Archive for October 14th, 2008

Getting Real About Malaria

October 14th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Economist, Nature

Is the world finally getting serious about malaria, a disease that strickens half a billion people every year, killing 1-3 million of them? Just maybe, yes.

Last week an alliance of celebrities, businesses and big donors began to implement an affordable, scalable action plan for the disease. Coincidentally, scientists shed new light on the genetics of two malaria-causing parasites.

The Global Malaria Action Plan aims to reduce the incidence of malaria from 2000 levels by 75% in seven years, and reduce mortality from the disease to nearly zero over the same time period. The United Nations supports the malaria control plan, and donors recently committed $3 billion to it, a promising start although more money is required. 

The Action Plan relies on three tactics: artemisinin-based anti-malarial drugs to treat the disease, insecticide-impregnated nets to prevent mosquitoes from biting people in bed, and pesticide spraying inside buildings. The strategy has proven to be effective during recent trials in Rwanda, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

Eradication will be harder. For that we need new tools such as a vaccine, and that does not exist right now. Enter a pair of scientific advances published in Nature this week, in which scientists in the US and England report having sequenced the entire genomes for the malaria-causing parasites Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium knowlesi respectively. These breakthroughs may well accelerate development of vaccines or drug therapies against them.

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No Vacancy on Wall Street

October 14th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: NY Times

For decades, finance had been the “it” career for college graduates, but that’s changing fast.

The economy is a mess and financial companies have lost their luster. More to the point, they have shed 250,000 jobs since January, 2007, according to the job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 

Now, Wall Street recruiters are nixing campus recruiting visits altogether, even to elite schools like Princeton, Harvard and Stanford. Since Princeton opened this fall for example, Deutsche Bank, J. P. Morgan Chase and Lehman Brothers have all cancelled campus sessions, according to the New York Times.

Students don’t seem to be panicking like the rest of us, however. They’re simply redirecting their short-term goals.

“No one I’ve talked to is worried about moving back home yet,” Princeton senior Kenton Murray told the Times. “But everyone I know is studying for the LSATs right now, people who a month ago had no intention of ever going to law school.”

Other students will consider sectors like energy, health care and consulting which seem positioned to survive and perhaps thrive during the economic turmoil. And it’s possible that more students will opt for public service, just like what happened following Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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Drug Sites Get Millions of Hits

October 14th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Source: comScore, WSJ Health Blog

According to results published last week by comScore, purplepill.com, the AstraZeneca-sponsored web site for its heartburn drug Nexium was the busiest of all company-sponsored web sites in Q2 2008, with more than 1 million unique visitors.

Here are the top five sites by number of unique visitors (in millions), and the percent change from Q2 2007:

Nexium (heartburn):  1,021, +55%
Actos (diabetes):  855, +2,399%
Ambien CR (insomnia):  756, -61%
Gardasil (HPV vaccine):  722, -21%
Lexapro (anxiety, depression):  549, +3%

“AstraZeneca has aggressively marketed Nexium this year, running approximately twice as much online display advertising in Q2 as either of its major competitors, Prevacid and Aciphex,” said comScore’s John Mangano. “This additional marketing muscle appears to have helped generate strong site visitation, a very important marketing step in the competitive pharmaceutical industry.”

comScore also credited marketing campaigns for the surge in volume on the web site for Actos, Takeda’s diabetes drug, although safety concerns about a competing drug, Avandia, probably played a role as well.

Sanofi-Aventis’ Ambien CR site lost significant volume in the past year, as the regular version of the drug faced generic competition for the first time.

Gardasil, Merck’s HPV vaccine was approved by the FDA in Q2 2006. Merck is not publicizing the vaccine as aggressively as it was a year ago, but the site still makes the top five.

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