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

Pfizer braces for big hit after generic versions of Lipitor hit the market

Pfizer braces for big hit after generic versions of Lipitor hit the market

It’s the end of an era for the pharmaceutical industry. Tomorrow, the most popular prescription drug in the world, Lipitor, is due to go off-patent in the US. And no product looks set to equal or surpass the cholesterol-lowering agent’s peak annual sales of $13.7 billion, which it achieved back in 2006. Lipitor, known generically as atorvastatin, is used by nearly 9 million Americans and has made Pfizer more than $130 billion globally since its 1997 launch. As the drug stands poised at the edge of a proverbial patent cliff, analysts at EvaluatePharma forecast that the loss of the megablockbuster  … Read more

Breast cancer approval revoked for problem-plagued Avastin

The US Food and Drug Administration announced today that it would be revoking the agency’s approval of Avastin (bevacizumab) for first-line treatment of metastatic breast cancer. The FDA concluded from several studies and a public hearing held in June that the Genentech drug — a monoclonal antibody that inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor — was not safe or effective for women with breast cancer.  Read more

Mississippi votes against embryos’ human rights, but national debate continues

Mississippi votes against embryos’ human rights, but national debate continues

Yesterday, Mississippi voters headed to the polls to weigh in on a highly controversial ballot initiative that would give embryos in that state ‘personhood’ status, and wreak havoc on reproductive therapy and research in the process. Despite the fact that the constitutional amendment, known as Initiative 26, was supported by Republican and Democrat candidates for Mississippi Governor as well as the state’s Attorney General Jim Hood, it ultimately failed as 58% of the voters rejected it.  Read more

New Parkinson’s therapies aim to halt disease, not just symptoms

NEW YORK — The introduction of levadopa therapy more than 40 years ago marked a milestone in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The dopamine replacement drug helps control the motor symptoms associated with the neurodegenerative disease, but it does not prevent the further loss of dopamine-producing neurons, so researchers have been on the hunt for more neuroprotective treatment options.  Read more

Small resveratrol trial shows metabolic benefits, and might give hope to drug developers

Small resveratrol trial shows metabolic benefits, and might give hope to drug developers

A small study has lent much hoped-for support to the idea that resveratrol — a natural organic compound found in red wine — can positively affect the metabolism of obese individuals through the activation of the sirtuin-1 gene. These findings give new hope to pharmaceutical drug developers that have been stymied by years of debate about the compound’s efficacy and how exactly it works. Last year, GlaxoSmithKline-owned Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, abandoned its resveratrol-based drug SRT501 designed to treat multiple myeloma, after kidney failure was seen in patients involved in their phase 2 trial of the compound. Other  … Read more

Drug shortages may derail careers along with trials

Drug shortages may derail careers along with trials

PhD in peril: Kristen Tamburro. In virologist Dirk Dittmer’s lab at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, there are two silent rooms. One contains a hulking, quarter million-dollar robot, custom-made to analyze blood samples; the other contains a small protein-synthesis machine. Most days, scientists don’t enter either room. The machines sit there gathering dust while Dittmer’s team waits on a massive clinical trial in African patients with AIDS to begin — a trial that has been delayed indefinitely due to drug shortages. The issue of drug shortages has posed a growing problem for doctors and patients in the US. In  … Read more

Abbott splits into two companies to lessen reliance on Humira

Abbott splits into two companies to lessen reliance on Humira

Abbott Laboratories announced plans this morning to split into two companies. The separation is not a bitter one, however; it’s simply a smart way to give the Chicago–based company — the eighth-largest drugmaker in the world, with global sales of around $40 billion in 2010 — a valuation bump in the eyes of investors, analysts say. The two new companies will have distinct product profiles. The first, as yet unnamed, will be a research-based pharmaceuticals company with Abbott’s trademark brand-name medicines, including the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira (adalimumab), prostate cancer drug Lupron (leuprolide) and Synagis (palivizumab), a monoclonal antibody targeted  … Read more

Protein folding pioneer named new director of NIH’s basic research arm

Protein folding pioneer named new director of NIH’s basic research arm

The US National Institutes of Health announced today that cell biologist Chris Kaiser will head up the $2 billion basic research arm of the federal funding agency. Kaiser, currently chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s biology department, expects to take over the reins of the US National Institute of General and Medical Sciences (NIGMS) from interim director Judith Greenberg in the spring of 2012. “This job is probably one of the only jobs I would ever consider leaving MIT for. It is so important,” Kaiser told Nature Medicine. “I view it as one of the most important administrative positions  … Read more