Satisfaction Guaranteed

It’s not often that Word on Health bloggers are lost for words, but even we were stunned by the recent announcement from our own CEO, Dr. Christos Efessiou, that SRxA will now offer a complete satisfaction guarantee to all of its clients.

“We recognize that pharmaceutical budgets are tight and that there is increased internal scrutiny on ROI,” said Dr. Efessiou, “so we now tangibly guarantee our work product by offering our clients a refund of up to 50% of our management fee if a project’s pre-defined goals or outcomes are not met.”

This new initiative, which SRxA believes is an industry first, means that clients can rest assured in the knowledge that their expectations of a project will, as always, be met or exceeded.

It’s just another way that SRxA continues to lead the field in healthcare consulting, marketing and education.

WOW!  How cool is that?

Scientists Discover Allergy “Switch”

Word on Health was interested to learn that researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have found a molecule that specifically directs immune cells to develop the capability to produce allergic diseases such as asthma, eczema, and food allergy.  The study identifies thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) as a switch that causes the development of the allergic response.

The study team, led by Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., and supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggests that TSLP may be a potential therapeutic target to treat and prevent allergic diseases.

While this discovery is promising, leading allergy doctors have advised that it’s too early for allergy sufferers worldwide to start celebrating. “This is the latest in a long list of potential underlying causes for why some patients develop a harmful immunologic reaction to common, naturally occurring substances which are benign to the majority of people” cautioned Allan Luskin, MD of Madison, WI. “There have been many previous ‘pretenders’ which were thought to be responsible for this adverse immunologic response.  Much more data in needed before we can start talking about developing a therapeutic intervention”.

Dr. Michael Kaliner, Medical Director of the Institute for Asthma and Allergy, former head of Allergic Diseases at NIH and past president of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, and the World Allergy Organization, agrees.  He told Word on Health “Scientists keep searching for what makes an allergic patient exposed to an otherwise harmless protein, make antibodies, when non-allergic patients make no response whatsoever.  It is the ability to see and recognize an allergen in these ordinary substances that separates the allergic from the non-allergic population.”  Dr. Kaliner added, “If this factor is ultimately determined to be the factor instead of one of many, then it will be a viable target for therapeutic intervention”.

Meanwhile, only time will tell if TSLP is just another flash in the pan.

Breathing Easy

SRxA is pleased to report that it has been a week of good news for two of the top players in the pharmaceutical industry.

First, GlaxoSmithKline announced that they see little threat of generic competition for their asthma and COPD drug Advair® (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder) when it comes off patent in the US in 2011.  Noting that “it is very difficult to make a generic version of Advair,” GSK’s CEO, Andrew Witty, told the audience of a JP Morgan healthcare conference that “we are working on the basis of substantial Advair business for the foreseeable future.”

Shortly thereafter, in a separate announcement, the FDA noted that it completed the safety review of Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim‘s once daily COPD drug, Spiriva® (tiotropium bromide inhalation powder) and came to the conclusion that “available data do not support an association” between use of the drug and increased risk of stroke, heart attack or death due to cardiovascular causes.  The safety review was initiated in 2008 after data from a meta-analysis suggested a small excess risk of stroke compared with placebo.

Word on Health hopes that the new year will continue to bring good news for pharma.

A Drug by any other name?

Your friendly SRxA Bloggers are keenly aware of the increasing scrutiny of all aspects of pharmaceutical marketing, but a recent criticism by a fellow blogger seems especially troubling to us.  Barry Silverstein of  On the Button claims that pharma companies are hiding disclosure about side-effects behind brand names that hint at their possible indications for use.

Why is he so rattled by drugs with clever and attractive sounding names? After all he works for a naming, strategy and branding company that in its own words “has a  knack for coming up with names that are provocative and human”.

What is so heinous about Flomax or ProAir?  Are they any worse than “Pooch Punch” – the name for a canine electrolyte drink (seriously?!?) dreamed up by Silverstein’s agency?

His objection to the names Cymbalta,  Lyrica, Chantix, Levitra and Spiriva  are beyond us.  His insinuation that the use of these names is nothing but a ruse to circumvent FDA regulations is even more puzzling.

As he himself points out, the pharmaceutical industry in already riddled with marketing land mines.

Please, Mr. Silverstein, let’s not add another.

FDA announces new Drug Safety Initiative. So what’s next?

Here at SRxA we’re thrilled to hear that the FDA is exploring the use of cutting-edge technology to help study and better understand adverse events.  Last week, Biovista Inc, announced that the FDA has licensed its advanced technology platform that is able to cross-correlate thousands of adverse events against any drug or combination therapy.  Ultimately, it’s hoped that this technology will enable physicians to predict which patients are likely to suffer side effects from a particular drug and thus make prescribing safer for patients.

After embracing this space-age technology we hope that the Agency will soon come to a decision about other  space-age media.  You, our readers, may have already heard of them: the Internet, the Blogosphere and Social Media!

Our team of certified Social Media Strategists is standing by!

Ditch the dog? Kick out the cat?

Just for the record, SRxA bloggers love animals. We’re also kind to old people and want world peace…but that’s another story!

Anyway, we were alarmed to learn recently that of the 600 million or more people worldwide who are affected by allergic rhinitis,  a significant proportion suffer because of allergies to their own pets. According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, an estimated 10% of the US population may have pet allergies as do 20-30% of people with asthma.

A research article penned by Don Bukstein, MD published late last year in Allergy and Asthma Proceedings recommends that people with pet allergies should try to avoid animal dander altogether.

He acknowledges, however, that most patients would rather get rid of their doctor than be parted from “Felix” or “Fido”.

Because of this, he suggests that those with pet allergies should be started on routine immunotherapy.

Would you rather have allergy shots than give up your pet?  SRxA’s Word on Health wants to hear from you.

How do you talk when physicians won’t listen?

In general those who have nothing to say contrive to spend the longest time in doing it” said American poet, James Russell Lowell

But when it comes to the  pharmaceutical industry,  companies have plenty to say but less and less time and opportunity to convey or control the message.  Amid news this week that Pfizer is providing a $3 million grant to Stanford University for CME  programs, with no strings attached, it is clear that drug companies are facing some of the greatest challenges in their history.

Although there are pockets of real growth and development, worldwide revenues are dropping.  After a series of public relations disasters, the industry’s reputation is tarnished.  And despite an estimated $70 billion worth of drugs going off patent globally by 2012, pipelines hold fewer and fewer truly innovative new products.

Then there’s diminishing physician interactions due to an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment, along with the increasing power payers have over the market’s access to drugs. The ever-growing number of  “no see” doctors is a challenge for every pharmaceutical company’s sales and marketing departments.  Even those doctors who would like to see reps find themselves unable to do so either due to lack of time or strict institutional policies. With lunches, dinners and other forms of hospitality now all but banned, the question is: How do you talk when physicians won’t or can’t listen?

If MLK had lived – would he have had asthma?

If Dr. Martin Luther King were still alive he’d have been 81 years old today.

After the assassin’s bullet took his life on April 4, 1968, aged just 39, medical examiners found he had the heart of a 60-year-old.  Many suggest this was because he had for so long carried the burden of so many.

Had he lived, might he also be dealing with a chronic medical condition such as asthma?  Chances are – he would.

Asthma is a growing concern in the United States, particularly among inner-city African-Americans.  Studies have shown that African-Americans are 3-4 times more likely than whites to be hospitalized for asthma and 4-6 times more likely to die from asthma. Poverty, sub-standard housing resulting in increased exposure to certain indoor allergens, lack of education, inadequate access to health care, and the failure to take appropriate medications all contribute to the development of severe asthma and its chronic consequences.

Equally shocking, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, black children have a 260% higher emergency department visit rate, a 250% higher hospitalization rate, and a 500% higher death rate from asthma,  compared to white children.

Although MLK didn’t give many speeches about healthcare, in March 1966 he famously said “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”.

Forty four years later, in honor of his birthday isn’t it time that we start to address this?