007

Vaccination campaign funded by drug firm
A campaign fronted by doctors and celebrities to persuade European governments, including the UK , to vaccinate all young girls against cervical cancer is being entirely funded by the drug company that markets the vaccine.
Sanofi Pasteur MSD, which markets Gardasil in Europe on behalf of the drug giant Merck, spent millions on what was billed as the "first global summit against cervical cancer", held in Paris on Thursday with doctors and patient organisations from across Europe. The revelation comes as public health experts express disquiet about the promotion of a vaccine that is only effective in young girls - possibly at the expense of screening programmes that are essential to protect adults.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

March 23, 2007

Toddler severely infected from father's vaccination, newspaper reports
A 2-year-old Indiana boy is under treatment in a specially ventilated Chicago hospital room after developing a rare and life-threatening infection from his soldier father's smallpox vaccination, according to a published report. Doctors at the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital said the boy's mother is also infected, but much less seriously than her son, who had a virulent rash over 80 percent of his body earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune reported in Saturday's editions.
Read article at examiner.com (USA)

Patient warning on flu drug risks
Medicines regulators say the antiviral Tamiflu must carry extra warnings for patients following reports of possible side effects, including suicide. The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said patients and doctors should look out for rare but serious potential reactions like abnormal behaviour. The EMEA said it would closely monitor any emerging safety data on the drug.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

March 22, 2007

F.D.A. Rule Limits Role of Advisers Tied to Industry
Expert advisers to the government who receive money from a drug or device maker would be barred for the first time from voting on whether to approve that company’s products under new rules announced Wednesday for the F.D.A.’s powerful advisory committees. Indeed, such doctors who receive more than $50,000 from a company or a competitor whose product is being discussed would no longer be allowed to serve on the committees, though those who receive less than that amount in the prior year can join a committee and participate in its discussions. A “significant number” of the agency’s present advisers would be affected by the new policy, said the F.D.A. acting deputy commissioner, Randall W. Lutter, though he would not say how many. The rules are among the first major changes made by Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach since he was confirmed as commissioner of food and drugs late last year.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)
Comment: Does the FDA really expect us to believe that the corrupting influence of the ‘business with disease’ can be reduced by allowing a doctor to continue serving on an FDA drug evaluation committee so long as he receives less than $50,000 from the drug’s manufacturer?

March 21, 2007

Doctors’ Ties to Drug Makers Are Put on Close View
Dr. Allan Collins may be the most influential kidney specialist in the country. He is president of the National Kidney Foundation and director of a government-financed research center on kidney disease. In 2004, the year he was chosen as president-elect of the kidney foundation, the pharmaceutical company Amgen, which makes the most expensive drugs used in the treatment of kidney disease, underwrote more than $1.9 million worth of research and education programs led by Dr. Collins, according to records examined by The New York Times. In 2005, Amgen paid Dr. Collins at least $25,800, mostly in consulting and speaking fees, the records show.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

Japan issues Tamiflu warning after child deaths
The Japanese government has warned doctors that Tamiflu, the drug being  stockpiled around the world as a defence against a bird flu pandemic, should  not be prescribed to teenagers for fear that it can lead to bizarre and  self-destructive behaviour. Tokyo’s Ministry of Health and Welfare today instructed the Japanese  distributor of the drug to include a warning not to give the drug to  patients aged between 10 and 19, after reports that at least 18 Japanese  children taking Tamiflu have died as a result of irrational behaviour.
Read article in The Times (UK)

March 20, 2007

IMS Health Reports Global Pharmaceutical Market Grew 7.0 Percent in 2006, to $643 Billion
IMS Health (NYSE: RX), the world’s leading provider of market intelligence to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, today announced that the 2006 global pharmaceutical market grew 7.0 percent, at constant exchange rates, to $643 billion.
Read press release at imshealth.com
Comment: If anybody ever asks you why pharmaceutical companies concentrate the vast majority of their efforts into selling patented drugs instead of natural therapies such as vitamins, just refer them to the statistic above. Currently, only 16 countries in the entire world have a GDP higher than this figure.

March 19, 2007

Drug trial errors ‘could have been foreseen’
The drug trial that left six young men seriously injured was poorly designed and possible risks had not been taken fully into account, a report by the Royal Statistical Society has concluded. The trial, at Northwick Park in northwest London , went disastrously wrong when a drug codenamed TGN 1412, being tested on human beings for the first time, produced horrifying effects, triggering a violent reaction from the six volunteers’ immune systems that caused extensive organ damage.
Read article in The Times (UK)

March 16, 2007

Leading Psychiatrist Admits Normal Children Are Diagnosed With Mental Disorders - Statement Adds to Controversy over Drugs Prescribed for Questionable Psychiatric Diagnoses
With increasing international concern about the large number of children labeled with so-called psychiatric disorders and prescribed mind-altering drugs, even the pioneer of psychiatry’s billing bible and “godfather of ADHD," Dr. Robert Spitzer, has now admitted that normal children are being labeled. Spitzer, a Columbia University psychiatrist, told BBC2 that children experiencing perfectly normal signs of being happy and sad are being labeled as mentally ill.
Read article on Citizens Commission on Human Rights website (USA)

March 14, 2007

Investigators Zero In on Pill Pushing Doctors
The number one goal of drug makers in dispatching sales representatives to meet with doctors face-to-face is to increase sales by convincing doctors to prescribe drugs off-label for unapproved uses, by saying whatever it takes to achieve that goal. A May 2006, study titled, "Turning Medicine Into Snake Oil," analyzed FDA warning letters sent to drug companies between 2001 and 2005, and found inaccurate statements made by sales reps in meetings with doctors to be the 4th most common source of false or misleading information used in pharmaceutical marketing. Almost all of the statements were discovered by FDA representatives asking questions of sales reps at conferences, an activity the FDA says, it lacks the resources to do comprehensively. Most troubling, the study found, was that nearly all of the promotional activity between sales reps and doctors occurs without scrutiny by any regulators.
Read article at lawyersandsettlements.com

Drugs to warn of sleep dangers
Ambien and other popular sleep aids will now carry warnings about risks of "complex behaviors" such as driving or preparing food when not fully awake and potentially lethal allergic reactions, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. Makers of the 13 affected drugs will begin sending letters to doctors this week to alert them to these risks, and the companies have until May to submit consumer-friendly "Medication Guides" to the FDA, Russell Katz, director of the FDA division that reviews neurology drugs, said at a news conference. After the FDA approves the leaflets, they are to be distributed with every filled prescription. "We do believe that all of the drugs in the class are capable of producing these adverse events," Katz said.
Read article in USA Today

March 13, 2007

Misuse of pharmaceuticals linked to more ER visits
Overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are sending more people than ever to emergency rooms, a new government report says. Emergency room visits involving the abuse or misuse of pharmaceuticals — including narcotics such as methadone and OxyContin and the stimulant Ritalin — jumped by 21% from 2004 to 2005, according to a report being released today by the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) from data collected by the Drug Abuse Warning Network. The number of overdoses involving legal pharmaceuticals is approaching the number involving cocaine and heroin, which has been relatively stable. Emergency rooms tallied 613,053 treatments involving cocaine and heroin overdoses in 2005, compared with 598,542 visits involving misuse of pharmaceuticals.
Read article in USA Today

March 12, 2007

Merck loses key US Vioxx lawsuit
A US jury has awarded damages of $20m (£10.3m) against drugs giant Merck in a case arising from its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx. The judgement means the jury may now move on to assess punitive damages against Merck. Vioxx was pulled from the market in September 2004 after a study found it could double the risk of heart attacks. The New Jersey jury ruled that Vioxx had contributed to a 61-year old man's heart attack.
Read article at BBC NEWS (UK)

March 10, 2007

F.D.A. Warning Is Issued on Anemia Drugs’ Overuse
The Food and Drug Administration issued strict new warnings yesterday about overuse of widely prescribed anemia drugs after a flurry of recent studies suggested they might cause heart problems or hasten the death of cancer patients. The agency said that a “black box” warning — the strongest kind — had been added to the labels of the drugs and that doctors should use the lowest possible dose needed to help patients avoid blood transfusions. It also said it was re-evaluating the validity of claims in the labels and in advertisements that the drugs can raise energy levels or otherwise improve a patient’s quality of life.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

Children's medicine contains banned additives
Many over-the-counter medicines for babies and children contain a cocktail of additives that are banned in food aimed at under threes, a report reveals today.
Sweeteners, artificial colours and preservatives were found in cough syrups, paracetamol tablets and teething gels by the Food Commission. Some of the additives can cause reactions such as asthma, rashes, eye irritation or have a mild laxative effect.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

March 7, 2007

Use of hyperactivity drugs soars
The use of drugs to treat hyperactivity in children has soared worldwide, say US researchers. Between 1993 and 2003, prescriptions of ADHD medications, such as Ritalin, almost tripled. Global spending on ADHD drugs increased nine-fold, with 83% occurring in the US, a study in Health Affairs reported.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

March 6, 2007

Rice Recalled Over Gene Contamination
The Agriculture Department last night took the unusual step of insisting that U.S. farmers refrain from planting a popular variety of long-grain rice because preliminary tests showed that its seed stock may be contaminated with a variety of gene-altered rice not approved for marketing in the United States. The announcement marks the third time in six months that U.S. rice has been found to be inexplicably contaminated with engineered traits, and it comes just weeks before the spring planting season. Adding to the potential disruption, the variety of rice affected is one that many farmers had planned to switch to this spring to avoid a different contaminated strain.
Read article in the Washington Post (USA)
Comment: The new problem involves a seed produced by BASF of Germany, the multi-national chemicals manufacturing corporation and former member of the IG Farben cartel.

March 5, 2007

Early fears about MMR in secret papers
Katie Stephen was a healthy baby girl when she was injected with the MMR triple vaccine. Ten days later she was vomiting, delirious and running a fever. That was in 1990. Seventeen years later, she is deaf in one ear. Following the debate over MMR and its alleged link with autism, government documents just released under the Freedom of Information Act show there was another, earlier concern for which there was more evidence and, apparently, more immediate risk. Whitehall experts knew of it before MMR's mass introduction into Britain, but the public was kept in ignorance.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

FDA Rules Override Warnings About Drug
The government is on track to approve a new antibiotic to treat a pneumonia-like disease in cattle, despite warnings from health groups and a majority of the agency's own expert advisers that the decision will be dangerous for people. The drug, called cefquinome, belongs to a class of highly potent antibiotics that are among medicine's last defenses against several serious human infections. No drug from that class has been approved in the United States for use in animals. The American Medical Association and about a dozen other health groups warned the Food and Drug Administration that giving cefquinome to animals would probably speed the emergence of microbes resistant to that important class of antibiotics, as has happened with other drugs. Those super-microbes could then spread to people.
Read article in the Washington Post (USA)

March 3, 2007

Prosecutors target Russian clinic testing British firm's MMR vaccine
Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into a clinic after unsubstantiated allegations that a vaccine made by the British drugs company GlaxoSmithKline has had disturbing side effects in a clinical trial. Prosecutors in Volgograd are investigating a clinic that tested the chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on 100 babies between the ages of one and two. Prosecutors say at least one of the children developed alarming symptoms after receiving the vaccine. A regional court last week halted the trial, by the city's Independent clinical hospital, amid complaints from parents that they had not been fully informed they were taking part in an experiment.
Read article in the Guardian (UK)

Blair pushes to capitalise on his biotech success
Tony Blair yesterday launched a wide-ranging review to strengthen the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors as he sought to capitalise on one of his successes at the conclusion of his 10-year premiership. Speaking to journalists after inaugurating a £100m facility opened by Amgen, one of the world's largest biotech groups, in west London, he unveiled a top-level study designed to report before he leaves office on how to provide "a big push" to improve the UK biotech environment.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

March 1, 2007

Bird flu drug probe after 18 teenage deaths in Japan
JAPANESE health authorities are investigating a flu medicine that is also available in Australia after a teenager jumped 11 storeys to his death after taking the drug. It was the 18th juvenile fatality linked to Tamiflu in 17 months.
Read article in the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

Former head of China's drug watchdog expelled from Party
Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), has been expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) for severely violating Party discipline. The decision was announced by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection here on Thursday. The commission said that Zheng took advantage of the administration's drug approval powers to obtain bribes and secure illegal profits for some drug companies, flagrantly disregarding his duty to supervise the drug market. "Food and drug administration is closely linked to the health and safety of the people. As former head of the SFDA, Zheng's behavior must be severely punished," the commission said.
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

February 28, 2007

China vows tight drug safety checks after revoking 353 medicine licences
China will tighten inspection of pharmaceuticals to improve drug safety and prevent corruption in the approval process, said a senior official who disclosed that his agency has revoked licenses of 353 medicines over the last six months. Wu Zhen, deputy director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), said on Tuesday 3,049 applications for new drugs have been turned down since last August. During an online interview, carried by the central government's website, Wu said his administration is requiring officials to inspect pharmaceutical production facilities to ensure drugs are made in accordance with the applications they filed with the SFDA. "Those who fail to meet standards will have their license revoked," Wu said.
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

China's drug authorities ban staff from holding pharmaceutical shares
China's drug watchdog has banned its employees from owning shares in pharmaceutical companies as part of an ongoing anti-corruption campaign which has unearthed a host of scandals. "Staff members of the drug administration and their affiliated units should not own equity shares in pharmaceutical companies unless they leave their posts," said Shao Mingli, director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), on Tuesday. "This kind of wrongdoing in the past should be corrected and those who violate the rules in the future will be sacked," he said at an inside meeting of the administration.
Read article in the People's Daily (China)

Leading headache pills 'put strain on the heart'
Regularly taking some of the most popular painkillers on the market is linked to a much greater risk of stroke and heart attack from higher blood pressure, according to research published yesterday. Participants in a large American study who took paracetamol, aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen six or seven days per week over a two-year period were between a quarter to a third more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Those who took 15 pills per week, regardless of type, have almost a 50 per cent risk of higher blood pressure than those who do not.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

February 27, 2007

Review Finds Drug Makers Issue More Positive Studies
Clinical trials sponsored by drug companies to look into the treatments of breast cancer are significantly more likely than independently financed studies to find that the treatments are effective, a new study finds.
Read article in the New York Times (USA)

February 13, 2007

Ex-lobbyist to take lead in US dialogue with China
Hank Paulson will today announce the appointment of Alan Holmer to run the US-China strategic economic dialogue, as talks intensify ahead of the next bilateral summit in May. Mr Holmer, a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist and deputy US trade representative, will be charged with achieving specific "deliverables" by the time the two sides meet in Washington DC on May 23.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

January 25, 2007

FTSE falls on pharmaceutical pressure
Pharmaceutical stocks came under renewed selling pressure on Thursday as one of the City's leading analysts forecast drug companies would continue to underperform. The UK pharmaceutical sector fell 5.2 per cent last year - underperforming the FTSE All Share by 16.2 per cent - amid worries over drug pipelines and the threat of political intervention in the US.
Read article in the Financial Times (UK)

February 23, 2007

FDA still under fire
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been coming under increased scrutiny over its approval process and funding mechanism. Later this year, Congress will consider whether to allow the FDA to continue to collect fees from pharmaceutical companies to help pay for the drug approval process. Critics of the scheme say that industry fees lead to a corrupting influence putting products before American consumer's wellbeing.
Read article at nutraingredients-usa.com

February 22, 2007

Texas Governor Perry took Merck money before mandating cervical vaccine
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) says that it's just a coincidence that he and eight other lawmakers received donations of $5,000 each from Merck lobbyists just a few days before mandating the drug giant's HPV cervical cancer vaccine for all females in Texas ages 12 and up. "There's been a lot of pressure about the implications of vaccinating young girls against sexually-transmitted diseases," says CNN's Ali Velshi in the video below, "some people thinking that that encourages promiscuity at that age." He reports though that "this thing is coming undone by word, rumor and report of connection between Rick Perry's office and Merck." The main lobbyist for Merck previously worked as Chief of Staff for Gov. Rick Perry. Several other states are considering making the vaccine mandatory, thanks in part to Merck's aggressive lobbying.
Read article at rawstory.com

February 20, 2007

NHS 'pays too much to drug firms'
The NHS is paying drug companies hundreds of millions of pounds too much for branded medicines, according to the Office of Fair Trading. Since September 2005, the competition watchdog has been investigating the system by which the Department of Health buys £7bn of branded medicines. It has concluded the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) should be overhauled, the BBC has learned.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

February 18, 2007

Drug companies to be told: prove you give value for money
Drug makers are set to be disappointed this week when the Office of Fair Trading forces them to consider what value they provide society in setting prices for medicines. The OFT opened an investigation into the way drugs are priced under the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) in September 2005 due to concerns about whether there was enough competition in the market for branded medicines, which cost the NHS £7bn a year. It will report its findings this week.
Read article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)

February 15, 2007

Pfizer proposals over supply prompt monopoly concerns
Pfizer, the American pharmaceuticals giant, is planning to roll out controversial reforms of its UK drug supply chain across Europe , The Times has learnt. The US-style reforms, which would force every chemist, dispensing doctor and hospital to buy medicines directly from Pfizer rather than drug wholesalers, thus giving the company greater control over pricing, could be extended initially to Germany and Poland, with other European countries to follow.
Read article in The Times (UK)

February 14, 2007

Foundation seeks to cut drug firm ‘bribery’
One of America ’s richest family foundations has launched a $6 million (£3.1 million) campaign designed to stop big pharmaceutical companies from “bribing” doctors into prescribing their drugs. The Prescription Project, launched this week, is a two-year initiative funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based group founded by the Pew family in the 1940s. The campaign will document the scale of the problem, encourage policy reforms and increase the adoption of a strictly evidence-based approach in prescribing medicines.
Read article in The Times (UK)

Pharmaceutical Company Donates $10 Million to American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society received a whole lot of love on Valentine's Day. A pharmaceutical company has pledged to donate $10 million to the American Cancer Society. The donation is going to be the second biggest donation in the history of the organization. This will be the largest donation ever made by a corporation.
Read article at associatedcontent.com

February 13, 2007

Anchorage attorney battles drug giant
Anchorage lawyer Jim Gottstein has emerged as a player in a national controversy over the psychiatric medication Zyprexa, which is Eli Lilly's best-selling drug. An advocate against forced medication in the treatment of mental illness, Gottstein obtained documents about the drug that had been sealed in Outside lawsuits against Eli Lilly and provided them to a New York Times reporter. According to the Times, the records showed a decade-long effort to downplay the drug's health risks in order to protect sales.
Read article in the Anchorage Daily News (USA)

Vioxx whistle-blower weighs in on demoted antibiotic Ketek
More than two years after David Graham told a Senate panel that the Food and Drug Administration was "incapable of protecting America against another Vioxx," the FDA scientist was back on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to tell a House panel that "nothing has really changed."
Read article in USA Today

February 9, 2007

Drug review to rid sector of corruption
Vice-Premier Wu Yi yesterday ordered a thorough review of pharmaceutical production licenses and certificates amid a widening probe into the scandal involving the former head of the national food and drug watchdog. Production licenses for nearly 170,000 medicines will be reviewed under strict assessment procedures by the end of the year. In a national video-conference, Wu singled out drugs which were granted national-level production licenses from 1999 to 2002 as the focus of inspection. Wu's action is seen as a major effort to reorganize the disorderly drug market the legacy of the disgraced former head of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), Zheng Xiaoyu. Zheng, 63, is being investigated for taking bribes during his eight years in office since 1998.
Read article in People's Daily (China)

Sanofi-Aventis loses US court case
Sanofi-Aventis, the French pharmaceutical group, said on Friday that a Californian court had ruled the patent on its top-selling drug, Lovenox, was invalid, a fresh blow to its attempts to fight off generic competitors. Sanofi has waged a lengthy legal battle against Amphastar and Teva Pharmaceuticals, which are seeking US regulators’ approval for a cheaper version of the bloodthinner, and said it was “evaluating its options for further legal recourse”.
Read article in Financial Times (UK)

February 7, 2007

Roche profits soar on back of bird flu vaccine
Strong demand for the bird flu vaccine Tamiflu drove up full-year profits at Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche. Sales of Tamiflu, which nations around the world have been stockpiling to prepare for a possible flu pandemic, soared in the final quarter as governments bought emergency stock. Roche's net income climbed 33pc to SFr7.88bn (£3.2bn) in 2006, also on a rise in sales of its breast cancer drug Herceptin.
Read article in Daily Telegraph (UK)

February 5, 2007

Nobody Buys Lilly's Innocence Routine About Zyprexa
Eli Lilly is having trouble obtaining and retaining insurance coverage for Zyprexa litigation because apparently insurance companies are no longer willing to buy its wide eyed innocence routine when it comes to the company's fraudulent off-label marketing schemes. In filings with the SEC, Lilly admits that it is having problems and that the company may end up having to pay its own Zyprexa costs, but blames it on the insurance industry stating: "We have experienced difficulties in obtaining product liability insurance due to a very restrictive insurance market and therefore will be largely self-insured for future product liability losses." As for the insurance that Lilly does have to cover past and future Zyprexa lawsuits, the filing reports that carriers have raised defenses to their liability and are seeking to rescind the policies, and Lilly further warns that, "there is no assurance that we will be able to fully collect from our insurance carriers on past claims."
Read article at opednews.com

Anti-graft campaign hits drug watchdog
The recent corruption scandals swirling around the pharmaceutical industry have led to speculation that more people are involved and the national food-and-drug watchdog might have its wings clipped. All State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) officials, incumbent and retired, have been asked to prove their innocence, reported China Business newspaper yesterday. Those who abused power for personal gain were asked to hand in illicitly-obtained money or assets by last Friday or face harsher punishment, an SFDA insider told the newspaper.
Read article in People's Daily (China)

February 2, 2007

AstraZeneca joins Big Pharma jobs cull with plan to axe 3,000
AstraZeneca is to slash 3,000 jobs after battling competition from generic manufacturers for its key heart drug Toprol XL. The UK's second-largest drugs company said the cuts, which are to go from production and manufacturing over the next three years, were part of a broader strategy to improve productivity and cut costs.
Read article in The Independent

Drug Makers Fail to Promised Studies of Drugs Approved for the Market
Despite being plagued by major safety problems in recent years, drug makers have failed to initiate more than 70 percent of promised studies on drugs already approved for the market, according to the latest numbers from the Food and Drug Administration. A report posted by the FDA shows that 899 -- or 71 percent -- of the 1,259 post-market studies committed to by drug makers had not been started as of Sept. 30, 2006. That's an increase of 5 percent over last year, when the FDA reported that 65 percent of the promised 1,231 studies were still pending, according to Bloomberg News.
Read article at ktbs.com

February 1, 2007

AstraZeneca in £410m bid to lift drugs pipeline
AstraZeneca signed deals worth a potential $800m (£410m) for two smaller drug companies yesterday in a further attempt to boost its ailing pipeline. The UK's second largest pharmaceutical company is to report full-year results today and analysts are forecasting strong growth, with pre-tax profits of around $8.5bn compared with $6.7bn last year. Sales are expected to rise 9 per cent to $26.2bn. But the outlook for 2007 is looking "less rosy", analysts say.
Read article in The Independent (UK)

January 31, 2007

China revoked business licenses of 160 drug firms in 2006
Chinese drug supervision authorities revoked the business licenses of 160 drug manufacturers and retailers in a bid to clean up the pharmaceutical industry in 2006. Chinese drug supervision authorities have inspected pharmaceutical companies across China over the past year and punished those companies that had irregular purchase and sale records, advertised illegally, worked beyond their business scope, and leased or transferred their licenses without authorization, said Wang Lifeng, director of the Market Supervision Department under the State Food and Drug Administration. Chinese drug supervision authorities inspected 3,972 drug wholesalers and 40,152 drug retailers in 2006. The authorities also revoked the Good Sales Practice certificates, a must for the drug manufacturers, of 135 companies.
Read article in People's Daily (China)

Hangzhou drug firm stops operation
One of China's largest pharmaceutical firms, Hangzhou-based Kangliyuan Group, has been ordered to stop its operations for its alleged involvement with former head of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) Zheng Xiaoyu. A special Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) group is probing the alleged involvement of the president of Kangliyuan Group, Tang Xudong, with Zheng, China Business News said yesterday. A CCDI report says Tang and Zheng shared a very good personal relationship. Zheng, 63, was removed from his post on June 22, 2005, after being accused of taking bribes during his eight years as China's top drug watchdog.
Read article in People's Daily (China)

Takeda 9 - Mth Profit Up, Keeps Forecasts
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. (4502.T), Japan's largest drug maker, posted a strong 13.6 percent rise in nine-month profit on robust sales of its Actos diabetes drug and kept its full-year forecasts. Despite early predictions of a tough year for Japanese drug makers on lower prescription prices and increased R&D spending, Takeda and others with drugs doing well in the United States have managed to push ahead with earnings growth. Actos sales have been strong in the United States on reforms to the Medicare system, which extended care for the elderly, and on supply troubles with a competing product. Japan's eighth-biggest company with a market value of nearly $58 billion stood by its full-year outlook for recurring profit of 540 billion yen ($4.44 billion), which analysts expect it to beat.
Read article in New York Times (US)

January 30, 2007

BMS bolsters its banking team
Bristol-Myers Squibb, the US pharmaceuticals group, is beefing up its banking team ahead of possible takeover approaches from rivals, notably Sanofi-Aventis, by retaining the services of three Wall Street banks. People familiar with the companies told the Financial Times that the US group had in the past week appointed Lehman Brothers to work alongside Citigroup and Morgan Stanley to examine its options ahead of an expected takeover approach from Sanofi. The move is seen as a step towards creating a bidding war for the $51bn (€39bn) BMS by attracting rival pharmaceuticals groups such as Pfizer, Schering-Plough and Merck.
Read article in Financial Times (UK)

FDA Proposes Report Cards on New Drugs
The public outcry over the withdrawal of the painkiller Vioxx is leading to closer government scrutiny of new drugs to identify and disclose late-developing safety problems. As part of a pilot program, the Food and Drug Administration will issue drug ''report cards'' that would detail unexpected side effects that emerge within 18 months of a drug's approval. The reports also would include follow-up studies and details about how the drugs are being used.
Read article in New York Times (US)

Merck, Wyeth Shares Fall After Reports
Shares of drug makers Wyeth and Merck & Co. took a hit Tuesday after disappointing earnings reports, but for different reasons: Wyeth missed analysts' expectations by a wide margin, while Merck's profit plunged due to ongoing legal and restructuring costs. Merck surprised some analysts by boosting its reserve for litigation over withdrawn painkiller Vioxx for a second straight quarter. That charge and others cut Merck's fourth-quarter profit by 58 percent despite higher revenues.
Read article in New York Times (US)

January 29, 2007

Wyeth loses Prempro trial, to pay $1.5 million
A state jury in Philadelphia on Monday found Wyeth's hormone replacement therapy (HRT) Prempro was responsible for an Arkansas woman's breast cancer and ordered the U.S. drugmaker to pay $1.5 million in compensatory damages, a court official said. The jury found that Wyeth was negligent in failing to provide adequate warnings about the breast cancer risk associated with Prempro.
Read article in Scientific American

Drug company 'hid' suicide link
Secret emails reveal that the UK's biggest drug company distorted trial results of an anti-depressant, covering up a link with suicide in teenagers. Panorama reveals that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) attempted to show that Seroxat worked for depressed children despite failed clinical trials. And that GSK-employed ghostwriters influenced 'independent' academics.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

January 26, 2007

Antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil boost fracture risk in older adults: study
Older adults who take daily doses of such popular antidepressants as Prozac and Paxil are more prone to falls and have double the risk of fractures, says a Canadian study, adding one more side-effect that patients must consider before taking the medication. Participants in the McGill University study who had been taking one of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, for at least five years had twice the risk of wrist, ankle, hip and other fractures compared with those not prescribed the drugs. Daily use of SSRIs was also associated with a four per cent reduction in bone mineral density of the hip and 2.4 per cent of the lower spine, researchers found.
Read article at LEF Daily News (US)

January 22, 2007

Big Pharma's Black Hole
Big Pharma is heading "off a cliff" and into "a black hole," according to Wall Street. Analysts are already using such big scary metaphors to describe the challenges facing the drug industry in five years, when drug makers will face the worst series of patent expirations ever. Between 2010 and 2011, Big Pharma will lose 28% of their current sales, according to pharmaceutical analyst James Kelly of Goldman Sachs--who is calling this period "the patent black hole." Starting in 2008 and going through 2011, Kelly predicts annualized sales growth of only 2% for big drug makers.
Read article at forbes.com (US)

Drug firm Pfizer cuts 10,000 jobs
Pfizer is to cut 10,000 jobs as the US drugs giant seeks to slash annual costs by up to $2bn (£1.01bn). The shake-up comes as the world's biggest drugs firm faces rising competition from generic drugmakers. Pfizer said it planned to close three research sites and two factories in the US, as well as a factory in Germany and research sites in Japan and France. The company earlier reported a sharp rise in full-year profits to $19.34bn, from $8.9bn in 2005.
Read article at BBC News (UK)

January 17, 2007

FTC: Delays in Generic Drugs on the Rise
Drug companies increasingly are reaching legal settlements that delay the introduction of cheaper generic medicines and cheat Americans of billions of dollars a year in savings, federal regulators on Wednesday told lawmakers seeking to ban the agreements. The Federal Trade Commission and others allege the settlements allow brand-name pharmaceutical companies to pay off would-be generic competitors, which then agree to delay introduction of their less costly but otherwise identical versions of the original medicines.
Read article at physorg.com

Drug maker settles 18,000 Zyprexa claims
Facing the prospect of lengthy trials and unfavorable publicity, Eli Lilly and Co. on Thursday put behind it thousands more legal claims over its best-selling drug, Zyprexa.
Read article at IndyStar.Com (US)

January 15, 2007

Do statin users risk Parkinson's?
Statins are used by nearly 2m UK people to prevent heart attacks and stroke by lowering harmful blood cholesterol. But US scientists are concerned after a small study found people with low cholesterol upped their risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Now the North Carolina University team is to study 16,000 people to see if the link is real and causal. If it is, a surge in Parkinson's cases is imminent they say.
Read article at BBC News (UK)