Tag Archives: pharmaceutical

Open Source Drugs

15 Mar

The following was written by Jacqueline of Skepchick.org. I absolutely love this concept, as well as her clear and succinct writing style.

OPEN SOURCE DRUG DISCOVERY

Drug discovery is challenging, lengthy, and extraordinarily expensive. All companies focus on making money and drug companies are no different. They spend their research and development budgets focusing on diseases that affect the affluent world population. As a consequence diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis that are abundant in sub-Saharan Africa and India are left unstudied by industry. Despite the omission by drug companies, other efforts are underway to aid in drug discovery for these diseases.

Just to hash out a few details of where the problem arises– the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that 35 countries (30 African and 5 Asian) account for 98% of the malarial related deaths. Similarly, in 2010, 8.8 million people became sick with tuberculosis (TB) of which 82% of the cases lived in 22 TB ridden countries. These diseases do exist in other parts of the world, but result in significantly less deaths.

Despite the lack of interest from drug companies for treating these infectious diseases, other organizations have picked up the slack. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed significant funds to these poverty ridden populations in the form of care, research, and vaccines. Much of their focus is on HIV/AIDS treatment in addition to other conditions including malaria and TB. However, while reading Science I recently came across an open source drug design initiative based out of India.

A few years ago, Samir Brahmachari launched the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) network. The initiative began in 2008 and set out to combat India’s leading cause of death, TB. The initial $12 million of seed money was provided by the Indian government and that has led to 5500 participants in 130 countries. So has this global network of researchers provided any results? Their first goal was to sequence the TB genome and the task was accomplished in a mere four months by 500 volunteers. Since then they utilized this information and have determined two viable drug candidates that are currently being tested. Following the principles of OSDD, the data from their clinical trials are open for all to see. It is too soon to tell if the drugs will be successful, but if so they will be on the market as generic drugs.

This approach could produce affordable health care and treatments for many without.

Science Quickies: The Ocean In Space, High Tech Cows, and Racism Drugs

10 Mar

The largest, oldest body of water has been discovered. It lives in space. No, seriously. Space has oceans now. Beachfront resorts are coming soon.

My thoughts and support are with Phumeza Tisile, a Doctors Without Borders tuberculosis blogger who received some bad news this week.

NPR reports on Claudia, the high tech cow who produces 75 gallons of milk a day, as opposed to the 30 gallons by a normal cow. Moo.

In blood news, scientists have examined the crystal x-ray structure of full length human plasminogen, which provides insight on activation and conversion to plasmin.

Bellicum Pharmaceuticals raises $20M to progress cell transplant and cancer vaccine products.  Further proof that all a research scientist has to do is walk into a room and say “cancer,” and money will be thrown at them.

The Journal of Microscopy is offering their first issue of 2012 free online.

Propranolol, a beta blocker which has made the news often with its effective anxiety treatment, “abuse” in the musical performance community as a “performance enhancer,” and promise as a memory erasing post-trauma drug, is back in the news again, with claims that it can cure racism.

How Birth Control Saves Taxpayers Money

7 Mar


Julie Rovner, of NPR’s health blog Shots, wrote the amazing following article outlining how contraceptives, an important aspect of American public health, actually does save the taxpayers money.

How Birth Control Saves Taxpayers Money

birth control options

While the controversy continues to swirl around radio talkmeister Rush Limbaugh and his admittedly inappropriate comments about Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke, an analysis from the left-leaning Brookings Institution adds an economic twist to the debate over coverage of contraception.

Love them or hate them, contraceptives do save taxpayers money, Brookings concludes.

The study, from the Brookings Center on Children and Families, looked at three different ways to prevent unintended pregnancies, which account for about half of all pregnancies in the U.S.

All three approaches more than pay for themselves. But one -– increasing funding for family planning services through the Medicaid program -– clearly outshines the other two in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Yes, you may have heard there are lots of ways to lower the rate of unintended pregnancy. There are mass media campaigns to urge young people to avoid unprotected sex. Other programs urge teens to delay having sex, or, as a fallback, teach them how to use contraception effectively. And then there’s Medicaid’s help low-income women afford the most effective contraceptive methods.

But this study, using a simulation model devised by Brookings, is the first to estimate exactly how much could be saved using each method.

It found that a national mass media campaign that would cost $100 million would result in about $431 million in savings to taxpayers, largely by reducing unintended pregnancy, particularly among people who don’t make much money.

Programs the Brookings researchers called “evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention,” which combine an emphasis on abstinence “while also educating participants about how to use various methods of contraception” have both reduced the rate of sexual activity and increased the use of contraception.

Spending $145 million on such programs would return $356 million to taxpayers, according to the model.

But by far the biggest return on investment would come from expanding access to family planning through Medicaid, something made possibly through the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A $235 million investment there would lower taxpayer costs of $1.32 billion by preventing unintended pregnancies.

“Evidence-based pregnancy prevention interventions are public policy trifectas: They generate taxpayer savings, they improve the lives of children and families, and they reduce the incidence of abortion,” writes Adam Thomas, the study’s author.

Big deal, say some people, unimpressed with the idea of birth control as a money saver.

“So you’re saying by not having babies born, we’re going to save money in healthcare?” asked an incredulous Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing last week.

Exactly, Sebelius replied, explaining what studies like the one from Brookings have shown for years. “Providing contraception as a critical preventive health benefit for women and for their children reduces health care funds,” she said.

“Not having babies born is a critical benefit. This is absolutely amazing to me. I yield back,” said Murphy.

In Limbaugh’s apology to Fluke, there’s no suggestion that he had changed his mind about who should pay for contraception: Women, not the government, should pick up the tab.