Pharmaceutical Industry

A Nasty Dilemma for NICE

After a prolonged disagreement with patient groups, the NHS’s funding guidance body, NICE, has approved the £10,000-an-eye blindness treatment, Lucentis. The drug has been shown to halt the progression of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in developed countries. But as the BBC  note, in approving it, NICE may have unwittingly deprived the NHS of a much cheaper alternative.

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Brain Boosting and Cheating in Exams: Four Responses

A report by the Academy of Medical Sciences looking at different aspects of drug use and mental health has identified a growing trend for off-label use of drugs intended for the treatment of diseases including narcolepsy, ADHD and Alzheimer’s. The use of such drugs by a healthy individual can improve memory, alertness and concentration. While the report does not condemn the practice, it raises a number of potential concerns over safety, and fairness. Professor Les Iversen, report co-author, highlighted concerns that the use of enhancement in exams would unfairly advantage wealthier students, and suggested that the use of such drugs could be considered cheating. The report recommends that legislation is prepared to tackle the misuse of such drugs, including the potential for urine testing in schools and universities.

Below are responses from Julian Savulescu, Nick Bostrom, Anders Sandberg and Mark Sheehan on the effects of cognitive enhancing drugs, and the issue of cheating

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Academic Integrity and Vioxx

Drug company Merck and its product Vioxx are in the news again. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has examined the documents from the legal proceedings against Merck in connection with the withdrawal of Vioxx from the market in 2004. From their analysis, a significant number of journal articles – mostly review articles rather than articles reporting clinical trials – were written in-house and senior academics were brought in late to be lead named author. At least one of these academics has disputed the accusations made in the JAMA article.

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