Pulling out all the stops for a COVID-19 vaccine


This HND piece puts the spotlight on an interesting approach to developing a COVID-19 vaccine: DNA medicine. The idea here is that DNA plasmids are introduced via a special device into the cell. There they trigger T cells to do their thing against the invading COVID virus. The company behind this unique approach is Inovio Pharmaceuticals.

Inovio has had some real success with MERS, caused by a related coronavirus, and initial studies look good for COVID. At present, Inovio is having some issues with one of its sub-contractors, and that is the subject of litigation, which hopefully should be resolved soon.

Read the complete article.

Another look at the opioid crisis


This HND piece follows up a column we did back in 2017, which covered most of the basics. In this latest story, we focus on a report issued by the New Center, that takes a historical perspective on the crisis, details where we are at the moment, and offers a number of recommendations.

One important recommendation involves expanding Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). The gold standard here is methadone, which must be dispensed in a highly regulated setting. Other MAT drugs exist, although they are not quite as effective. Still, it is most disturbing that there are still several states that prevent Medicaid from reimbursing for MAT.

Prescription drug monitoring programs can be helpful, but need to consider the legitimate needs of chronic pain patients. Drug courts that emphasize treatment over incarceration can also be beneficial.

Read the complete article.

More bad news for Vivitrol


This HND piece looks at the recently filed wrongful death lawsuit against Alkermes, the manufacturer of Vivitrol. We reference an earlier article in which we discussed the problems that drug is having with the FDA—regarding false or misleading advertising. The basic deficiency with Vivitrol is that it shuts off receptors for opioids and endorphins, thus increasing the risk of an overdose.

That's why the drug was much more favored by the criminal justice system than the medical community. That and the fact that unlike methadone and buprenorphine it does not have the possibility of being addictive. Alas, Vivitrol was apparently forced on a hapless patient in California, and he died of an overdose. Expect more such lawsuits to follow.

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Fixing healthcare with more regulation?


This HND piece is a reaction to an article in The BMJ entitled "Time to stop commercial distortion of healthcare evidence and practice, experts urge." The gist of the story is that we have to figure out a way to temper the influence of evil corporate interests (read Big Pharma) in research results. A related issue is the matter of overdiagnosis and "too much medicine." As the authors put it, evidence needs to be more "trustworthy."

And, of course, since the article was written by academics, the recommendations tend to favor government and the academy having more of a say in these matters. As if neither greed nor bias exists in those worlds.

Besides, very few people would argue that there has been a net improvement in healthcare since the Feds starting controlling it in 1965 with Medicare.

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Vivitrol and the FDA


This HND piece takes a look at addiction drug Vivitrol, and how it compares to methadone and buprenorphine. Many have complained that the makers of Vivitrol have marketed almost exclusively to the criminal justice community, and have glossed over potential problems with the drug.

Now, the FDA has gone after Alkermes, the manufacturer, for misleading advertising. Let's just say that the marketing of Vivitrol is a bit light in the ethics department.

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Chronic pain meets chronic hucksters


This HND piece examines the matter of chronic pain, and then focuses on the government's ill-advised scorched earth campaign against opioids.  Unfortunately, thousands of chronic pain patients are suffering because they cannot obtain therapeutic doses of these drugs.  What's worse is that bogus experts--with considerable influence--are pushing this policy.

These charlatans, under the name of PROP, attack opioid pain meds on a daily basis, and it's only now coming out that they are being handsomely paid by plaintiff's lawyers.  What a shock!  A government policy with "unintended" consequences that actually benefits consultants, politicians, and greedy attorneys.  We've never seen that before.

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Don't lose those meds


This HND piece begins by exploring our love/hate relationship with Big Pharma. On the one hand, Pharma is THE most hated industry in the US, but on the other hand, millions of people enjoy better and longer lives by taking pharmaceutical drugs.

We give the example of FDR, who was relegated to being a walking dead man, enduring extreme hypertension—which eventually killed him— in an era in which today's common blood pressure meds did not exist. Likewise, type 2 diabetes sufferers decades ago had only insulin as a therapy, and no easy way to determine an accurate blood glucose level.

We then spotlight a product designed to prevent you for misplacing or losing your meds, when on-the-go.

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Marketing healthcare products


This HND piece discusses how healthcare products are marketed, both to healthcare professionals and direct to the consumer. We first introduce the immense size of this market, which is valued at a staggering $1.5 trillion.

As you might imagine, pharmaceutical drugs comprise 10 percent of that—the biggest single sector. But even those smaller sectors, which make up "only" 2 percent of this market still account for a huge amount of business. Thus, a fortune is spent on advertising, with marketers vitally interested in what campaigns are really working. To that end, we highlight a powerful new tool.

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A look at substance use disorder


This HND piece gives an introduction to this major problem, beginning with a breakdown of the ten biggest addictions, and the number of people so encumbered. We then move into the treatment modalities of behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Unfortunately, the reputation of MAT--which can be quite effective--has been spolied a bit by unscrupulous practitioners, but those operations are gradually being pushed out by the ethical clinics. There really is hope for those in the grips of substance abuse disorder.

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A look at ketamine

KetamineThis HND piece examines the anesthetic ketamine, delving into its history, current uses, and prospective applications as a therapy for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and in cocaine addiction treatment. Ketamine was first introduced as a replacement for PCP, used in the 1950s and early 1960s as a general anesthetic. But PCP had nasty hallucinogenic side effects, as was taken off the legal market.

While ketamine in proper doses can have mild hallucinogenic side effects of its own, it is mostly well tolerated and is quite safe. We describe the non-anesthetic uses as ketamine infusion grows in popularity.

Read the complete article.