B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘pharmaceutical’ tag

Marijuana is a Powerful Medicine

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Aron Rowe of Wired points out one of the biggest problems with our healthcare system: if a drug was not created in a laboratory, by a pharmaceutical corporation, and subsequently approved by the FDA, then no matter how effective the drug might be, the drug will have an immense barrier to entry.

Marijuana contains an amazing chemical, beta-caryophyllene, and scientists have thoroughly proven that it could be used to treat pain, inflammation, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis.

Jürg Gertsch, of ETH Zürich, and his collaborators from three other universities learned that the natural molecule can activate a protein called cannabinoid receptor type 2. When that biological button is pushed, it soothes the immune system, increases bone mass, and blocks pain signals — without causing euphoria or interfering with the central nervous system.

Gertsch and his team published their findings on June 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.They focused on the anti-inflammatory properties of the impressive substance — testing it on immune cells called monocytes and also in mice.

Since beta-caryophyllene seems to be powerful, occurs naturally in many foods, and does not get people high, it could turn out to be a nearly ideal medication. The organic compound is also phenomenally cheap. Sigma Aldrich sells it, in kosher form, for forty-two dollars per kilogram.

Unfortunately, big pharmaceutical companies tend not to seek FDA approval for natural chemicals, and most doctors are reluctant to prescribe drugs that have not received a green light from the regulatory agency. Thus, it would require a heroic effort by academic researchers to prove that beta-caryophyllene is safe and effective in humans.

[From Some Proof that Marijuana is a Powerful Medicine | Wired Science from Wired.com]

A real shame. In a fair world, natural remedies would be the first option, not an option only available to law-breakers.

Bridge of Smoke

Written by Seth Anderson

July 1st, 2008 at 7:46 am

Posted in health

Tagged with , , , ,

Red Wine May Slow Aging

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Breakfast drinks self-portrait
[Breakfast drinks self-portrait – click to embiggen]

Is it too early to have a sip? I could pretend we lived in 17th C.E. France…

Red wine may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan, researchers say in a new report that is likely to give impetus to the rapidly growing search for longevity drugs.

The study is based on dosing mice with resveratrol, an ingredient of some red wines. Some scientists are already taking resveratrol in capsule form, but others believe it is far too early to take the drug, especially using wine as its source, until there is better data on its safety and effectiveness.

[From New Hints Seen That Red Wine May Slow Aging – NYTimes.com]

What every meal needs
[What every meal needs – click to embiggen]

Far too early to take in drug form, but not too early to drink red wine in its natural state – a glass on the way to my mouth!

Oh wait, there isn’t much resveratrol in each glass:

the door has now been opened to drugs that exploit an ancient biological survival mechanism, that of switching the body’s resources from fertility to tissue maintenance. The improved tissue maintenance seems to extend life by cutting down on the degenerative diseases of aging.

The reflex can be prompted by a faminelike diet, known as caloric restriction, which extends the life of laboratory rodents by up to 30 percent but is far too hard for most people to keep to and in any case has not been proven to work in humans.

Research started nearly 20 years ago by Dr. Leonard Guarente of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed recently that the famine-induced switch to tissue preservation might be triggered by activating the body’s sirtuins. Dr. Sinclair, a former student of Dr. Guarente, then found in 2003 that sirtuins could be activated by some natural compounds, including resveratrol, previously known as just an ingredient of certain red wines.

Dr. Sinclair’s finding led in several directions. He and others have tested resveratrol’s effects in mice, mostly at doses far higher than the minuscule amounts in red wine. One of the more spectacular results was obtained last year by Dr. John Auwerx of the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology in Illkirch, France. He showed that resveratrol could turn plain vanilla, couch-potato mice into champion athletes, making them run twice as far on a treadmill before collapsing.

Seriously, even I would be challenged if I had to drink 100 bottles of wine a day. However, a glass or two? No problem, no problem at all. Clinical trials always start from a higher dosage – easier to see results that way – and then work back down to lesser dosages.

Separately from Sirtris’s investigations, a research team led by Tomas A. Prolla and Richard Weindruch, of the University of Wisconsin, reports in the journal PLoS One on Wednesday that resveratrol may be effective in mice and people in much lower doses than previously thought necessary. In earlier studies, like Dr. Auwerx’s of mice on treadmills, the animals were fed such large amounts of resveratrol that to gain equivalent dosages people would have to drink more than 100 bottles of red wine a day.

The Wisconsin scientists used a dose on mice equivalent to just 35 bottles a day. But red wine contains many other resveratrol-like compounds that may also be beneficial. Taking these into account, as well as mice’s higher metabolic rate, a mere four, five-ounce glasses of wine “starts getting close” to the amount of resveratrol they found effective, Dr. Weindruch said.

Ode to Dionysus
[Ode to Dionysus – click to embiggen]

Written by Seth Anderson

June 4th, 2008 at 9:15 am

Drugs Dollars and Doctors

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Got to pay for that house in Aspen somehow….

Benjamins

Suit Details How J&J Pushed Sales of Procrit – WSJ.com

Documents in a lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson by two former salesmen show how the pharmaceutical giant sought to boost sales of its blockbuster anti-anemia drug Procrit by offering contracts that fattened doctors’ profits and urging its salespeople to push higher-than-approved doses.

Some of Mr. [Dean] McClellan’s documents [a drug salesman for 12 years] reviewed by The Wall Street Journal indicate that Ortho Biotech created complex purchasing programs offering doctors discounts and cash rebates on Procrit, which would increase the doctors’ profits.

Procrit is an infused drug, which is administered by a doctor. Unlike pills sold by pharmacies, infused drugs offer profit opportunities for doctors, who can buy the drugs, administer the infusions in their offices, and collect the payments from insurers or the government. Drug companies can fatten the doctor’s margin using discounts and rebates to lower the price.

How are these doctors any different than a street corner drug dealer? Why doesn’t the DEA spend some time investigating these pushers too? Reminds me of Glenn Greenwald’s question as to why doctors can over-rule patients.

Mr. McClellan’s documents on the marketing of Procrit show that in 2004 — after Amgen Inc.’s competing drug Aranesp came on the market — J&J made offers that would allow buyers of Procrit to receive discounts off an already-reduced price as well as rebates. For example, an internal company memo calculates that a physician who bought nearly $1 million of Procrit over 15 months would get a check for $237,885 back, or 24%.

Another J&J program offered hospitals an incentive to buy Procrit and shun Aranesp: discounts on purchases from across Johnson & Johnson’s product line — including some huge-selling drugs and medical devices sold by different subsidiaries — if the hospital used Procrit at least 75% of the time when prescribing anti-anemia drugs.

In addition, J&J created a “Right of First Refusal” contract for doctors, requiring them to allow Ortho Biotech to make a counteroffer if Amgen’s Aranesp price undercut Procrit.

Mr. McClellan also alleges the company pushed doctors to prescribe a higher dose years before it was approved as safe and effective by the FDA. For years, the company focused on educating health care providers on Procrit’s medical benefits, he says. But in the mid-1990s at a national sales force meeting, an Ortho executive announced that the division was moving to promote what it called “QW dosing,” switching patients from three, 10,000-unit doses a week to a single, 40,000-unit dose in cancer patients, Mr. McClellan says.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 30th, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Posted in News-esque

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Adults and Prescription Drugs

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This has long bothered me as well. Why are doctors (and governments) given such vast powers over which drugs are ok for a patient? Seems like a capricious system. Competent adults should be allowed to treat themselves as they see fit (which of course they often do by resorting to other means, or alternative medicine, etc.), and not strictly as their doctor sees fit. No other profession has quite as much power as doctors do in this instance.

Glenn Greenwald – Salon

I’ve always been interested in the topic of prescription drug laws because — even more than laws which prohibit adults from using recreational drugs — it seems absolutely unjustifiable for the government to prevent adult citizens from deciding for themselves which pharmaceutical products they want to use. Put another way, it seems unfathomable that competent adults are first required to obtain the “permission” of a doctor before being “allowed” to obtain and consume the medications they think they need — and that they are committing crimes if they do not first obtain that permission (or, worse, if they try to obtain that permission and are unable to do so).
….
Why should the doctor have the ability to override the decisions of the patient? Why should the doctor’s permission be required before the patient undergoes the pharmaceutical treatment he chooses? That really makes no sense to me, and for that reason, I am vehemently opposed to these prescription laws.

Beyond all of that, there is even less reason for the Federal government to be monitoring what substances anyone takes. In addition to all the other reasons I listed in the post and commenters have added, I am also convinced — reading around everywhere today on this topic — that there are substantial numbers of people foregoing pharmaceutical treatments that they think they should have (and which even their physicians recommend) because they fear having that information registered in data bases with the government.

Adults have the right to do all sorts of things that other people, including experts in a particular field, think are stupid and self-destructive, even when the person’s livelihood or even life are at stake. That is, more or less, a defining attribute of being an adult.

What is the difference between the attorney-client and doctor-patient relationship, where the former is purely advisory but the latter becomes parental? And other than consumption of medicine which can actually affect the public health (such as excessive consumption of antibiotics), why should an adult be deemed a criminal for using a particular medicine all because a doctor (for whatever reasons, including self-interest) will not give permission?

Written by Seth Anderson

April 17th, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Posted in government

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