So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Achoo!

Is it time to say goodbye to first generation allergy meds?  Yes, says a new report just published in Allergy.

The European expert authors, tell us that older H1 antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine, readily available as over-the-counter treatments for allergic rhinitis may be dangerous to our health.

They have been linked with numerous health and social problems such as poor sleep patterns; reduced work performance and learning ability; aviation, car and boating accidents caused by drowsiness; suicides in teenagers and adults and even death as a result of accidental overdose in children and infants.
The report ultimately questions whether it is in the interest of public safety that they remain available as over-the-counter allergy medications.

SRxA‘s Word on Health is pleased to note that this doesn’t mean that the 27 million or more Americans with allergies are going to have to suffer.  Newer generation allergy medicines, available as nasal sprays or tablets have been shown to have fewer side effects, longer duration of action, and greater reliability and efficacy.

Preferred Health Care Resource – PC or PCP?

Patients and caregivers are empowering themselves in record numbers when it comes to managing their own health and the health of their families.  According to new data from Manhattan Research the internet has considerably more influence over consumer health decisions than traditional channels like print, TV and radio and even surpassed physicians as the most popular health resource for the first time last year.

The statistics are staggering.

  • The number of people accessing health information online grew from 90 million in 2004 to 160 million in 2009
  • 102.3 million US patients now go online to research prescription drugs and to learn how to manage their conditions
  • After consumers view DTC advertisements, they are more likely to seek additional information from the internet than any other source, including doctors, family and friends
  • 57% of patients say that their most recent online health inquiry had an impact on their own healthcare or the way they care for someone else
  • 60% of patients say they or someone they know has been helped by following medical advice or health information found on the internet
  • The number of consumers visiting pharmaceutical websites doubled between 2006 and 2009. These consumers report that this source highly influences their healthcare decisions
  • More than 80 million US adults use social media for health-related issues, creating or using content on health blogs, message boards, chat rooms, health social networks and health communities, and patient testimonials.

But before physicians go hanging up their stethoscopes, Word on Health should point out that the study showed that healthcare professionals still have the strongest effect on consumer health behavior.

Studies such as this should help the pharmaceutical industry to plan and align their marketing strategy and ensure that online editorial health content and social media are included in the overall marketing mix.

Stumbling Block to Specialists

Approximately 99 million adults in the U.S. have one or more chronic health conditions such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, emphysema, high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease or stroke. Among these, about half report needing to see a specialist

However, new Government research reveals that 1:12 US adults have difficulty accessing a health care specialist.

For those without a family physician, or without insurance, the problem is even worse. Among these groups, 1:6 reported access difficulties.

Surprisingly, adults aged 25-44 were more than twice as likely as adults age 65 and over to perceive problems in gaining access to a specialist (10.2 % v. 4.2 %)

Unfortunately, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality didn’t ask why access was a problem, nor did they offer any solutions for overcoming access issues.

Word on Health would like to hear from you if you’ve had difficulty reaching a specialist or if you’re a specialist with insights into this problem.

Milk can cut kids’ MS risk by 56%

Word on Health has just learned of a study that suggests drinking milk during pregnancy may help reduce a baby’s chances of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).  Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health will present preliminary results at the upcoming meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

The data we’ve seen so far look very interesting. More than 35,000 mothers were surveyed over a 16 year period. The risk of their daughters developing MS was 56% lower for mothers who drank four or more glasses of milk a day, compared to those that drank 3 or less glasses / month.

The results add further credibility to earlier studies that link MS with vitamin D deficiency.

While these findings are not going to change the lives of the 350,000 Americans currently estimated to have MS, they may, in the future, be able to prevent some of the 200 new cases diagnosed each week.

More importantly this study may be able to reduce the 2.5 billion dollars the US spends each year on MS care.

Got Milk?  Word on Health is stocking up!

Kudos to Consultants

Word On Health applauds Alan Gillies, Director of the UK firm – L2L Consulting.  His recent article Professional Pharmaceutical Consultants Represent A Crucial Bridge To Success, highlights the advantages of using consultancy firms to effectively navigate the complex process of marketing pharmaceutical products.

“A pharma consulting company will have extensive background in the pharmaceutical industry and be very aware of the complex interactions between all the players” explained Gillies, “Every consultant will have real life experience, earned on the street and be fully aware of all the hurdles a company will encounter.”

We could not agree more. Partnering with a strategic consultancy company enables pharmaceutical clients to concentrate on their core strengths such as sales and marketing, while utilizing the complementary expertise of others to ensure that all regulatory, educational, clinical, pharmacoeconomic and communications objectives are met. It’s a true win-win.

SRxA’s core team of industry experts, together with its extensive team of Key Opinion Leader Advisors can provide all of these services and more. We are so confident of our abilities to not only meet, but exceed expectations that we guarantee our client’s satisfaction.

Visit our website now to learn more about our TQM guarantee and to see what our strategic consultants can do for you.

Medicine for Marketers

We were interested to learn that physicians are now turning the tables and offering education to the pharmaceutical industry.

For years, the pharmaceutical industry has been involved, either directly or indirectly, with the provision of education to doctors. New guidelines seem certain to change all that. As previously noted in Word on Health, the ACCME, IOM, AMA and others are all seeking to limit the financial relationship between industry and clinicians.

In a joint effort between the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the University of Chicago Medical Center, a program entitled Understanding the New Breed of Healthcare Decision Makers will launch this May.

The program will focus on the healthcare issues that will dominate the next decade and is designed to provide an insider’s view on how decisions are made by physicians and hospital administrators.

Over the course of five tightly packed days, the course aims to provide sales, marketing, and product management personnel from the pharmaceutical, device and biotech industry with the skills to:

  • Improve sales and marketing decision making skills by exploring the doctor-patient relationship and gaining insight into how physicians and surgeons make decisions
  • Better anticipate the business impact of current healthcare issues
  • Improve marketing strategies by exploring modes of thinking within medical specialties and subspecialties
  • Make better resource deployment decisions as the result of improved understanding of hospital supply chain, purchasing, patient flow and operations
  • Better anticipate market needs as the result of exposure to key opinion leaders
  • Improve product & service positioning strategies by learning how doctors and hospitals define value
  • Better understand and empathize with customer s through a unique immersion experience  in clinical settings

The cost for the course will be $7,650.

SRxA’s Word on Health would love to hear from you if you’ve signed up.

Olympic Wheezers

This week, some of the world’s premier athletes will gather in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  As a group, they carry not only their nation’s hopes but also a disproportionate tendency to wheeze when exercising.

Half of all elite cross-country skiers and almost as many world-class ice skaters and hockey players have been diagnosed with a condition known as exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) in which asthma-like symptoms appear only in association with vigorous exercise.

As the winter athletes exercise, their breathing becomes faster and they inhale air that is drier and cooler than that in the respiratory tree.  The resulting loss of heat and water from the lungs causes damage to airways which triggers inflammation and narrowing and produces the characteristic wheeze.

According to Dr. William Storms, a member of the Sports Medicine Committee of the U.S. Olympic Committee and author of Challenges in the Management of Exercise-Induced Asthma, “The next 5 years will bring increased awareness of EIB along with a better understanding of how exercise and air quality affect lung symptoms. In the meantime, we probably will see more athletes using masks to filter, warm, and humidify their inhaled air.”

For our non-Olympian readers of Word on Health, there are simple steps that you can take to reduce the risk of asthma symptoms during cold weather. Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth, cover your mouth with a face mask or scarf to warm and humidify the air being inhaled, and warm-up before exercising. If symptoms continue, then it is time to consult a doctor and perhaps consider an indoor gym.

In the meantime, while watching the downhill drama and the spectacular skaters, keep an eye out for wheezing among the winners.

Meet Your Bloggers

SRxA Bloggers, Jenny Mauk and Judi Miller, will be attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI) in New Orleans, from Feb 26th-March 2nd.

If you’d like to meet the faces behind the names, learn about our unique Total Satisfaction Guarantee or discover how SRxA can turn your pharmaceutical, biotech and device challenges into opportunities, we’d be delighted to schedule a meeting at your convenience.

See ya on the bayou!

Want a baby? Get Dusting!

According to a study just published in Environmental Health Perspectives, women with high levels of a chemical found in common household products take twice as long to get pregnant as their peers with lower blood levels of the compound.

Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE) are major components of commercial formulations often used as flame retardants in furniture foam, plastics for TV cabinets, consumer electronics, wire insulation, back coatings for draperies and upholstery and plastics for personal computers and small appliances. The compound is also found in some foods, particularly dairy products and higher-fat meat and fish.
The study found that every tenfold increase in the blood levels of PBDE is associated with a 30-50% decline in the rate of becoming pregnant in any given month,
These compounds are believed to affect fertility rate by altering thyroid function and subsequently a woman’s menstrual patterns.
Lead researcher Kim Harley said “The best way to reduce PDBE exposure is to reduce exposure to house dust.”

Speaking exclusively to Word on Health, leading fertility specialist Joel Batzofin, MD told us “Whenever we are made aware of potentially toxic substances in our living environment, our water and/or our food, this causes significant concern.  As it turns out, fertility is frequently one of the first indicators of potential problems”.  “However, further well designed and controlled studies are needed before we start advising patients to throw out their sofas and laptops.”

Excellent advice, but Word on Health is doing a little extra dusting today – just in case!

Left, Left, Left Right Left….

While the military may march to this beat, according to a new study perhaps it should be left, left, left, right…Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) .

Not quite as catchy, but according to a recent study published in Pediatrics, children who are ambidextrous may be more likely to have learning, speech and mental health problems. Of the 8000 children studied, about 1% were ambidextrous, and of these about 30% had scholastic problems.

The children were studied at ages 7 and 8 and then again at 15 and 16. “When they were 16, the children who were mix-handed were more likely to have inattention problems and all the symptoms related to ADHD” said lead researcher Alina Rodriguez, a visiting researcher and professor of psychology at Imperial College London.

However, she was quick to point out that it wasn’t the fact a child was ambidextrous that caused scholastic problems or ADHD, but rather that mix-handedness is a reflection of the brain’s circuitry and that mixed handed individuals brains are wired differently from those who are dominant handed. “The fact that their brain is functioning in a different way may be good or bad,” continued Rodriguez.  People like Da Vinci, Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Paul McCartney were reported to be mix-handed.

So far, no one’s suggesting that kids be forced to use one hand or the other – the treatment some lefties, including your very own Word on Health blogger, once endured before the rest of society got enlightened. For now, it’s just one more thing about which easily unnerved parents can fret.