• 24 Aug 2007 at 10:53 AM
  • drugs

This Is Your Brain On New Improved Hydromorphone

eggs.jpg Neuromed announced Wednesday that it received $53 million for some advanced opioid studies, from some Canucks, other venture firms and that guy in the basement next door. The company is developing a once-daily treatment of hydromorphone, a pain-killer up to 10 times stronger than morphine.
Hydromorphone only exists in the U.S. as an immediate-release drug (Dalaudid) and must be administered many times a day, which either provides awkward social contact with caretakers for those in terminal pain or forces embarrassing frequent bathroom breaks for the recreational user.
Neuromed dished out $30 million in April to get exclusive marketing rights to extended-release hydromorphone and immediately placed calls to Rush Limbaugh’s ad-sales guy.
Companies are especially careful how they market the release mechanism of their incredibly powerful narcotics. The whole “release” debacle was one of things that got OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in $600 million worth of trouble. Keep that in mind next time you see an ad with either a translucent hydromorphoned butterfly terrorizing someone while they sleep or a product easily confused with a Tylenol gelcap.
Neuromed gets funds to develop painkiller [Philadelphia Inquirer]

  • 19 Jun 2007 at 1:30 PM
  • Pharma

Smart Ideas in Big Pharma

mr creos.PNG GlaxoSmithKline’s new over the counter diet drug Alli is a hit, and providing an unexpected boost to the laundering services industry. Alli is a morbidly obese consumer favorite because it is the first FDA approved over the counter diet drug that doesn’t curb your appetite or make you perma-full. The drug works by preventing your body from breaking down and absorbing fat. The only catch is that the unabsorbed fat has to leave your body, from the Wall Street Journal:

The downside of Alli is the fat it blocks can come out of your body in embarrassing ways. The Glaxo Web site,, warns the drug can cause gas with oily discharge as well as frequent or loose stools. The site suggests it’s probably a “smart idea” to wear dark pants and bring a change of clothes to work if you use Alli.

The top thread on the Alli personal experience message board is “Has anyone had any accidents?” Despite this, most of the women on the Alli website are wearing all white outfits, the de rigueur choice of people who need drugs, courtesy of utopian big pharma marketing (until Sicko comes out).
Alli runs into the same problems as other diet drugs in that it mostly doesn’t work. If it does work in the first place, tests have shown users to gain back the weight when they stop taking the drug. Alli won’t work with users who are healthy to begin with and have low fat diets. Alli also won’t work unless you balance intake with exercise and a lower fat diet. Lose weight with a workout regimen, low fat diet and afterthought of Alli – it’s just that easy!
Weighing the Pros and Cons Of New Fat-Blocking Drug Alli [Wall Street Journal]

  • 13 Jun 2007 at 12:00 PM
  • Health

VC goes for a herbal remedy

herb1.jpg Phytomedics raised $9mm in Series B funding from VC firms Burrill & Co. and New Zealand-based Inventages, signaling a new wave of emerging botanical drug companies (new term for herb peddlers) that are now FDA friendly. Phytomedics makes an arthritis drug from Chinese Thunder God Vine (you read that correctly) extract. The drug was FDA approved to skip costly preclinical tests and move directly into Phase I trials, which in the case of botanical drug companies, involve feeding mogwais after midnight.
The rheumatoid arthritis market is 7 million patients strong, and existing drugs and current treatments have burdensome side effects (increased risk of death?). Fortunately, botanical drugs don’t really do anything! Botanical drug companies face consistency problems too, as the chemical composition of plants varies with growing conditions.
Phytomedics has raised $22mm since it was founded in 1997.
VCs Seek Health in Herbal Cures [Red Herring]

limbaugh_sitys.jpg Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, is set to pay $600mm in fines after pleading guilty to misleading doctors, patients, regulators, Rush Limbaugh and test animals about the drug. The company’s president, lawyer and former medical director also agreed to pay $34.5mm in fines after pleading guilty to “misbranding” charges. The $600mm fine is the third largest for a drug company in such a case and the $34.5mm fine against the executives is not going to speed construction on that beach house.
The misbranding/misleading/misbehaving – it turns out, and you may want to sit down for this, that OxyContin is addictive and can be abused. Purdue Pharma contended that since OxyContin works through a time-released mechanism, it was magic, and therefore prevented the drug’s active ingredient oxycodone from flooding your system all at once. So forget that oxycodone is an extremely potent narcotic that can elicit heroin-like “highs” and that OxyContin is pure oxycodone designed for treatment of intense and lasting pain. By marketing the drug as little more than a Tylenol Gelcap (it’s time-released!), Purdue Pharma thought everything was cool. To its credit, the company did think that marketing OxyContin as a Flintstone Kids Vitamin was unethical (also rejected – an “OxyContin – the Freshmaker!” campaign).
Continuing the mislead-athon Purdue Pharma sales officials started distributing fake scientific charts and promising happy endings to doctors who would peddle the drug. Purdue Pharma definitely had a reason to make sure OxyContin would sell, in that it accounts for up to 90% of the company’s revenue in any given period. The drug generated $2.8bn in revenue in a six-year period from 1995-2001.
The fines will be split among lawsuit settlements, the federal government and state agencies.
OxyContin Maker Pleads Guilty; Says It Downplayed Risk [New York Times]

  • 09 May 2007 at 3:20 PM
  • Pharma

Incentives That Are Hardly Anemic

Amgen and Johnson & Johnson pay doctors a whole lot of money to use the anemia drugs the companies produce to treat patients. Although the total sum is not disclosed, the New York Times found that Amgen paid out close to $1 for every $3 worth of drugs given in one practice alone. Translation – the overall sum is huge. The practice is not illegal but there’s a reason it happens with anemia drugs – because of the difference in treatment drugs purchased by doctors and pill prescriptions. From MarketWatch:

Federal laws bar drug companies from paying doctors to prescribe medicines that are given in pill form and purchased by patients from pharmacies, but companies can rebate part of the price that doctors pay for drugs, like the anemia medicines, which they dispense in their offices as part of treatment. The anemia drugs are injected or given intravenously in physicians’ offices or dialysis centers. Doctors receive the rebates after they buy the drugs from the companies.

The worry here is that the rebating provides an incentive for doctors to use the drugs inappropriately. Rebate rates are even scaled to eliminate competition, and higher if a doctor exclusively uses one brand of drug. The FDA currently has an advisory panel considering whether the anemia drugs are overused or not.
Doctors reap millions for giving patients anemia drugs: New York Times [MarketWatch]

  • 30 Apr 2007 at 2:15 PM
  • Pharma

Just when you stopped believing in God

Monkey.jpg Put down that Dawkins book and stop reading that Hitchens interview, there may be hope for divine intervention yet. In other big (HUGE) pharma news today, a pill that causes women to lose weight AND their inhibitions could be on the market in the next 10 years (right at the point when age will render us in dire need of administering such a pill to our dates, sans hedge fund). Researchers from the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproduction Unit in Edinburgh found the hormone-releasing pill causes female monkeys and shrews to develop the dual effects (which I guess somehow aren’t correlated with each other).
Hope for sex-boost slimming pill – [BBC]