Pharmacology


This week Hilary Clinton and Marco Rubio announced their candidacies for President of the United States. This puts them alongside Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and I’m not sure who else.

One thing all these candidates have in common is that not one of them has mentioned antibiotics – at least as far as I know. Do any of you know anything different?

So here we are. Antibiotic resistance is killing a minimum of 23,000 Americans every year according to the CDC. (I think that is a gross underestimate of reality.) The FDA just published a study showing large increase in antibiotic use on US farms – but they don’t know how or why the antibiotics are used.
A lot of people are now scared of BMPEA because there are not any human studies. They say that there are only a handful of preclinical studies. Gee, thanks for saying that the research done by 99% of biomedical scientists is bogus. A recent study suggests that, based on recommended servings, users of certain supplements that contain BMPEA would take about 1 mg/kg of BMPEA .
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), certain drugs need to be regulated because they are bad. The “worst” drugs are put into the highest schedule. The funny thing about those drugs listed in the schedule 1 category is that preclinical assays of drug abuse have determined that they have relatively weak abuse liability or possibly none at all. From the DEA site, here are the criteria for schedule 1 and the list of example drugs:

Schedule I Controlled Substances

It’s not often that medievalists get as excited as they have been over the revival of a medieval remedy for eye conditions involving garlic, onions, wine and ox gall, prepared in a bronze vessel. The concoction, mixed up by a team from Nottingham University, appeared to show promising results in the battle against MRSA. It didn’t kill it all, but it apparently killed 90%. This has revived enthusiasm for trawling ancient texts for the solutions to modern problems.

The appearance of another questionable "dietary supplement" story in the news is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east. But this one is different. 

This is front page news all over the place, including a piece by Anahad O'Connor of The New York TimesO'Connor focuses on the FDA's failure to take action against companies which sold supplements containing an untested chemical stimulant called BMPEA, aka beta-methylphenethylamine, even though the agency knew about it two years ago.

Flakka - "gravel" - is all the rage with amateur druggies in Florida and Texas and wherever else people who have watched a lot of "Breaking Bad" do home chemistry. It is made from alpha-PVP, which is a chemical cousin of cathinone, found in bath salts.
Therapeutic anti-cancer vaccines developed to treat metastatic disease such as advanced prostate cancer or melanoma don'thave a noticeable effect on the tumor but are linked to a statistically significant increase in patient survival.

For that reason, "overall survival" rather than "progression-free survival" should be the gold standard for evaluating the efficacy of cancer vaccines in clinical trials, according to a new editorial in Cancer Biotherapy and Radiopharmaceuticals.

Patients with chronic kidney disease may be treated with a class of medications called Renin Angiotensin Aldosterone System inhibitors (RAASI's) but though they protect the heart and kidney, a significant percentage of patients develop a dangerous side effect; high potassium levels in the blood, a condition known as hyperkalemia. 

Elevated potassium puts patients at risk of death from cardiac arrhythmias. Lacking a drug to treat the problem, doctors either stop these beneficial drugs or may use kidney dialysis to quickly lower the potassium.


With each new amyloid-targeting treatment for Alzheimer's disease that has been developed, there has been a corresponding concern about antibodies targeting amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) producing inflammation in the brain in some patients.

Gamma secretase inhibitors tend to produce adverse effects by interacting with Notch, an important pathway for cellular signaling. 


Low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and osteoarthritis of the hip or knee is the 11th highest contributor to global disability.  A new study found paracetamol is ineffective in reducing pain, disability or improving quality of life for patients who suffer from low back pain or osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, and its use may affect the liver.

Paracetamol is currently recommended by most international clinical guidelines as a first line treatment for low back pain and osteoarthritis but it is no better at treating low back pain than a placebo and its effect on osteoarthritis of the hip or knee is too small to be clinically worthwhile, the study concludes.