Stanford Investigators Match Old Drugs With New Medical Uses

A small crew of researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine has come up with an ingenious new method to screen a large slate of approved drugs for compounds that have the potential to be repurposed for use against other diseases as well. The investigators used an approach they likened to online dating services, matching a symptom of a disease against the known actions of drugs to find the right medical mate.

That work led the researchers to two approved drugs which subsequently demonstrated positive attributes in animal studies, including an ulcer drug from GlaxoSmithKline which may prove promising for lung cancer. And while the animal data is just enough to glean insights that can direct developers into promising new fields, the work fits neatly into new federal initiatives designed to find a shortcut to get cheaper new meds into the marketplace.

“If there are additional uses for drugs coming off patents, one could be thinking creatively, how do we find the value in that,” Stanford’s Atul Butte told Bloomberg. Butte’s team produced two reports on their work for Science Translational Medicine. Altogether the work identified a trove of 1,000 drugs that have the potential to be redirected against new targets.

Off-patent drugs are typically not worth much. But investigators responded warmly to the new studies, noting that anyone interested in advancing the work would already have years of safety data in hand, offering an opportunity for mounting new programs at a fraction of the cost of developing a new drug. Still, without clear commercial potential, it’s a field that would likely have to be supported by federal grants rather than investors’ cash–unless the drugs are also reformulated.

– see the story from the Wall Street Journal
– read the Bloomberg article


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Posted: August 19th, 2011 | Author: | Under: Health & Medicine, Technology | Tags: , , , , ,

Somalia Needs Your Help

As you might already know, a devastating humanitarian crisis has unfolded in the Horn of Africa.  The region’s worst drought in 60 years has resulted in a famine that is threatening the lives of 11 million Somalis.  Refugees are streaming into neighboring countries, with many mothers being forced to leave their dying children and flee the drought-stricken areas.  Over 29,000 children under the age of 5 have died from the drought and famine, and many children are dying mid-journey on what have been called “roads of death.”

Tens of thousands have already died, and if we don’t take a stand right now, thousands more will.  I’ve spoken with the World Food Programme team, who are on the ground now and planning to feed 2.5 million Somalis.  Our goal is to raise $1,500 from caring people like you to help WFP feed an additional 100 children for an entire month. Thanks to Pure Garcinia Cambogia for their support .

If we can get 100 people to donate $15, we can easily reach that goal. Can you help us reach it?  CLICK HERE IF YOU CAN HELP.

A top concern for aid workers now is to make sure enough supplies are available along the roads where Somalis are evacuating and where so many children are being tragically left for dead.

Reports say that at present, food distribution points are overwhelmed, with the highest price being paid by children whose bodies are not able to withstand the hunger and malnutrition.

WFP is urgently trying to raise more money right now in order to address this problem and prevent more people from dying.  That’s where you and a handful of Urban Nerd fans can make a difference right now.

Help us reach our goal to prevent more lives from being lost to this unprecedented crisis.  All it takes is ONE SIMPLE CLICK.

Thank you,

The Urban Nerd

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Posted: August 5th, 2011 | Author: | Under: Health & Medicine, Viewpoints | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Artificial Organ Regrowth

We are one step closer to getting rid of organ transplant lists. Imagine this video, but 10 times faster regeneration and growth in an organ scaffold. Rapid cell regeneration is what we are looking for.

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Posted: March 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Under: Health & Medicine, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Health Care Legislation – Hate it or Love it?

On March 23rd, President Barack Obama signed into law, a major healthcare reform legislation, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590), following the passage of the bill by the House of Representatives on March 21st by a vote of 219 to 212, which was the previously passed healthcare legislation by the US Senate. The House also passed a second bill on Mar. 21, the so-called “fixer bill,” Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 (HR 4872), which modifies certain provisions of the newly passed legislation and which has moved to the Senate for consideration.

While I was pleased that President Obama and the Democrats were finally able to deliver much needed reform to an ailing American healthcare system, the compromises that were made to pass the bill are troubling.

  • First, language allowing reimportation of lower cost drugs from Canada and other developed nations was eliminated from the bill.
  • Second, the provisions allowing the contentious 12 year data exclusivity provision for generic versions of biologic and biotechnology drugs remained in the final bill.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, any language alluding to or implying that the US government, may, in the future, be able to negotiate or regulate drug prices was obliterated.

In short, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries received all of the assurances and guarantees that were in the deal brokered by Billy Tauzin, the former head of the lobbying group PhRMA, between the White House and PhRMA over a year ago. Surprisingly, Tauzin was fired by PhRMA several weeks ago because its leadership mistakenly thought that Tauzin conceded “too much” to the Obama Administration when he brokered the original health reform package with the White House. (At the time that Tauzin was fired, health care reform legislation appeared to be on life support and all but dead).

In the final analysis, big pharma and biotech will give back $85 billion over ten years —largely by agreeing to give back some of the profits it was allowed to be collected from the egregiously flawed Medicare Part D legislation passed during the odious Bush Administration.  While $85 billion may seem like a lot (to the average American citizen) to give back, it is important to note, that the size of the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology markets is over $600 billion per year.  Although growth in these markets is beginning to slow in developed nations like the US and Japan (to high single digits), it is beginning to explode in heavily populated developing nations like China, India and Brazil where it is roughly 12-18%.  But simply, despite assertions to the contrary, business in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical markets is booming and likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

In other words, the newly passed healthcare reform legislation is a “sweetheart deal” for the US life sciences industry (YIPPEEE FOR THE BIOTECH SIDE OF ME!).

Ironically, while the healthcare reform bill insures that almost all Americans will be entitled to healthcare coverage and that insurance companies cannot deny healthcare benefits to persons with pre-existing medical conditions, the legislation may actually limit the access of Americans to potentially life-saving biotechnology drugs. This is because the 12 year data exclusivity period for generic versions of branded, biotechnology drugs (otherwise know as follow-on biologics or biosimilars) remained in the final version of the healthcare reform bill.

This provision disallows approval of follow-on biologics for a period of 12 years from the data that the original biologic received US regulatory approval.  For example, if a branded biologic or biotechnology product garners US regulatory approval in 2010, the earliest date that a generic version of this product would be able to appear on the US market would be 2022.  Moreover, in some instances, the 12 year data exclusivity provision may extend the so-called patent life of a product. Using the example above, if the patents protecting the product happen to expire in 2019, the innovator company is guaranteed an additional three years of marketing exclusivity before generic versions of the product can appear on the US market.  Finally, the 12 year data exclusivity provision effectively prevents foreign biosimilar manufacturers from competing in the US biotechnology market until about 2018; a strategy designed to allow the US to maintain its dominance of the global biotechnology market.  Interestingly, despite the approval of six or more biosimilars in Europe, these products have failed to catch on and are not able to compete with their branded, innovator counterparts.

My thoughts if I were in the shoes of a physician:

“I should quit being a physician, and file for unemployment.  This way I would earn more to take care of my expenses.” – Quote from my amazing, great sister.

There are tons of articles out there that cover the pain from the current medical practitioners out there, and there are countless quotes from physicians in regards to the new health care legislation.  In all seriousness, their jobs definitely did get tougher.

Here’s a great recent article that sums it up.

The current public that are ignorantly saying that doctors are overpaid (frick – athletes and hollywood are overpaid, and there should be some new tax law that attacks the entertainment industry) – really need to put themselves in their shoes.  The current reimbursement rates and endless red tape forces many primary care physicians to hire more staff and see more patients in order to cover their costs. Their costs continue to rise, driven by rising malpractice premiums and payroll and small business taxes and fees.  Several physicians have held their own paychecks for several months in order to make payroll.  Also, we’re not forgetting the several hundreds of thousands of medical student loans to pay back.

This bill is extremely penalizing the people who are out to save lives, and I completely understand their pain.  I’ve spent countless amount of days working and shadowing doctors in clinic – and realistically, they already have an extreme patient load.  There were days where we had one patient chart after another for 10 straight hours without having a proper break.

In conclusion, I laud President Obama’s persistence and give him props for his ability to deliver (as promised) health reform to the American public. I have no doubt that the legislation will help to improve the delivery of healthcare in the US and hopefully improve the overall health of Americans. However, while the new healthcare reform legislation is a first, positive step, the American healthcare system will never entirely be “fixed’ until healthcare practitioners are not penalized in all ends including malpractice insurance, and until US drug prices are regulated—like they are in the rest of the world.

My Urban Nerd readers – what are your thoughts?

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Posted: April 11th, 2010 | Author: | Under: Health & Medicine, Viewpoints | Tags: , , , , , ,

Harvard offers Medical Students an Elective in Haiti

Everyone knows about the medical situation in Haiti. They are currently lacking physicians and mainly surgeons there. For people who has been keeping updates – the current medical volunteers were asked to pick up their supplies and relocate or leave due to the riots.

One thing I know for sure is that Partners In Health is doing everything they can.

Here’s a piece that recently aired on Democracy Now, which is showing Evan Lyons from PIH giving a tour of the public hospital in Port-Au-Prince.

Currently, Harvard Medical School is offering a year four elective in Haiti through Partners in Health.

Also, the Real Medicine Foundation (RMF), has managed to arrange a private plane (thanks to Donna Karan!), which will be making regular trips to Port-Au-Prince, mostly out of NYC. On the ground, RMF will closely coordinate with PIH and will be staffing people in the Government Hospital in Port-Au-Prince and rural outposts around the capital and at key points on the DR border.

RMF is calling on MDs/Nurses and medical students who are seriously interested in going to submit their names. At this point, medical students are understandably not the top priority, but all names are going to be put into a register so that they can continue to plan the flights that will be continuing to depart for some time. Therefore, there is a strong likelihood that medical students will be needed soon and over the next few months and possibly beyond. PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS POST WIDELY TO YOUR NETWORKS!

If you are interested, please send the following to

Name, Medical School/Hospital, specialty if applicable, current year of training, dates of availability, French/Creole proficiency level, and one-liner about previous international/development experience. Please attach a CV if possible.

This a summary of the major areas of need:

Personnel: They need doctors and nurses who would be willing to volunteer their time and services for 1-2 weeks. They need people who would be ready to leave ASAP, but are trying to get as many people enlisted as possible to send over the next few months.
-ortho/trauma surgeons/nurses
-anesthesiologists/nurse anesthetists
-post-op nurses/and surgical technicians
-plus if speaking Creole or French and if experienced in disaster/relief environments
-medical students, as noted above

Supplies: They’re also trying to assemble the attached list of medical supplies. They’re looking for medical suppliers and/or hospitals who can help us source all of these materials quickly and who would also be interested in in-kind donations.

Lastly, cash. They’re going to need a lot of cash on hand to buy supplies in the states and in the DR to support the medical relief and also the doctors on the ground. Any fundraising leads are always appreciated!
For more information, check out their website or their blog, which Dr. Martina Fuchs and the RMF team in Haiti will be updating regularly.

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Posted: January 28th, 2010 | Author: | Under: Health & Medicine | Tags: , , , , , , , ,