Pharmacology

By Mark Lawler, Queen's University Belfast

Personalized medicine is the ability to tailor therapy to an individual patient so that, as it’s often put, the right treatment is given to the right patient at the right time. But just how personal is it?

While the phrase might conjure up images of each patient getting their own individual therapeutic cocktail – this isn’t actually the case. Designing an individually tailored package would be too labour intensive and (at least currently) too expensive. Instead, the answer lies in understanding the genetics of patients and disease.

Ruxolitinib (trade name: Jakavi) has been approved since August 2012 for the treatment of adults with myelofibrosis.

Myelofibrosis is a rare disease of the bone marrow, in which the bone marrow is replaced by connective tissue. As a consequence of this so-called fibrosis, the bone marrow is no longer able to produce enough blood cells. Sometimes the spleen or the liver takes over some of the blood production.  Then these organs enlarge and can cause abdominal discomfort and pain. The typical symptoms also include feeling of fullness, night sweats and itching. Some patients with myelofibrosis develop leukemia.

Stem cell transplantation is currently the only option to cure myelofibrosis. The drug ruxolitinib aims to relieve the symptoms of myelofibrosis.


The drug perampanel (trade name Fycompa) has been approved since July of 2012 as an adjunctive ("add-on") therapy for adults and children aged 12 years and older with seizures - colloquially also known as epileptic fits.

In a new early benefit assessment, according to the Act on the Reform of the Market for Medicinal Products (AMNOG), the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) examined whether perampanel offers an added benefit over the appropriate comparator therapy.


(Inside Science) - For centuries, cinnamon has been used to enhance the flavor of foods, but new research shows that the spice could also help make foods safer.

According to a study by Meijun Zhu and Lina Sheng, food safety scientists at Washington State University in Pullman, the ancient cooking spice could help prevent some of the most serious foodborne illnesses caused by pathogenic bacteria.

A new study has found that carbon monoxide could be used to protect against life-threatening arrhythmias after a heart attack.

Restoring blood flow to the heart following a heart attack can leave patients with ventricular fibrillation, a dangerous heart rhythm which puts people at greater risk of sudden cardiac death. Previous research has shown carbon monoxide, which is produced naturally in heart cells, can guard against ventricular fibrillation, however the mechanism behind why this happens was unknown.

Scientists at Aston University in Birmingham (UK) and Peking University in China have found carbon monoxide works by blocking the channels that carry potassium into heart cells – an essential process required to reset the cells before their next heartbeat.

Women with a vitamin D deficiency were nearly half as likely to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF) as women who had sufficient levels of the vitamin, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology&Metabolism.

Long known for its role in bone health, vitamin D is a steroid hormone that is emerging as a factor in fertility. Animal studies have shown that the hormone, which is produced in the skin as a result of sun exposure as well as absorbed from some fortified foods, affects fertility in many mammals.



One of the greatest and most dangerous naturalistic fallacies is that if our ancestors used something, it must be as good or even better than modern science.

In An Account of the Foxglove and Some of its Medical Uses, published in 1785, Sir William Withering cautioned readers that extracts from the plant foxglove, also called digitalis, was not a perfect drug. "Time will fix the real value upon this discovery," he wrote.  


"Doctor shopping" is the term for obtaining narcotic prescriptions by seeking out multiple providers that has led to measurable increases in drug use among postoperative trauma patients.

A new paper links doctor shopping to higher narcotic use among orthopedic patients.  

"There has been an alarming rise in opioid use in our country, and the diversion of opioids for non-therapeutic uses is dramatically increasing," said lead study author and orthopedic surgeon Brent J. Morris, MD. "Many suspect that orthopedic trauma patients may be at a higher risk for pre-injury narcotic use and 'doctor shopping.'"


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved INVOKAMET™, a fixed-dose therapy combining canagliflozin and metformin hydrochloride in a single tablet, for the treatment of adults with type 2 diabetes. INVOKAMET provides the clinical attributes of INVOKANA® (canagliflozin), the first sodium glucose co–transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor available in the United States, together with metformin, which is commonly prescribed early in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.