Medicine and Pharmaceuticals

Make room, Genocea and Rational Vaccines. There may be a new Herpes kid on the block.

A new study describes a trivalent vaccine—containing different strains — called HSV-2 gC2/gD2/gE2. HSV-2 refers to the herpes strain that causes genital herpes (1), and gC2, gD2, and gE2 are glycoproteins—proteins that are bound to sugars—that have different functions. The gD2 protein helps block the entry of the virus into the cell, while gC2 and gE2 help the virus evade the immune system.

This means that the vaccine produces antibodies that target two different mechanisms that help HSV-2 cause infection. 

The degree of protection of the new vaccine, as well as...

I am usually supportive of the pharmaceutical industry (1). People who reflexively criticize it have no idea how difficult and expensive it is to get something from the lab to the pharmacy. Also, many people think that drug companies don't provide innovation, and do little more than manufacture something that the NIH or a university came up with. This could not be more wrong. Pharmaceutical companies have discovered and developed drugs that have had an enormous impact on human health. They do all the heavy lifting.

But, there are exceptions. For example, AstraZeneca marketed a drug that should have never been approved in the first place: Nexium. They did it solely for money—without any benefit to society— and it has sure worked out well for them. It made ...

In the 1970s chemists in the illicit drug business began exploring a new class of psychoactive drugs, which were structurally related to the synthetic opiate Demerol. The following story is truly one-in-a-million. It encompasses the first "designer drug" (1) and the organic chemistry used to make it, what can (and did) happen when a reaction procedure is not followed properly, and a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanism of Parkinson's Disease.

The story began in 1947, when Demerol was discovered at Hoffman-La-Roche. At that time, drug companies were searching for pain-killing drugs that did not have the baggage of standard opioid drugs, such as hydrocodone, and oxycodone (2). In fact, desmethylprodine (MPPP), which is...

Doctors have been saying it forever (almost): the only thing you should put in your ear is your elbow. No swabs, no pencils, no probes, no eyeglass stems should be used to remove earwax, also know as cerumen. In fact, you probably shouldn't be removing cerumen at all. It's produced in the ear canal, and is moved towards the outer opening of the ear by chewing and swallowing movements. As it moves, it carries dead cells and any dirt along. Like colon cleanses, earwax removal is unnecessary the majority of the time. And if it requires removal, someone with the appropriate tools and expertise (such as an otolarygolgist) should do it.

So this advice has been pretty widely ignored for years — according to one...

Who among us hasn’t been tormented by the itch after a mosquito bite? This is due to the histamine release at the offending site. In some, it is a bit more exaggerated and an oral antihistamine or topical cream with the passage of time does the trick to provide optimal relief.

Now imagine that intensity and urge to scratch diffusely spread over your entire body in a constant and unrelenting fashion. Night and day. Where a more significant underlying cause won’t be benefitted and cured by time or a Benadryl, for instance.

That is called chronic “generalized pruritus” and its etiologies can range from the readily fixable to the necessitation of a liver transplant in those where treatment for the symptom might be refractory. In the extreme, sleep is impaired and even...

Things aren’t always what they seem.  Why should this colloquialism be any different in the medical realm?

Incidental findings are rather commonplace.  Meaning:  When exploring one diagnostic avenue for a symptom, another existing often more significant issue presents itself unrelated to the initial event.

This is exactly what has been reported by the Japanese Society of Neuropathology.  In a recent published case report, the authors describe an adolescent female who—while undergoing an emergency surgery for appendicitis— was discovered to have large, bilateral, mostly cystic ovarian masses (aka tumors).  

Three months later they were removed.  The mature cystic teratoma of her ovary...

The last time I wrote about one of the two most advanced experimental herpes vaccines - Rational Vaccines' (RVx) Rotavax, which claims to have performed well but only in one very pilot study in one foreign country, with no published data - I noted that future studies would be done in Mexico. (See: Herpes Vaccine Heads South ... Of The Border?", November 13, 2006.

The pilot study consisted of under 20 patients, and they published no data or methodology, but the company claims the results were encouraging. They also said they are planning more trials, but they would be held outside to the US to circumvent the...

"Dreaded ‘stomach flu’ wreaks havoc on families — and it’s only going to get worse"

Lena H. Sun, Washington Post, January 5, 2017

Uh oh. When it comes to choosing a common infectious disease that you would avoid, it's a pretty sure bet that most would say "the stomach flu." Although the term is incorrect—the bug is called norovirus, and it has nothing in common with influenza—everyone knows what that means: A day or two of hell, during which various components inside your gastrointestinal tract decide that they really don't want to be in your body. You know the drill. We've all been through it.

As if the "stomach flu" isn't enough to worry about, especially if you...

All too frequently, the things we do daily become routine.  This is likely true of many tasks in a multitude of professions.  It’s just that in certain fields, like medicine, seemingly mundane and tedious duties can—all too often— provide the most valuable knowledge of a patient’s well-being and genuine health status.

Vital signs matter.  They matter most when done correctly and provide accurate data.  Hence, why they are likely called “vital” signs.

Dismiss them or do them incorrectly and the bad information obtained will guide medical decisions on your behalf-- potentially toward a negative trajectory.  Now, with electronic medical records, especially, this erroneous information will follow you and your future care may be directed based on these false results.   

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Type 1 diabetes – the kind that involves loss of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells — requires that insulin be injected daily, or several times daily. The holy grail for researchers has been finding some means of either stopping that loss or increasing the number of functioning beta cells. In 2013 researchers from Harvard University published a paper suggesting that a new hormone that they called Betatrophin might do the trick, since it controls beta cell proliferation, and seemed to increase the number of beta cells, at least in mice.

Unfortunately, other laboratories were unable to replicate this work, nor did the Harvard group when they tried to repeat the experiment. Thus, they have retracted ...