Posts Tagged ‘New England Journal of Medicine’

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Shown to be Effective

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Researchers have announced the results of a successful experimental malaria vaccine trial. The vaccine, named RTS,S, was developed through a partnership between global health nonprofit PATH and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other public and private partners. Trial findings were revealed at the Gates Foundation Malaria Forum in coordination with publication in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Study results demonstrated that a three-dose vaccination halved the risk of malarial infection and decreased the chances of becoming life-threateningly ill by 47%. The trial involved 15,000 children in 11 sites across sub-Saharan Africa.

Analysis of the vaccine’s capabilities suggests that the vaccine is 35% effective after 2 years, or partially protective. Researchers argue, however, that having a moderately effective malaria vaccine is better than no vaccine at all, especially given the prevalence and severity of malaria infection worldwide; a malaria vaccine of that effectiveness could still prevent malaria infections in tens of thousands of children each year and save many lives. Although a full investigation of the vaccine’s ability to provide long-term protective effects will not be completed until the end of 2014, these initial findings are very promising.

Vasee Moorthy, MD, PhD, of the World Health Organization called these findings a “major scientific achievement” that “if licensed … would be the very first human vaccine against a parasitic disease.”

The success of PATH and GSK’s work also speaks to the strength of product development partnerships as an innovative public-private sector business model that deserves more attention as an effective vehicle to combat global health threats.

“This trial represents a powerful example of the high-quality science that is moving us toward controlling and someday even eradicating malaria,” said PATH President and CEO Christopher Elias, MD, MPH.

GSK will sell the vaccine at 5% over its production cost, with all proceeds going to fund additional research for a second-generation malaria vaccine. The vaccine could be available as early as 2015.

AHRQ’s Answer for Better Health Care? Questions

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Last week, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality launched a new program intended to improve communication between doctors and patients. The program – Questions are the Answer – encourage patients to ensure they’re receiving sufficient information before a decision on treatment.

AHRQ hopes to drive this point home through a website, a series of public service ads (in conjunction with the Ad Council) and stories from patients and clinicians.

“We know that when patients and clinicians communicate well, care is better. But in today’s fast-paced health care system, good communication isn’t always the norm,” AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, said in a statement. “This campaign reminds us all that effective communication between patients and their health care team is important and that it is possible—even when time is limited.”

The program offers 10 questions that every patient should know – and be unafraid to ask their clinician:

  • What is the test for?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • When will I get the results?
  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Which hospital is best for my needs?
  • How do you spell the name of that drug?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Will this medicine interact with medicines I’m already taking?

The website includes other interactive features designed to help patients feel comfortable getting their pertinent questions answered.

But the campaign isn’t solely targeted at patients. According to AHRQ, ad space in several relevant journals has been donated to promote the program. The agency says ads will run in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, American Family Physician, Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and Journal for Nurse Practitioners, among others.

Friday’s Media Links of Interest

Friday, June 18th, 2010

A few interesting links to check out on a Friday:

First, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, (PDF) co-authored a Perspectives column for the New England Journal of Medicine entitled, “The Path to Personalized Medicine.”

They write:

Moving from concept to clinical use requires basic, translational, and regulatory science. On the basic-science front, studies are identifying many genetic variations underlying the risks of both rare and common diseases. These newly discovered genes, proteins, and pathways can represent powerful new drug targets, but currently there is insufficient evidence of a downstream market to entice the private sector to explore most of them. To fill that void, the NIH and the FDA will develop a more integrated pathway that connects all the steps between the identification of a potential therapeutic target by academic researchers and the approval of a therapy for clinical use. This pathway will include NIH-supported centers where researchers can screen thousands of chemicals to find potential drug candidates, as well as public–private partnerships to help move candidate compounds into commercial development.

The NIH will implement this strategy through such efforts as the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) program. With an open environment, permitting the involvement of all the world’s top experts on a given disease, the TRND program will enable certain promising compounds to be taken through the preclinical development phase — a time-consuming, high-risk phase that pharmaceutical firms call “the valley of death.” Besides accelerating the development of drugs to treat rare and neglected diseases, the TRND program may also help to identify molecularly distinct subtypes of some common diseases, which may lead to new therapeutic possibilities, either through the development of targeted drugs or the salvaging of abandoned or failed drugs by identifying subgroups of patients likely to benefit from them.

Hamburg and Collins also mention the collaboration between the FDA and the NIH that works on translational science. That collaboration is already paying off, they write, with a recent discovery that identifies “new investigational agents to which certain tumors, identified by their genetic signatures, are responsive.”

The Boston Globe reports that Pfizer Inc., a Research!America member, will open a rare disease research and development center in Cambridge, Mass.

Pfizer, in an alliance with Israel-based Protalix BioTherapeutics Inc., will study hemophilia as well as treatments for muscular dystrophy and serious diseases caused by genetic mutations, the paper reported. Further partnerships with Boston-area universities and biotech firms may also be possible.

Also, this Sunday’s issue of Parade magazine will focus on cancer. There are several stories already online at Parade’s website. One of the stories was written by Collins, another by Jessie Gruman, PhD; her organization, the Center for Advancing Health, won a Research!America Advocacy Award in 2006.

To see if your local newspaper distributes Parade, go to the magazine’s homepage and scroll down for a list of partner newspapers.

NEJM: Why Don’t We Spend Enough on Public Health

Monday, May 10th, 2010

In last week’s New England Journal of Medicine, David Hemenway, PhD, writes about public health funding.

In contrast, public health — in which most resources are focused on trying to keep something bad from happening in the first place — is seemingly mundane, its efforts and prime movers often all but invisible.

It is generally acknowledged that public health is systematically underfunded and that shifting resources at the margin from cures to prevention could reduce the population’s morbidity and mortality. I believe there are four key reasons for such underfunding.

First, the benefits of public health programs lie in the future. … Second, the beneficiaries of public health measures are generally unknown. … People have stronger emotional and moral reactions to the plights of identifiable victims than to those of statistical victims. … Third, in public health, the benefactors, too, are often unknown.

Read Dr. Hemenway’s entire post online.

NEJM: Cholera in Africa

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Dr. Richard L. Guerrant, Director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research Ambassador, is a co-author with Dr. Eric Mintz, leader of CDC’s Diarrheal Diseases Epidemiology Team, of “A Lion in Our Village – The Unconscionable Tragedy of Cholera in Africa” published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“A Lion in Our Village – The Unconscionable Tragedy of Cholera in Africa” details the burden of cholera in Zimbabwe and other surrounding African countries in the past year. Rarely seen in the United States, cholera used to be endemic in South Asia before oral rehydration therapy was introduced and reduced the fatality rate from 30 percent to less than 1 percent. After a century long absence, a cholera epidemic in Latin America in the 1990s was met with swift investment in drinking water, sanitation and health care.