Wednesday, March 4, 2009

AstraZeneca's weight gain and diabetes side effect...

AstraZeneca's weight gain and diabetes side effect cover up, and the sleazy Seroquel sex scandal

In the staid world of drug research, this is about as scandalous as it gets. The antipsychotic drug quetiapine, or Seroquel, is coming under fire.

As MedPage Today reports, damning e-mails from the past are resurfacing, implicating the drug maker for "burying" studies linking the drug to weight gain and diabetes.But here's where it gets juicy.AstraZeneca's former US medical director has admitted prior sexual relationships with both a researcher involved with the Seroquel studies, as well as with a ghost-writer who helped write journal articles involving the drug.

Psychiatrist Daniel Carlat comments further, and points to public court documents, which say the relationships with the women were "relevant and highly probative evidence of one high level AstraZeneca employee's determination to exploit his sexual relationships with these women in order to elevate Seroquel's status in the prescribing medical community through supposedly 'independent' publications of Seroquel safety and efficacy data .

Moreover, the mere existence of these relationships calls into question the integrity of the scientific work product of those involved. "Sex for positive drug spin? That's a first, and I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this scandal.

MRI and needless mastectomies: Perfect Together!

MRI Scans as Overtreatment for Breast Cancer

Yesterday, while scouring KevinMD, I stumbled across a post from “Respectful Insolence,” a blog authored by an academic surgeon/scientist who dubs himself “Orac.” In the post, Orac reports that this Wednesday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2008 Annual Meeting,researchers from the Mayo Clinic will be reporting on a disturbing correlation between the use of breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a rise in the number of women having mastectomies.

In this context, Orac offers a cogent, compelling perspective on why too much cancer screening can harm patients. Orac’s worries specifically relate to using MRI scans to detect breast cancer. Advocates of the procedure rightly claim that MRI scans can detect more growths than other techniques, including mammography [i.e. an x-ray] and a clinical examination.

The MRI technology detects so much that, as the New York Times put it last year, the scans reveal “all sorts of suspicious growths in the breast, leading to many repeat scans and biopsies for things that turn out to be benign.”

In other words, breast MRI scans are so sensitive that if you have breast cancer, there’s an almost 100 percent chance that they’ll detect it; but the technology produces many false positives because it’s not as good at distinguishing between malignant and benign growths. As Orac puts it: “…MRI [scans] now routinely "section" people into "slices" much thinner than 1 cm, making our imaging sensitivity considerably higher than it was 14 years ago.

The problem is that while many people undergo malignant changes in various organs as they grow older than most will never actually develop “clinically apparent cancer.” In fact, some studies have shown that MRI scans accurately detect breast cancer just 30 percent of the time. Though most studies place this rate at a higher level, they also show that mammographies (using x-rays to examine the breast) lead to fewer false positives than MRI scans.