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Archive for the ‘Medicine’ Category

Rant warning.

This stupid article appears in a Forbes blog: A Vaccine against Suicide?

Why do I consider it stupid? Not because of the problem it addresses (suicide is a major problem, and prevention is a good thing), but because they abuse the terms “disease” and “vaccine,” and over-medicalize a problem that primarily has other roots.

This article yaks on about public-health interventions targeting youth, with comments by an epidemiologist and a bunch of well-meaning but vaporous babble that doesn’t justify in the least the headline, or the approach being “offered.”

The best defense against suicide is a good family and social offense – a supportive environment which encourages accomplishment, rewards good behavior, discourages self-destructive behaviors, and puts the arm of love around kids. In other words, solid families, healthy neighborhoods, strong social ties – you know, all the common sense stuff we’ve always known.

Re-casting suicide as a disease and talking about vaccines while off-loading more responsibility to medical/psychological “experts” is stupid. It’s an analogy with undesirable consequences. I’m all for medical interventions when necessary, but let’s keep the primary focus where it belongs, and stop screwing around with the language.

It is our role to love kids. Not some “expert’s” role to vaccinate.

Rant over.

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One of this week’s major news items in the world of pharma is the less-than-enthusiastic response of an FDA panel to Boehringer-Ingelheim’s experimental “sexual desire for women” pill, flibanserin.

I believe the quest for a “female Viagra” (an inaccurate parallel, by the way) is fundamentally misguided. Here’s why:

There’s a big difference between sexual function and sexual desire. Viagra does something that a pill can, in fact, do – impacts a physiological process. Erectile dysfunction is, in some cases, a medical problem that can be addressed with a medical solution.

But sex is not purely physical. And sexual desire is not some abstraction or isolated function that can be fixed by some sort of medical booster.

Yes, our bodies age and the physiological aspects of libido may be impacted. I’m not denying that. But can any pill really deal with the many elements that make up sexual desire, including:

– a loving relationship

– a climate of trust and freedom

– confidence and a sense of self-esteem

– personal attractiveness (and attracted-to-ness) on multiple levels

– hormonal fluctuations/levels

– physical function that allows fulfilling intercourse

And, in fact, are we even addressing the right question anyway with these proposed treatments? Should our focus be on creating/boosting a physiological desire for sex, or on making better relationships? Physiological aspects are a component of sexual desire…but are we going to keep medicalizing some things that are, to a large extent, simply part of a normal aging process?

I realize that there’s no money to be made by drug companies on the latter, but frankly, I’m forced to conclude that the whole exercise is a futile pursuit of profit at the expense of a healthier focus on the better relationships that will lead to better sex.

A pill is not a substitute for the genuine work of nurturing one’s mate so that a steady desire to please and be one with each other is a natural outgrowth. Viagra can make some things grow that forgot how. But I seriously doubt that any female Viagra will grow something as multi-faceted as sexual desire. Let’s go about curing real diseases.

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Novartis’ CibaVision subsidiary has released a new iPhone app, called the Academy for Eyecare Excellence. I have downloaded it and am going to write this review “live” – that is, give my impressions as I walk through it. I believe that intuitive user interface is the key to good software design, so let’s see how this app strikes a newbie from a user experience point of view.

First up is a required registration page, asking for first name, last name, email, zip code, country, and profession. Below that there are a couple of notification options (for updates), and a link to the Privacy Policy.

Right off, I’d prefer to have a brief explanation why this amount of info is being requested. It’s intrusive compared to most iPhone apps, and may be a barrier to entry. Now, there may very well be excellent reasons to ask for it – but if so, please share them up front in capsule form (you do get a better idea by reading the detailed Privacy Policy).

When I first use any app, I want to feel a sense of intuitive ease with the interface, AND I’d like a little “Wow” factor. The home page interface is a bit busy, but the Intro video of two guys talking about what the app can do for you is very impressive – smooth, hi-res, and motivating. Thumbs up on that idea!

From the initial screen, the user can jump to Courses, Video, and Articles. Let’s try Courses…OK, two courses present (on contact lenses, of course), several future courses listed. The course is structured in topical nuggets, each of which is a tasty combination of video and animation with nice, clear narration. I cannot comment on how helpful these little courses will be for eyecare professionals, but I can say, as someone with a lot of background in eLearning design, that this is pretty good stuff from a production standpoint. Thumbs up here.

The Video section is just promo videos for the digital Ciba educational properties, including this app. This could eventually be a potential repository for helpful little practical hints, or clinical updates, if Ciba heads in that direction – right now, it seems like a placeholder. Thumb at rest in horizontal position.

Articles doesn’t go anywhere. I assume there will be resources populating this at some point. Thumb hiding.

On the bottom navigation bar is a button for Academy, which opens up (essentially) a miniaturized website explaining CibaVision’s educational approach and offerings. The iPhone form factor is not ideal for information structured this way – small type and standard web navigation design. Thumbs down – not on the idea of explaining more about the offerings, but on the information design. There is also a button fro Prof. Affairs which currently goes nowhere.

-> It occurs to me that perhaps the two non-functional buttons are because I registered as an “Other”, not as one of the designated titles for an eyecare professional. So, I just left the app and registered under a different name, as an Opthamologist. And, sure enough, now those nav buttons are occupied! The Prof. Affairs is just a repeat of the intro video – a placeholder, nothing to see here – but the Articles now show a couple of article summaries with a link to the .pdf. Sparse here at launch, but the potential is there. Plus, you are invited to pop open (to full screen) an ad for one of the CibaVision contact lens products.

There is also a Back and a More button on the bottom – Back does what you’d expect, and More gives links to CibaVision site; Acknowledgements; a Contact link (which opens up your e-mail); and Tell a Friend (also e-mail driven). Nothing special.

OK, let’s sum up:

Putting on my branding hat: The visual design, naming, and branding are mediocre. The graphical elements used, and page layouts, are only so-so.

Putting on my application user experience hat: It has potential. Right now, I question the value, especially for the amount of personal information I’ve “given up” at registration. And the experience is “choppy” and stitched together – cool video here, clunky web interface there, etc. The app doesn’t feel smooth and well-integrated (yet).

Putting on my eLearning/professional education hat: Very nice. With lots of potential to evolve.

It is a one-way application – nothing truly interactive or social about it. I think a lot of first-gen pharma apps will fall into that camp. I’d have to say that this one is not particularly compelling, unless an eyecare professional really needs those courses in the palm of their hands. Then, there’s clear value.

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TODAY’S NEWS

Novartis gets niche transplant drug approved in US –  Drug developer Novartis AG said Thursday it received Food and Drug Administration for the organ-rejection drug Zortress. The drug was first approved outside the U.S. six years ago as Certican and is available in more than 70 countries. It is used to prevent organ rejection in kidney transplant patients. The company reported $118 million in sales in 2009more. Meanwhile, ex-Novartis executive moves on to head up Bayer HealthCare.

Merck growing its vaccines business with an acquisition.

Patient adherence: an immensely costly problem – Medical costs of patient non-adherence to therapy costs the US $106 billion each year, according to an Express Scripts study, and missed opportunities for use of cheaper meds and delivery systems costs another $57 billionmore

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The Intersection of Life, Business, and Social Media. According to me. In 2 graphics.

JUST FOR FUN

Ten lovely bridge designs.

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TODAY’S NEWS

Alpharma/King to pay big fine – American pharmaceutical manufacturer Alpharma Inc. has agreed to pay $42.5 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations in connection with the marketing of the morphine-based drug, Kadian, the Justice Department announced today. The settlement resolves allegations that, between January 1, 2000 and December 29, 2008, Alpharma paid health care providers to induce them to promote or prescribe Kadian, and made misrepresentations about the safety and efficacy of the drug, which is used to treat chronic moderate to severe pain. Alpharma is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bristol, Tenn.-based King Pharmaceuticals Incmore

Don’t go buying Lilly drugs on the street corner – In a departure from the recent M.O. of in-transit drug cargo thefts, emboldened thieves hit Eli Lilly’s 70,000-square-foot east coast distribution facility in Enfield, CT. And they hit it hard: $70 million to $75 million worth of Prozac, Cymbalta and Zyprexa–enough to fill a large trailer, according to press reportsmore

More and more scripts going unfilled.

Preventing diabetes with drugs – very hard questions being asked.

The interesting background story on new drug Xiaflex (NY Times) – It took half a century. But a tiny drug maker on Long Island has finally found a potentially lucrative use for its only medicine: straightening clenched fingers. And, if research proves successful, treating a condition that causes bent penisesmore

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Salesperson as rebel (Business Week) – but can this mentality even remotely work within pharma?

JUST FOR FUN

Reflection photography – 44 impressive examples. Eye candy.

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TODAY’S NEWS

Big news for Novartis on two fronts – Novartis has received a couple of pieces of good news from regulators in the USA this morning who have approved its meningococcal vaccine Menveo and granted a priority review for the Swiss major’s investigational oral treatment for multiple sclerosis fingolimod…more

Avandia – the bad news just won’t quit. The heart attack factor, and the when-did-they-not-share-what-info questions. And a call to just pull it from the market. A rough patch for GSK.

BI gets FDA approval for new Extended Release version of Mirapex (for Parkinson’s)

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From Wendy Blackburn: 7 things I Learned at the ePharma Summit. And, from Betsy Raymond StevensonCuring Pharma. Restoring the industry’s reputation will mean a lot of hard work, not just a PR campaign.

JUST FOR FUN

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It’s that time again – a quick collection of links of interest for pharma marketers who are tracking the eMarketing and Social Media space. Here we go:

What’s the Point of Health 2.0? (Path of the Blue Eye project), in which Fard Johnmar expands on Susannah Fox‘s thoughts. Also, for the same blog – What Good is Social Media Transparency?

The Seven (soon to be Nine) Uses of Social Media in Business. From the thoughtful and prolific Jon Richman.

New web 2.0 site from Hungary: ScienceRoll

Social Media Forums and the Pharma Industry, from eyeforpharma.

Fascinating data from Silja Chouquet on Pharma Twittersphere – who’s following you? (Part 1 and Part 2). WhyDot Pharma blog.

The Pixels and Pills folks have rolled out a neat tool called The Health Tweeder. Here’s a review from Andrew Spong. Pixels and Pills, by the way, will be sponsoring a Tweetup in Philly this coming Monday evening in conjunction with the ePharmaSummit.

My take – Apple’s iPad and eHealth – game changer? You can see a variety of other perspectives over on KevinMD‘s blog. Plus, from Shwen Gwee: Neurosurgeons without papers, but with an iPod Touch

Internet 2009 in Numbers. Great, up-to-date usage stats.

Holistic Common Sense and Social Networking. After all, it is about business growth…

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