Thursday, February 26, 2009

Now Magnets May Drive Reflux Disease Away

An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes a person to experience chronic heartburn. While medical drugs helps manage the condition in the short-term, longer term relief sometimes requires surgery. But could a long term solution to the problem be hidden in modest looking magnets?

A common cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease or (GERD) is a weak or nonfunctional valve at the lower end of the esophagus (the canal that connects the mouth to the stomach), as a result the acids inside the stomach make their way into the esophagus. Since the esophagus or the food pipe isn't designed to withstand acids, the patient experiences chronic heartburn. But medics are now testing a new device which could support the function of the malfunctioning valves to treat the disease.

The New Reflux Control Device

Called the LINX Reflux Management System and introduced by Torax Medical, this device comprises a series of magnetic beads, and is meant to be placed around the bottom of the esophagus through a minimally-invasive surgical procedure, using medical instruments.

Once positioned, the magnetic attraction between the beads work in tandem with the valve and help prevent the acids to reflux, or rush up the esophagus. At the same time, the system is designed to allow food to normally pass through the esophagus to the stomach. Which is exactly what a healthy valve's function is.

According to experts, when medical therapy alone is used to treat GERD, the acids in the stomach are simply suppressed, but the underlying problem of reflux isn't cured. As a result, the most appropriate and lasting treatment for GERD would be to restore the body's own ability to avoid reflux itself.

While the new magnetic device is still being clinically tried, its real success might eventually depend on how effective it will be in comparison to other surgical procedures viz. open and Nissen fundoplications that are sometimes indicated for treating GERD.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Are Pharma Workers Feeling More Insecure Now?

Pharma staffers, despite working long hours in the wake of the shaky economy are beginning to express insecurity about their careers as a recent survey by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine found.

The press release reports that of the 400 readers worldwide who participated in the survey, 64% feared job security. While in 2008 this figure was 55.8%, and 42.7% in 2007.

It's a progressive trend that with each passing year the percentage of those expressing insecurity within the pharma drug industry has increased. And that experts think that the dwindling economy isn't the sole reason. In fact, the expression of job insecurity by pharma staffers is a result of dwindling product pipelines, blockbuster drug patent expirations, and the buzz created by the recent culminated & speculated mergers and acquisitions.

Further, pharma companies aren't laying off more now than a few years ago. However, new hiring has certainly taken a hit, and as is the case for most industries, a “wait-and-see attitude” is being adapted by pharma companies too.

Despite the prevailing insecurity, industry employees still find “Improving patients’ lives” as something that motivates and find meaning in their jobs. But they are also turned off by uncertainties about the future, job cuts and the fact that they're maintaining more than they're innovating.

Decreasing salaries too appear to be a concern to the workers from this domain of the
medical industry. Because the numbers reveal that in response to this year's study just 40.2% said they were drawing an annual pay package of $100,000 as against 47.3% in 2008. The biotech industry seems to be doing better, as biotech's turning out profits.

Nevertheless, Keeping up the spirits of the workforce has always been essential for running a company well, and it seem even truer during tough times. Perhaps the responsibility to keep staffers in good spirits lies on the shoulders of both the companies and the employees themselves – perhaps by maintaining a positive outlook, enhancing skills, or whatever works.

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The US Waste Management Industry Snapshot

Put together, the industry and households in the US produce over 200 million tons of solid waste, that translates into generation of about 4.4 pounds of waste per person every single day. The waste management industry, traditionally engaged in the collection, transport, and disposal of wastes is now faced with meeting the raised expectations of the populace, owing to increasing environmental concerns. The three major players in the waste management business are Allied Waste Industries, Waste Management, and Republic Services, and together with 10,000 private sector firms in the business, generate annual revenues to the tune of $50 billion.

Read More at: Themedica

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pharma Fighting Hard – But will it win?

Hit by the tsunami of recessionary economy causing sales to dip and growth rates forecasted to fall below historic levels, pharma drug companies have hit the panic button and are trying out different ways in their quest to survive.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Pfizer's acquisition of Wyeth for US$68 Billion is a striking example. The company has acted to safeguard itself, owing to the plummeting revenues from it's popular drug “Lipitor” and several other products, which would soon be faced with expired patent protection.

But this is being seen as just the beginning of a whole wave of mergers to come by. Some other expected acquisitions are being speculated such as Roche buying out the remaining share of Genentech, Merck merging with Schering-Plough, a merger between Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and more pharma industry mergers.

In fact the general expectation the big pharma companies are all set to taking over smaller player raised the hopes among small biotechnology companies worrying about their own survival soon a bigger firm would approach them with a buy out offer. However, recently panelists attending the BioPartnering North America conference, warned of harboring such an unrealistic expectation that all biotech companies in distress will be rescued. At present pharma firms have their eyes set on other pharma firms rather than biotech product companies.

Job Cuts

Pharma companies are fast reducing their workforce. The Pfizer-Wyeth deal itself if expected lead to a 15 percent reduction of staff for both the firms combined, which translates in to about 130,000 job cuts.

Other recent layoffs include King Pharmaceuticals (KG), (22%, or 760 jobs), KV Pharmaceutical Co (700 job cuts expected), GlaxoSmithKline (10,000 job cuts predicted), and more.


At the same time analysts are skeptical about some aspects of these deals. For example there's apparently no solution to declining sales outlook, as projections about Pfizer-Wyeth will have a combined 2013 total company sales below the 2008 figure of $70 billion. Some suggest that while large-scale mergers between will create cost savings and give these companies time, that won't be sufficient to reinvent pharma.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Medical Device Industry Overview

The US industry with its high investments in Research and Development is regarded worldwide for making sophisticated and high quality devices incorporating advanced technologies. The country's market was valued at nearly $80 billion in 2005. In addition the U.S. medical technology companies are leaders in the world's medical device production. Further, to facilitate expansion, medical device companies are increasingly looking at developing economies as an opportunity to drive future growth.

Read More at: Themedica

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Survey: Biotechnology Industry will Bounce Back

The biotechnology industry is expected to rebound and outperform healthcare industry and the rest of the market this year, according to findings from an investor perception study released by Thomson Reuters and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) at the 11th Annual BIO CEO & Investor Conference in New York.

  • Investors have stated that a company’s cash position is now more important.
  • More than two-thirds in the study expect greater M&A volume in 2009, with major pharmaceutical companies buying biotech of all sizes, and large biotechs buying smaller biotech companies.
  • The study found that most investors are neutral to positive about the policies likely to be pursued by the Obama administration.
  • Investors are particularly hoping for greater consistency and predictability from the FDA where higher safety barriers and insufficient resources are cited as primary reasons for limited drug approvals.
  • Most investors pay little attention to activism in the biotech sector
  • Meeting with management is the most important factor when researching investments, followed by conferences and sell-side research, which is still considered important.
Investors are optimistic about biotech stock performance
  • 70% expect biotech to outperform the rest of the market this year.
  • 59% consider biotech undervalued, while only 4% say the sector is overvalued.
  • 57% expect biotech to rebound during this year; another 30% expect a rebound in 2010.
Investors are less optimistic about research and development
  • 60% state overall productivity in 2009-2011 will be the same as in 2006-2008.
  • Investors see the best opportunities in mid-cap companies with late-stage pipelines
  • 37% of polled investors see opportunity in micro-and small-cap companies, but only 16% favor early stage pipelines over late stage pipelines.
  • 67% of investors state the best investment opportunities lie in oncology while 37% see promise in immunology.

Birth Control Pill Adverts - Is Bayer Ethically Challenged?

Recently, the German drugmaker Bayer settled the incident over advertising of its blockbuster birth control pharma drug Yaz with a corrective $20 million national advertising. As the news made waves many opined that the episode only cements the reputation of the drugmaker as being the most ethically challenged pharma company around.

But is a single bad ad campaign enough to brand a manufacturer as ethically challenged?

The drug in question is in fact approved by the FDA as a birth control pill with a side benefit in treating premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and improving moderate acne. The problem lies not with the approved effects but with advertising, which has been considered in the FDAs warning letter as broadening the drugs indication, overstating its efficacy, while minimizing serious risks associated with the use of the drug.

The settlement aside, the question is whether the drugmaker is the only entity to run into problems because of advertising. Many advertisements day in and day out are questioned for making misleading claims for all sorts of products and services.

Also, just because an advertisement has been caught violating laws doesn't mean that those others who've violated but haven't been caught are angels. And this may be quite true within the medical industry, because critics suggest that the F.D.A. division that oversees drug promotion has a staff of only 52 people, who can't be expected to keep a tab on thousands of ad campaigns run by drug makers the year over.

While not being an advocate for any particular drug maker, I'd like to point out a just a few of the “ethical initiatives” by the so termed “ethically challenged” company.

Science and Education

Set up "BayLabs" as they're called at various sites in Germany. These laboratories allow schoolchildren to learn about chemistry and biology with carefully prepared experiments and learning programs.

Environment and Nature

In 2004 Bayer became the first private-sector company start a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for involving the youth in caring for the environment. It's run over a dozen projects around the globe since then.

Health and Social Needs

As an aid to Asian tsunami victims the company provided both money and donations in kind with a total value of EUR 13 million (approx US$ 16.8 million).

You can find out more about the company from the Sustainability & Commitment section on their website.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

5 Reasons Why FDA's Furious Over Narcotics Misuse

The US Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it was beefing up efforts to curb unsafe use of 24 narcotics products used as pharmaceutical drugs. In its first such measure the regulator sent 16 companies making these products letters, asking them to have a "Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS)," in place.

Narcotic products have a chemical composition that simulates the effects of naturally occurring opiates like the opium poppy, and are often prescribed to cancer patients for managing sudden and severe bouts of pain. Though these products have been in use for years now, the question is, why the FDA has come out railing against these prescription drugs?

At least five reasons are the triggers behind the FDA getting tough.

1. Widespread Use: The drugs targeted by the FDA are the most extensively prescribed and used medications. Going by the 2007 figures, pharmacies in the United States doled out about 21 million prescriptions for these 24 narcotic products, and were consumed by approximately 3.7 million Americans.

2. Ineffective Earlier Measures: The FDA was aware of the havoc these chemicals were causing and it did try to reign in on them by means of mandatory label warnings and by working together with other federal agencies. However, the problems seem to have had no effect, and instances of drug misuse, abuse and accidental overdoses have increased over the past decade.

3. Increasing Non-medical Use: The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) data shows that non-medical use of prescription pain relief drugs in Americans 18-25 has increased from 4.1% in 2002 to 4.6% in 2007. And for those aged 26 & Over, the increase has been from 1.6% from 1.3% over the same period.

4. The Products' Addictive Power: The products included in FDA's present hit list are those, which are based on extended-release formulas for long-lasting effects. But despite their efficacy in damping severe pain they carry the risk of being highly addictive. And this makes them perfect candidates for abuse, and they often are abused for their euphoric effects.

5. The FDA is now Empowered to Act!: This isn't quite a reason inherent in unsafe use of drugs, but it still is the necessary condition for the FDA action. It was only in 2007, that the USFDA got the power to require risk-management plans. Otherwise it would still have been negotiating changes to drug labeling and promotion with the drug making companies from the medical industry.

Hopefully, the new measures will harness the beast of prescription drug abuse.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Tips To Promote Yourself at Trade Shows

Participating in medical trade shows can produce immediate results in the form of “at-the-show” sales, or generate low-cost, high-quality sales inquiries. In addition, businesses get the opportunity to showcase and demonstrate their latest products, assess the activities of rivals and examine recent trends and opportunities. However, successfully participating at a trade show and deriving all the benefits requires a well-planned approach, or else the participant's cost might turn out to be higher than any benefits. Read on to know the essential tips for make your participation at trade shows a success.

Read More at: Themedica

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How To Dip Your Canine in A Bathtub!

“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face,” said Ben Williams. If you own a canine, you simply know how invaluable mates and companions dogs are. In order to keep your pet healthy; you not only have to invest money on it but also quality time, just like you would with your kids. Caring well for a dog entails taking care of all the aspects of dog care, from feed supplements, to collars, leads, drugs for veterinary care and more.

Giving your dog a good bath is quite a learnable skill and it not only ensures your dog’s hygiene but also keeps the dog smelling good so that you can candidly cuddle your cutie canine. Once, you’ve bathed your dog all of your ‘smell good’ wishes for your dog would be granted.

Dog Bath Preliminaries:

Well, bathing is fine but how often or when should you bathe your dog? The simple answer is when your dog needs it! You surely need to bathe the dog when he’s gotten greasy and dirty or perhaps when there’s going to be company. At the same
time you need to remember that washing up your pet can sometimes harm his skin by removing essential oils, so it shouldn’t be done too often. Though, you might wash him up earlier than usual if he gets smelly. For the most part you don’t need to worry about the mud on your dog as most of it would by itself fall off when it dries up and he wiggles about. Alternatively, you might give your dog a mud rub outside the house.

Above all, it’s best to consult your veterinarian about your dog. This is so as different dog breeds and behaviors would determine the need about your dog’s bathing requirements, and the
veterinary products that are appropriate for you pet. Further, your vet would also advise you on which shampoos you should be using.

The Preparation

It’s always a good idea to collect and assimilate all the pet accessories you’d need for the bath. The basic supplies will include: A veterinarian-approved dog shampoo and/or conditioner; Mineral oil and/or cotton balls; Washcloth or sponge; Towels; A bathing tether; Brush and comb; A soft brush for in between his toes and on his nails; A rubber tub mat; Lay out a blanket on the den or floor; A trash bag on the blanket.

Choosing the place to bathe

Just like humans, not all the dogs are the same. While some are happy go lucky during bath, others fear the bathtub. If you try to force such a dog to stay put in the tub they’d resist it and would begin to jump around, slip, shake, and it will
become pretty messy to deal with them. Not only is it difficult to handle such dogs but you might find, that instead of the dog, you’ve gotten wetter! An effective solution to overcome this problem is to use a hand-held shower, this would keep the dog pacified during the routine and you’d also be spared from becoming wet.

Moreover, it would also consume less time of yours. If however, you’re more comfortable bathing him in the tub, don’t forget to use a rubber bath mat in the tub as it would prevent the pet from slipping and would also keep him pacified during the activity. Furthermore, while using a tub, fill the water to his knees. The temperature of the tub should match that of the dog, approximately 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Process

The basic dog bath regimen entails that you bring your dog to the bathtub. Then use a lead or bathing tether with its one end attached to the collar and the other end to the bathtub’s suction cup. Follow it up by ladling warm water over him, in case of a hand-held shower keep it low. The idea is not to scare him but gently bathe him. Once he’s all wet, apply the shampoo, keep it there for about 10 minuets or as prescribed on the bottle, rinse and dry up.

The Face: Dogs mostly don’t prefer to be splashed with a deluge of water on the head and face. Hence, wash his face with a washcloth instead. It’s also better as it prevents too much water from getting into his ears. Try to bring water to the face with your hand rather than directly splashing or sprinkling it on the face. Some people use cotton balls to stuff the ears with. Always ensure that they are of the right size for your dog's ears. A bit too small and they can get into his inner ears.

Dog Shampoo:
You need to use a good quality shampoo (the best is to have it prescribed by a vet), it could either be medically formulated or a natural one, whichever you prefer. In case you don’t have dog shampoo you may even use a baby shampoo. Gently but thoroughly apply the shampoo and bring it to lather. Ensure that none of it gets into his eyes or ears and sometimes tear-free shampoos are a good option.

The Hair:
If you have a dog with long hair you might want to make use of a conditioner meant for dogs.

The Rinse:
Once the dog has been brushed and lathered well enough all that you need to give him is a thorough rinse. Make sure the rinsing operation is ‘thorough,’ because if there’s any shampoo residue on his skin it would make him itch and uneasy. Needless to mention that keeping shampoo out of his eyes is important too.

Dry Up:
You can use one towel to soak him, while have the other one rest on his head as it would also prevent him form shaking off the water by himself. Once you’ve dried him up, lift him up with the still dry towel. Also important is to dry him up thoroughly with the towel or else he might want to rub himself on the bedspread of a cushion by himself, wrinkling it in doing so. When you dry him up lay him on the blanket and put some of your weight on him so that he might not run away to do the drying up by himself.

Some people use a blow-drier to dry up the dog. If you’d prefer to use one make sure that it’s on a low-temperature setting (warm or cool) in order to prevent burning your dog's skin.

Lastly, brush your dog after bath so that his hair doesn't get matted. If your dog’s new to bathing a great idea always is to praise your dog and give a treat as a reward for good behavior. This would train him to let you smoothly bathe him in future.

Exercise Caution:

The following are the key points of caring while bathing:
  • Don’t allow water and soap in the dog's nose, ears, and eyes. Smaller dogs can even choke on them.
  • Don’t bathe too frequently, it removes the dog of natural oils, thus harming the skin to
  • Don’t bathe the dog with soap or a shampoo used by humans as it can damage the dog's skin by making it dry, scaly, and chemically reacting with it.
  • Don’t too hot or too cold water on your dog his skin.
  • Don’t leave the dog half wet after the bath, dry up thoroughly.
  • Contact your veterinarian immediately, if your dog gets a rash, or any other sign of an allergic reaction.
A dog bath is necessary for your dog’s hygiene and health, however to bathe a dog is a technique as well as an art. While the basics remain the same, how you actually bathe the dog depends on the chemistry and the relationship between the two of you.

Helpful Links:

The Humane Society of United States

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Stem Cell Debate - Is It Settled?

The wait for those in support of embryonic-stem-cell research funding seems to be over, as the President Obama is expected to sign an executive order overriding the federal funding limits put on by the former administration. And leading to the rebirth of stem cell research.

Those against stem cell research contend that stem cells research amounts to abortion, because it moves forward at the expense of destroying human embryos, which are fertilized eggs and in early stages of becoming a baby. And abortion is murder, so stem cells research amounts to killing. So when the Bush administration put a cap on funding it was believed that religious convictions had won over science.

But was it really a victory, especially if you consider that stem cells have the potential to be grown into any type of cell the human body has, and thus making them an excellent resource to treat and manage debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, paralysis, diabetes and more.

Who gets to win or lose?

It seems that despite the convincing power of immorality aspect ascribed to stem cell research, many opinion polls have indicated that a majority of Americans think that stem cell research holds a lot of promise to eventually bring down human suffering than cause it. Perhaps, there would have been some breakthroughs in treatments already, if the big biotechnology product companies hadn't shied away from stem-cell research due to the politics involved.

What's more unpleasant is that a political football match is being played with something as noble as scientific research and which has the potential to save so many lives.

The debate probably isn't settled in the minds of those with the opposing views, and it may never be. But if biotechnology isn't given the respect it deserves, it would choose to grow in a place where it gets the freedom to. For instance, The Shandong Stem Cell Engineering Research Center in China reports, via UPI, that they've successfully cloned five human embryos for medical research!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Economic Recession - Hospitals aren't Spared

In its most recent update published on January 28, the IMF announced that world growth is forecast to fall to its lowest level since World War II. And with the US being one of the worst hit, the hospital business, an integral part of the medical marketplace, and often regarded as recession proof is beginning to feel the heat.

Despite the fact that hospitals aren't hit the way the way the automotive sector or the retail has been, and that people will continue to fall sick irrespective of the economy, it seems that the number of people seeking medical care and the profitability of hospitals don’t walk hand-in-hand.

Growth stunted & patients decreasing

A recent report by the American Hospital Association (AHA) finds that the sputtering economy has already led to 45% of hospitals to postpone forthcoming capital projects, with about 13% being forced to completely stall any expansion projects already underway. The AHA report included 639 hospitals in the study.

Further, experts believe that even though people continue to fall sick they're postponing, most treatments if not all, which can be classified as elective. The credit for the prevailing scenario goes to all the layoffs and the slowing economy. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics the month of December saw some of the worst layoff figures, as there were 2,275 mass layoff actions, involving 226,117 workers.

What seems worse is that aside from foregoing elective treatments, patients seem to be avoiding essential drugs, with many actually abusing prescription drugs, such as narcotic painkillers , sedatives and tranquilizers and stimulants.

As a consequence, hospitals are reeling under delayed hospital equipment and supply purchases, declining patient visits, reduced staff with no fresh hiring, unpaid medical bills, in addition to ceasing any construction projects. The AHA survey, released in November last year found that patient visits were static or had decreased during the third quarter of 2008, and the cases of unpaid medical bills for hospitals registered a hike of 8%.

The government's role in uplifting the spirit of hospitals is being thought to be instrumental as Medicare and Medicaid account for about half of the hospital business industry.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Essential Tips to Import Medical Supplies

Importing medical supplies can quickly make your business more profitable as you discover new opportunities to save costs, compete better and grow fast. But to make your dreams a reality, you'd need to take precautions before you place an import order because a bad supplier can really affect your business within the medical marketplace. The good thing is that it's not all that hard to take effective measures for ensuring your business safety. A basic understanding and some essential tips can go a long way to accomplish a successful import. Read on to know what it takes to import medical supplies safely an effectively.

Read More at Themedica