S&R Blog


The top 10 health stories of 2009 (according to Harvard)

Via: Healthcare IT News

Swine flu, health reform and restrictions on industry gifts to doctors are among the top 10 health stories identified by the Harvard Health Letter in its annual list.

The Harvard University publication develops a top 10 list each year with help from doctors on its editorial board.

Among the top stories of 2009 is the national effort to curb healthcare costs via reform legislation, mandated coverage and tighter regulation of health insurers. “Chances are that legislation, if it does become law, won’t do nearly enough to control costs,” the list’s authors said.

Healthcare organizations faced additional challenges this year as a result of the H1N1 flu pandemic. “Measured public health response” and “plenty of information” helped keep the pandemic in perspective, the editors said, and despite the oncoming flu season, they expect that H1N1 will likely remain manageable.

The Harvard Health Letter‘s full list of top 2009 health stories is as follows:

  • H1N1 flu
  • Healthcare reform
  • Screening tests
  • An alternative to warfarin?
  • New findings about “good” and “bad” body fat
  • Restrictions on industry gifts to doctors (TRANSPARENCY)
  • MicroRNA-based treatment
  • Changes in blood sugar goals for patients in intensive care
  • Testing for C-reactive protein
  • Social networks as conduits for health and disease

What about Pfizer? They must be on the ‘pharma’ list.

Check out the Wall Street Journal’s top 10 here.



Novartis+IBM+Vodafone=brilliant ‘SMS for Life’ program
December 16, 2009, 4:32 pm
Filed under: mobile, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

A unique partnership between Vodafone, IBM, and Novartis has successfully launched a mobile health initiative that truly makes a difference in the treatment of malaria in remote areas of Tanzania. The SMS for Life program uses a combination of mobile phones, SMS (Short Messaging Service) technologies and intuitive web sites to track and manage the supply of Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) drugs and Quinine injectables, both of which are key to reducing the number of deaths from malaria.

During the first few weeks of the pilot, the number of health facilities with stock-outs in one district alone, was reduced by over 75 percent. The early success of the SMS for Life pilot project has the Tanzanian authorities interested in implementing the solution across the rest of the country. Tanzania has around 5,000 clinics, hospitals and dispensaries, but at any one time, as many as half could potentially be out of stock of anti-malarial drugs.

Kudos to all those involved for making this happen. We can only hope that other drug companies continue to think of new and innovative ways  technology can improve patient outcomes.

Full press release below via IBM.

LONDON – 14 Dec 2009: A new solution developed by IBM (NYSE: IBM), Novartis and Vodafone with the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, is helping to save lives using everyday technology to improve the availability of anti-malarial drugs in remote areas of Tanzania

Called “SMS for Life,” the initiative uses a combination of mobile phones, SMS (Short Messaging Service) technologies and intuitive web sites to track and manage the supply of Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) drugs and Quinine injectables, both of which are key to reducing the number of deaths from malaria.

The mosquito-borne disease causes nearly one million deaths in Africa each year, mostly among pregnant women and young children, and many people die because they simply lack quick access to vital medication.

PR NEWSWIRE

Tanzanian child helped by SMS for life program and IBM LotusLive.com cloud computing (Click on photo for print-quality version).

The concept of using text messaging to improve stock management of life-saving medicines was developed by pharmaceutical company Novartis and a team of international students taking part in IBM’s internship program, Extreme Blue. The team came up with SMS for Life, as it relies on simple technology and fosters self-sufficiency. IBM was tasked with managing the overall project and Vodafone was invited to develop and manage a system based on simple SMS messaging that would help ensure dispensaries did not run out of vital stock.

After visits to clinics, hospitals and dispensaries across Tanzania, IBM, Novartis and Vodafone initiated a five-month pilot of the SMS for Life solution, covering 135 villages and over a million people in different geographic locations across Tanzania.

Vodafone, together with its technology partner MatsSoft, developed a system in which healthcare staff at each facility receives automated SMS messages, which prompt them to check the remaining stock of anti-malarial drugs each week. Using toll-free numbers, staff reply with an SMS to a central database system hosted in the United Kingdom, providing details of stock levels, and deliveries can be made before supplies run out at local health centres.

“This is an example of a truly innovative solution helping solve a humanitarian problem,” says Peter Ward of IBM, SMS for Life Project Manager. “After spending time on the ground, we created a project plan, developed the application with Vodafone and Novartis and established the best way to deliver the pilot, working with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health. We expect other countries will also be able to benefit in the future.”

“Vodafone has worked closely with IBM, Novartis and MatsSoft, to develop a simple, robust and innovative system that is able to deliver even in the most remote African communities,” said Dr. Dianne Sullivan, Scientific Adviser, Mobile Health, of Vodafone. “The SMS for Life solution shows the tremendous potential of mobile technology to deliver social good through lateral thinking by helping to ensure supplies of life-saving drugs.”

During the first few weeks of the pilot, the number of health facilities with stock-outs in one district alone, was reduced by over 75 percent. The early success of the SMS for Life pilot project has the Tanzanian authorities interested in implementing the solution across the rest of the country. Tanzania has around 5,000 clinics, hospitals and dispensaries, but at any one time, as many as half could potentially be out of stock of anti-malarial drugs.

“The SMS for Life program has already had a positive effect in Tanzania,” says Senior Health Officer with Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania, Winfred Mwafongo. “I’ve seen district medical officers ordering urgent stock replacements for various health facilities. During a visit to 19 rural health facilities in one district alone, I saw huge improvements in their inventory management systems. I’m very impressed with the results so far and look forward to following the rest of the pilot through to completion.”

“Collaboration is critical to tackle health problems of the developing world, and we are proud to be part of the SMS for Life partnership, a project that will reduce stock-outs, and ensure that mothers and their young children in Africa have access to life-saving anti-malarial medicines,” says Silvio Gabriel, Executive Vice President and Head of the Malaria Initiatives at Novartis.

Designed as a public and private partnership leveraging the skills and resources of several companies, SMS for Life could have far-reaching implications for existing health systems worldwide. Several other African states are already keen to introduce the project.

Saving Lives with SMS for Life

Malaria Clinic in Tanzania helped by SMS for Life and IBM LotusLive.com cloud computing.  Copyright: Olympia Wereko-Brobby. Click on photo for print-quality version.

About the RBM Global Partnership
The RBM Partnership is the global coordinator of the fight against malaria. RBM draws its strength and experience from hundreds of partners from malaria endemic countries, country donors, companies, non-governmental and community organisations, foundations and research and academic institutions. RBM partners’ collective aim is to reduce annual malaria deaths from around one million to virtually zero by 2015 through the implementation of the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP). This outlines RBM’s vision for a substantial and sustained reduction in the burden of malaria in the near and mid-term, and the eventual global eradication of malaria in the long term with the introduction of new tools. www.rollbackmalaria.org

About IBM
For more information about IBM, please visit www.ibm.com.

About Novartis
Novartis provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines, diagnostic tools and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in each of these areas. In 2008, the Group’s continuing operations achieved net sales of USD 41.5 billion and net income of USD 8.2 billion. Approximately USD 7.2 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 99,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.

About Vodafone
Vodafone is the world’s leading international mobile communications group with approximately 323 million proportionate customers as at 30 September 2009. Vodafone currently has equity interests in 31 countries across five continents and around 40 partner networks worldwide. For more information, please visit www.vodafone.com.



More transparency issues with Big Pharma

The internet was blazing hot yesterday and today about the latest, in now an ever-growing list of transparency issues with Big Pharma and blockbuster drugs. The latest victim – Roche’s Tamiflu. According to a recent analysis published by the British Medical Journal, it was concluded that Tamiflu had  “modest effectiveness” against the symptoms of the flu in otherwise healthy adults — cutting symptoms by about a day.

The report, an update of a 2005 analysis by Cochrane Collaboration, excluded eight studies funded by Roche that haven’t been published and whose full data wasn’t given to the researchers. The exclusion reversed the group’s earlier finding that Tamiflu protects against complications.

The report raises questions about how drugs are reviewed, approved and distributed, Fiona Godlee, the British journal’s editor in chief, wrote in an editorial. The studies originally used to establish the benefits of Tamiflu were written by Roche employees and paid consultants, under-reported serious side effects and failed to clearly identify all the authors, she wrote. In at least one case, a study was attributed to a researcher who disavowed any involvement to the journal, Godlee wrote.

Follow the story here:

Bloomberg

Gaurdian

Financial Times

Reuters



Doctors increasingly close doors to drug reps, while pharma cuts rank

Many physicians see detailers only with scheduled appointments. Drugmakers are responding to hard times with layoffs and a shift toward online marketing.

Source: American Medical News

The relationship between doctors and drug reps may never be the same again.

Pharmaceutical companies — battered by a sluggish drug pipeline, the looming loss of blockbuster patented drugs, an economy in recession and scrutiny of their relationships with physicians — are re-examining the value of sending drug reps into doctors’ offices. Detailers are struggling to grab a shrinking slice of physicians’ valuable time and attention while adjusting to new drug industry rules banning freebies such as pens and notepads.

At its peak in 2007, the American pharmaceutical industry fielded 102,000 sales reps, said Chris Wright, managing principal for the consulting firm ZS Associates’ U.S. Pharmaceuticals Practice. Drugmakers have slashed the number to 92,000 since then, and ZS projects the number will fall to 75,000 by 2012 at the latest, saving the industry $3.6 billion.

Pharma’s return on investment in its sales force has plummeted. For every 100 reps who visit a practice, 37 place their products in the office’s sample cabinet, and only 20 speak to a physician in person, said the New York-based consulting group TNS Healthcare. Profit per drug rep visit fell 23% from 2004 to 2005, said a February PricewaterhouseCoopers report on pharma’s future.

“The old sales model is broken now, and who knows how it will look in the future,” said Peter H. Nalen, president of Compass Healthcare Communications, an online drug marketer in Princeton, N.J. “What’s happening is that pharmaceutical companies are realizing there are other ways to reach the doctor instead of banging on the door of the doctor who just doesn’t want to talk to you.”

1 in 4 doctors works in a practice that refuses to see drug reps.

The time squeeze and the new drug industry rules are “changing the landscape quite dramatically,” Nalen said. Another troubling sign for drugmakers: More than a third of medical schools require drug reps to have appointments before seeing physicians or residents, according to the American Medical Student Assn.’s 2008 PharmFree Scorecard. The Assn. of American Medical Colleges recommended the by-appointment-only policy in May 2008.

While most physicians still have positive views of detailers and drugmakers, those sentiments are cooling.

About one in four physicians works in a practice that refuses to see drug reps. Of doctors who do see reps, about 40% will meet with detailers only with scheduled appointments. The by-appointment-only figure jumped 23% during the last six months of 2008, according to a survey of more than 227,000 medical practices representing 640,000 physicians that was released in February.

The survey, conducted by the doctor-profiling firm SK&A Information Services Inc., did not seek to determine why some physicians are giving drug reps the cold shoulder. But physicians and pharmaceutical industry consultants say doctors have felt besieged by the number of reps visiting their offices and taking up precious time in an era of declining payment.

Last year saw a slight drop in a measure of the quality of detailers’ relationships with doctors, based on a TNS survey of more than 1,500 doctors. And negative word-of-mouth about pharma rose sharply among physicians — this so-called market-resistance index jumped 62% in the last year, TNS said.

Controversies over the drugs marketed as Vioxx (rofecoxib), Avandia (rosiglitazone) and Vytorin (ezetimbe and simvastatin) appear to be making doctors more skeptical of drugmakers as an information source, said Jerome L. Avorn, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.

“Doctors are increasingly concerned that the sales pitches from drug reps are not giving them the full story,” said Dr. Avorn, author of the 2004 book, Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs.

Ken Johnson, senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement that detailing visits are good for doctors and patients. “Interactions between physicians and pharmaceutical company representatives benefit patient care through the exchange of information about new medicines, new uses of medicines, the latest clinical data, appropriate dosing and emerging safety issues.”
Interacting with detailers

For every physician, it seems, there is a different way to handle drug reps.

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, is a dermatologist with a high-volume practice in Eagan, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. Though five to 10 reps visit his office daily, he strictly limits detailers to one five-minute session a week and requires that the rep provide lunch for his staff.

More than a third of med schools require drug reps to make appointments.

“The reps know they are not allowed to disturb me when I am seeing patients,” Dr. Crutchfield said. “If they do bring samples, I have a nurse who will bring the pad back to me so I can sign it. I will not see or talk to reps when I’m in clinic.”

Ari Silver-Isenstadt, MD, persuaded the four other doctors and office staff in his Baltimore pediatrics practice to adopt, in January 2008, a “no soliciting” policy for drug reps. Dr. Silver-Isenstadt is a member of the National Physicians Alliance, whose Unbranded Doctor Campaign urges physicians to refuse industry gifts and stop seeing drug reps.

Despite the new survey figures showing that doctors are cooling to drug reps, he said physicians should be more aggressively addressing the conflict of interest detailers pose.

“More than half of us doctors still just have a feeding frenzy of reps in our offices,” he said. “We should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing such an intertwining of our patients’ best interests with the convenience and niceties of drug reps.”

Not all doctors share Dr. Silver-Isenstadt’s hard-line view.

Most are simply pressed for time. Drug companies are trying to reach out to doctors via the Web, experts said. About 45,000 doctors meet with detailers using online video, and 300,000 physicians say they are open to doing so, said a September 2008 study from Manhattan Research, a drug marketing research firm.

Visits by drug reps will not disappear entirely, experts said. Rather, the sales force that survives the layoffs will be better trained and have a greater depth of clinical and scientific knowledge.

Detailers “reach the customer in a way that other promotional techniques do not,” said Wright, of the ZS Associates consulting firm. “And for many of these doctors, the choices they make about what to prescribe are worth a considerable amount of money.

“When that’s on the table, it makes sense to send a highly trained person to make sure the doctor knows about the medicine before making those choices.

Kevin B. O’Reilly – American Medical News



Who will lead pharma back to a constructive, trusting, and value-based industry?

The “conspirators” have been revealed—the  Pharmageddon2012 “conspirators” that is.  This past week, the November issue of MedAd News broke a story on Pharmageddon2012 and the people behind the scene—S+R Medical Communications (SRMC) and Friday Morning.

For those of you who have not taken the time to check out Pharmageddon2012, this multifaceted website uses a variety of social media outlets to carefully and anonymously describe what we believe is the pharma industry’s greatest problem—the breakdown of communication and trust between physicians and the industry.

The site, describes the issues and problems that exist but what it doesn’t address is the passion, belief, and attitude of those people at SRMC and Friday Morning who have to live and deal with the implications of what Pharmageddon2012 represents. You must admit a campaign like Pharmageddon2012 could be risky for a business that that has spent over 18 years enabling and helping our pharma clients devise the very same communication pieces and strategies that we believe contributed to the demise of physician trust.

However, we also believe that someone needs to lead the charge for change and why shouldn’t it be SRMC and Friday Morning? We spent the last 10 years closely watching, listening, and seeing firsthand the strategies and tactics that led to the mistrust problems. We were frustrated and angry about the situation, and we struggled to understand what new strategies and solutions we might incorporate into our business model. The end objective is to help us build our success—and, equally as important, that of our clients.
To that end, we must help clients find ways to restore physician confidence AND improve patient outcomes.

So while we are willing put our collective necks on the line, the real question is which pharma companies will be the first to understand and see the need for communicating with physicians in a different way? Which companies will choose to use educational programming that is needs-based? Are you, as a pharma marketer, willing to use total transparency and clarity as you describe ALL of the important aspects of how your brand is best used? When a physician asks, “Which of my patients are specifically and best suited for what your product does?” what will your sales force say? How will you provide educational and promotional programs that allow your sales force to bring value and relationship building to every sales call?

Is YOUR pharma company willing be a leader and change the pharma/physician communication model back to a constructive, trusting, value-based relationship? Do you believe that you can participate in this change process and at the same time positively impact your brand’s financial achievements? It’s tough to be a leader and to stand out from the crowd. But in fact, that is the opportunity that is before us right now.

If you have the same passion and spirit for this issue as we do, if your brain and heart tell you it is time to do it differently, please contact me. I can show you how we can work together to put our industry, your company, and your products back on a more productive, positive path.

Sincerely,
Dave Recht
CEO, North State Resources, Inc.
davidr@northstateresouces.com



The pharmaceutical industry is about to experience the biggest shift in product marketing history. Are you prepared?

Be prepared.

Visit the site.

View the videos.

Know the issues.

Read the write-up in Med Ad News.



FDA social media (#FDASM) week kicks into high gear today
November 12, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Starting today, the FDA will be holding a 2-day hearing on how pharmaceutical companies use the web and social-media tools to market their products. Sixty-two speakers from pharmaceutical companies, media companies, agencies, and others have been asked to give their viewpoints.

Is it a little too late? Maybe. Is it a step in the right direction? Probably. Will the FDA, pharma and marketers have a better understanding on what needs to be done to regulate the internet and social media? Likely. Whatever the outcome, it’s about time.

Follow all of the action (via real-time tweets) at www.fdasm.com.

Or listen to the streaming webcast courtesy of the FDA at http://www.capitolconnection.net/capcon/fda/111209/FDAlive.htm.