Pharmacology


The grape escape. Shutterstock

By Mohit Kumar Jolly, Rice University

Though it has higher risks in older people, and those are well-known and cautioned against, prescription use of benzodiazepines increases steadily with age, despite the known risks for older people, according to a comprehensive analysis of benzodiazepine prescribing in the United States.

Benzodiazepines are a widely used class of sedative and anti-anxiety medications.  They are effective in relieving anxiety and take effect more quickly than antidepressant medications often prescribed for anxiety. However, the prevalence of anxiety disorders declines with age. Guidelines recommend non-pharmacologic approaches and antidepressants over benzodiazepines as first-line treatment in older people. 


Mistletoe wasn't always for annoying co-workers at office parties, and it wasn't always just desperate men who think it has magical powers. In previous times, it was held in high regard because it was rootless, green and thriving when the tree it was on looked dead. Celtic druids latched onto it as some sort of supernatural fertility symbol - everything was a fertility symbol to druids - and it crept into popular culture from there.

Today we know it is simply a parasite, which isn't extending its use at office Christmas parties too far. 


A multi-center, non-randomized phase-Ib clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety, tolerability and antitumor activity of bi-weekly infusions of pembrolizumab (MK-3475, marketed as Keytruda®) found that  infusion of pembrolizumab produced durable responses in almost one out of five patients.

Patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer--a disease with no approved targeted therapies.

In a presentation at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium., the researchers discussed the study of 27 patients, aged 29 to 72 years, who had metastatic triple-negative breast cancer that either relapsed after treatment for early stage disease or progressed on therapy for advanced disease. 


A Parkinson's disease vaccine developed by the Austrian biotech company AFFiRiS AG is going into a Phase I trial clinical trial.

The vaccine,  called AFFITOPE® PD03A , targets a protein called alpha-Synuclein. The protein plays a key role in the onset and progression of Parkinson's as well as multiple system atrophy (MSA), an orphan disease. This vaccine has the potential to modify disease progression, rather than only symptomatic improvements available with current treatment strategies.

How do drug prices get picked? Some of it is simple economics. If you develop 20 drugs and 19 of them fail at various stages and one succeeds after a billion dollars in costs and bureaucracy, you are going to price it to make back all that lost money before generic companies are allowed to come along and sell your product without doing any work at all.


A new technique involves wrapping chemotherapy drugs in a liposome - a fatty cover - and it reduces heart damage that would otherwise occur, according to a presentation by Professor Jutta Bergler-Klein and Professor Mariann Gyöngyösi from the Medical University of Vienna, at
EuroEcho-Imaging 2014.


Some new mothers who are breast-feeding (and some who should have stopped by now) have turned to medications to help increase their milk supply - and that meant off-label use of domperidone, a nausea medication, to stimulate breast milk production.

Some studies have suggested it may be related to negative side effects, including irregular heartbeat and sudden cardiac death, but a new article in Journal of Human Lactation,
finds that there is no risk to the babies who drink the milk, though the risks to women may be a concern.   


Some paper have suggested a link between the diabetes medication pioglitazone and bladder cancer but a new analysis, including more than 1,000,000 people in six populations worldwide, has found no link between either pioglitazone or rosiglitazone (also known as Avandia) and bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the world, with 430,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012. Europe and North America have the highest incidence of bladder cancer, with an even higher incidence in people with diabetes.


Just for yucks, let’s go back a few years and see how well people did in forecasting drug prices in the future.

Within the past decade, we began to hear the term “patent cliff”—the consequence of most blockbuster drugs losing patent protection during a short period of time. Perennial critics of the pharmaceutical industry were experiencing paroxysms of joy as the holy grail of health care savings—generic drug companies—became able to sell cheap copies of formerly multi-billion dollar products.