The 10 Weirdest Drug Stories of the Month

Last Updated Nov 3, 2008 8:00 AM EST

wtmay1938.jpgAnother month has passed so it's time once again to look at the pharmaceutical news that didn't deserve a headline but was still too strange to be ignored. Here are BNET's 10 Weirdest Drug Stories of October 2008:
  1. Malaria cure is now cherry flavored Novartis has developed a fruit-favored version of Coartem, its malaria treatment. It hopes the pill will be more palatable to children, who dislike the regular version or eating it when it is crushed.
  2. Mysterious 'lung liquefying' death of Sepracor worker A man working at Sepracor's Windsor lab in Canada commuted home from work and then dropped dead. The man identified the chemical he had been working with as trimethylsilyl diazomethane. He started coughing and his symptoms progressed "from cold and flu-like symptoms to 'difficulty in breathing, coughing, then coughing blood, lung liquefying, and ultimately, death.'"
  3. Heart disease researchers discover gene for baldness 'as a lark' Scientists at McGill who were looking at heart disease noticed that there seemed to be a correlation between baldness in men and risk for the condition. "So as a lark, we decided we would try to find the genes that increase people's susceptibility to male-pattern baldness," says Dr. Brent Richards, an assistant professor in the departments of medicine and human genetics at McGill.
  4. Nail fungus has a new enemy Not everyone can be fighting cancer or HIV. Someone has look at the humble human nail fungus (or onychomycosis, to give its full title). HemCon is developing a new topical treatment it thinks is better than what's currently on the market. The 6 to 8 percent of humanity that suffers from grody nails will benefit if HemCon can get this through the FDA. Did someone say fast track?
  5. Pfizer pfinds a powder inhaler that actually works ... kinda Like Exubera never happened, Pfizer is still pushing ahead in the hopes that inhaled powder delivery devices will be the Next Big Thing. This time the company has its hopes up for the Spiriva Handihaler, a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Spiriva sustained improvements in lung function but did not reduce the accelerated rate of decline in lung function. Unfortunately the latter was the primary endpoint and the former the secondary. So ... don't hold your breath.
  6. Novartis has a drug for 'easy dog punishment' Novartis has a training course for human trainers of dogs, in which the humans are trained to recognize separation anxiety in dogs. And then they're trained to give the dogs Clomicalm, the Huxley-esque drug that stops the pooches from barking, whining and all those other behaviors that dog owners dislike. (A cynic might suggest that we humans have simply become worse as pet owners, but hey, this is the pharma business we're talking about.) Dog trainer Ami Moore says "separation anxiety in dogs can occur not only when the dog is separated from a loved one, but also during times of uncertainty and times when he or she senses that punishment may be looming." Now, if only there were a drug for humans that could stop them buying dogs unless they have the time and energy to train them properly ...
  7. Bristol-Myers Squibb helicopter crashes in New York The company gave up its fleet of jets in September, but apparently not its helicopters. One of them made a hard landing in the Big Apple, clipping a tail rotor. Coming in November: bad news for BMS's hovercraft operations ...
  8. Wealthy, well-connected Dem fundraiser gets special access to Tysabri Fred Baron, the man who funneled cash to Sen. John Edwards' mistress, got his hands on some of Biogen Idec's Tysabri in a last-ditch attempt to treat his blood cancer. Tysabri isn't approved for that use and the company wouldn't let him have it. He's dying so he doesn't care whether it works or not. Baron got their drug after ex-President Bill Clinton and cyclist Lance Armstrong intervened on his behalf.
  9. Woman finds drug industry not fun; gives it up for dogs Diane Wheeler spent 30 years working for Big Pharma, but promised herself she would be doing something "fun" when she was 50. She left to start her own high-end dog care store. Wheeler was a data analyst for Elan and Allergan. In 2001, she moved to San Diego County. "That entrepreneurial experience emboldened the dog lover to try her hand with a Dogtopia franchise. And sitting in the courtyard play area of her business, which opened over the summer, Wheeler was animated as she pointed out doggie cots, play gyms and a bone-shaped wading pool," per the San Diego Union-Tribune.
  10. FDA appoints Wolfe to help guard the chickens Sydney Wolfe has been a longtime critic of the drug industry and the FDA, often arguing that new drugs should be approved unless they can demonstrate a superior safety profile than existing ones. He was formerly* remains employed at Public Citizen's Health Research Group. And now he's on the FDA's Drug Safety & Risk Management Advisory Committee. Given how heavily lobbied the FDA is, the "weird" part of this story is how Wolfe was allowed in the door ...
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