Archive for September, 2011



Moving Beyond The Whack-a-Mole Style of Cancer Treatment

September 26th, 2011
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In his latest Wall Street Journal column (“Drugs That Are as Smart as Our Diseases”), biologist/author Matt Ridley bemoans the plummeting efficiency of drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry. He points to a disturbing paradox: while identifying and sequencing genes of pathogens and cancer cells has become much cheaper in a short period of time, the number of new drug candidates (based at least in part on our knowledge of those genes) has dropped. According to Ridley, new molecule approvals per billions of dollars of inflation-adjusted R&D amounts to no more than one percent of the number of approvals in 1950. And as we’re all aware, this decline in innovation is all the more dire because the pharmaceutical industry needs to replace so-called “blockbuster” drugs that are about to lose their patent protections if it is to continue to keep investors satisfied and fuel future innovation.
 
So, why hasn’t the same industry that gave us statins, Herceptin®, and vaccines come up with a new generation of treatments? The biggest problem might lie in its success. Researchers today confront an enormous—and growing—amount of genetic and biochemical information as the search continues for newer, more effective drugs.  As we generate more data, we are increasing our understanding of the complexity of biological processes underlying disease states.  While this better understanding can lead to innovation, it also has uncovered obstacles. For example, scientists have found that signaling pathways leading to cancers are replete with redundancy, shortcuts and other molecular detours that block the activity of cancer drugs. Sometimes, these pathways can help eliminate or prevent cancer; at other times they can exacerbate it.
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What You Need to Know About AdvaMed 2011

September 19th, 2011
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An Interview with AdvaMed Conference Producer Ray Briscuso
 
In preparation for AdvaMed 2011: The MedTech Conference, we had a unique opportunity to interview Ray Briscuso, President and CEO at Life Sciences Conference Group, LLC. Each year, Briscuso works with the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) to produce one of the most important meetings focused on medical devices and diagnostics, and which brings together more than 1,500 key MedTech executives from companies in every sector of the industry. It is the premier conference, exhibition and partnering event for medical device, diagnostic and health information companies. In the past, internationally respected voices, such as former Presidents George Bush (Sr.) and Bill Clinton, have been featured as plenary speakers.
 
I am eagerly anticipating September 26-28 when AdvaMed 2011 will be held in Washington, DC. Following are some insights and highlights from our discussion with Ray about how to get the most out of this year’s event: Read the rest of this entry »

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Companion Diagnostics: More Targeted Medicine on the Horizon

September 12th, 2011
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It’s increasingly clear to anyone who deals with human health – from the bench biologist to the clinical oncologist – that humans are a heterogeneous species. As a result, a drug that works well in one individual may not work at all in another. Thus, the field of targeted (or personalized) medicine came about so doctors could optimize patient care through the use of genetic and biomarker testing. Such tests help identify patients who are (or who are not) most likely to respond to a given therapy. The field is often promoted as a way to get the “right drug to the right patient at the right dose.”
 
Correct dosing is critical because about 25 percent of all outpatient prescription drugs in the U.S. are taken by patients with genetic variations (specifically, polymorphisms) that affect absorption, metabolism or excretion of those drugs. Again, at risk of stating the obvious, human beings are heterogeneous.

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Another Distribution Giant Sees Future for Patient Informatics

September 8th, 2011
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Following McKesson’s bold move with the acquisition of US Oncology last December, another distribution giant has entered the arena of helping oncologists manage patient care. AmerisourceBergen Corporation recently announced its purchase of IntrinsiQ, LLC—a provider of informatics products directly involved in assisting oncologists with clinical dosing decisions.
 
We’re uncertain as to whether AmerisourceBergen’s expansion in this arena shows an aggressive push for new market traction, a creative way to garner physicians’ mindshare or whether they’re simply betting on the growing informatics market. It does, however, seem  likely that a distributor would want to add value to its “middleman” role. And this signals one thing that is for sure: Distributors are getting closer to physicians on a core level—right down to how they prescribe vital medications.
 
Why is this happening? AmerisourceBergen stated its reasoning in a recent announcement on Drugs.com: “Oncologists need strategic partners that can capture actionable intelligence…” In short, physicians face an increasingly complex world of decisions every day, and information technology may be the only available edge when treatment options are many and time is critical.
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