Archive for the ‘Autism’ Category

May 14, 2007…

May 14, 2007

I am busy with a number of projects and have not had the time or energy to keep up. I have set aside a few articles over the last week or two which I will try to post soon but until then a few random thoughts…

Developing drugs to treat Autism

In addition to my primary field of research I have been tracking the field of Autism research on the side. In fact, I hope to complete a review on potential drug targets which might be effective for treating the core and/or secondary symptoms.

…what I have found is that apart from the work being carried out in academia very little is going on in industry especially at the major pharmaceutical companies. In order to get a feel for how little is being done, I was not able to find “autism” mentioned once when I searched The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry using SciFinder. This is a little disappointing but perhaps understandable given what little is known about the condition.

Recently, things have begun to change…newer estimates suggest that a lot more people are affected than previously thought which was one of the reasons the US-government targeted it in the ‘Combating Autism Act of 2006’ which freed up close to a billion dollars to fund screening, education, early intervention, prompt referrals for treatment and services, and research.

I’ll discuss potential drug targets in the future…

Single payer healthcare in the US…. 

I think that unless something major happens to change people’s minds that a single payer drug benefit for Medicare is inevitable in the next few years. If this happens it might not take too long before more momentum builds for nationalized health care coverage. This has a lot us in the pharmaceutical business scared since under the single payer system the government will have a lot more leverage to negotiate lower prices which could mean lower profit for the pharmaceutical companies.

Granted, I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to business and economics but I think that a single payer system for drug benefits will probably not end for the pharmaceutical business. I believe there is money to be made under such a system if companies change the way they do business. It might be ironic, but most of the today’s large pharmaceutical companies got to their big break by manufacturing antibiotics for the government during WWII.

I realize tough times might be ahead of us but being the optimist that I am, I have listed what I think are some of the potential positive aspects of having a single payer system:

1) A single payer system might take some of the uncertainty concerning price and top-line revenue out of the equation, making investors and CEO’s a little less jumpy.

2) While lower prices will impact the top-line in a negative way they might reduce the costs of marketing a drug freeing up money for research and internal investment.

3) Lower prices might hold off some of the generic companies when a compound comes off patent since the lower price will impact theircost/benefit calculations. If the government has the power to negotiate a lower price from the innovator….. they should be able to get an even lower price from the generics since their cost base is much lower.

4) Drugs have a better cost-benefit ratio than other types of medical intervention which might mean that given the choice the government might start directing a higher proportion of federal dollars to drugs under a single payer system.

Oxytocin, not just for mothers

February 21, 2007

I am in the process of writing a review on potential new targets for the treatment of Autism. Sincethe causes of Autism are currently a mystery I have come across a number of unconventional (at least to my thinking) approaches.  For example, I have been fascinated with some recent work published by Eric Hollander at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine showing that the hormone oxytocin can attenuate some of the core symptoms of the disease (doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.05.030). It appears that oxytocin is more and more being appreciated for its ability to act in the brain as a neuropeptide to affect social behaviour. One might guess this has to do its role in enhancing social attachment, for example the special bond felt between mother and child and between mother and father. Some speculate that it activates the “reward feedback” system in the brain, the same one that is activated by opiod drugs such as morphine.