Archive by date | December 2011

New HCV drugs trigger race for more tolerable therapies

By Sarah C P Williams The approval this year of the first direct-acting antiviral drugs for the hepatitis C virus has ushered in a new era of treatment. Since the mid-May launch of Incivek (telaprevir) and Victrelis (boceprevir) — both of which disrupt viral replication by inhibiting HCV’s protease protein — physicians have rapidly been prescribing the pills to many of the estimated 180 million people worldwide who are infected with HCV. This is reflected in October earnings reports showing that sales of Incivek reached nearly $420 million in the third quarter of this year alone, which puts it on  … Read more

A retrospective of retractions: the striking record in 2011

John Darsee was a young clinical investigator with a long list of publications in top-tier journals and a promising career ahead of him in cardiology research. Described by a former supervisor as “one of the most remarkable young men in American medicine,” Darsee was offered a faculty position at the Harvard Medical School in Boston at the age of 33. But then his career quickly started to unravel. One day, colleagues caught Darsee fraudulently labeling data for a study into heart attacks; further investigations revealed scientific misconduct on a massive scale, and, eventually, Darsee was fired and barred from receiving federal grant money for ten years. More than 80 of his papers were withdrawn from the literature. He ultimately apologized for publishing “inaccuracies and falsehoods.”  … Read more

Study challenges genetic conventions in personalized medicine

Study challenges genetic conventions in personalized medicine

A more refined genomic approach to personalized medicine could make drugs such as statins safer for patients, the authors of a new paper recommend. Hospitals increasingly use genetic testing to determine whether people are at risk for developing toxic levels of certain drugs in their bloodstreams due to common genetic variants that cause slower clearance of medication by the liver. A study published today in Genome Research strengthens the case for health providers to incorporate tests for rare variants that also influence how the body clears medications from the blood. The study focused on the medication methotrexate, used to treat  … Read more

Bone marrow donors can be paid, US court rules

Bone marrow donors can be paid, US court rules

In a ruling that may bring relief to cancer patients across the US, a federal appeals court said that a decades-old law banning the sale of human organs does not apply to bone marrow donations. The US National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 prohibits financial compensation for human organ donations, including bone marrow, but allows people to be paid for blood and plasma donations. At the time, lawmakers made that distinction because the method used to extract marrow was dangerous, and monetary kickbacks could have encouraged desperate people to take unnecessary risks. As a disincentive to sell organs, the crime  … Read more

A dance with death: Alvin Ailey premieres hip-hop ballet inspired by AIDS

A dance with death: Alvin Ailey premieres hip-hop ballet inspired by AIDS

Dance companies and drugmakers are strange bedfellows. For the most part, leotard-wearing dancers and lab-coated scientists remain firmly footed in different professional spheres. But at 8pm last night, the curtain went up on a unique collaboration. In honor of World AIDS Day, New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre partnered to produce an original dance performance inspired by the stories of people living with HIV. The New York City Center in Manhattan was sold out and buzzing with excitement for the opening. In the audience for the show’s premiere were the ten people whose stories  … Read more

UNAIDS-backed reports sing the same tune but stay silent on funding crunch

UNAIDS-backed reports sing the same tune but stay silent on funding crunch

Today is World AIDS Day, and in the run-up to the date this year, UN agencies published two reports on the state of the HIV epidemic. For the most part, the good news from these reports has captured the headlines: Topping the list of heartening statistics, 47% of people in low and middle-income countries now have access to anti-retroviral treatment (ART), up 9% from the number covered in 2009. But a few cracks lie beneath the positive numbers. In the past week, The Economist chided the UN for publishing the two reports, one on 21 November from the Joint United  … Read more

I heart Facebook: Scientists turn to social networks to study cardiovascular health

I heart Facebook: Scientists turn to social networks to study cardiovascular health

Status update: Facebook could be good for your heart. That’s the hypothesis behind the Social Heart Study, a new social network-based project aimed at understanding how Facebook friendships contribute to cardiovascular health. The study is the brainchild of University of California–San Francisco epidemiologist Mark Pletcher and University of California–San Diego behavioral geneticist James Fowler. They wanted to find a low-cost way to see if time spent ‘liking’ and ‘poking’ on Facebook has either favorable or adverse effects on people’s hearts. So they decided to go straight to the source. They created a Facebook app and started asking people to share  … Read more