Old Drug Performs New Trick

In what may be the first demonstration of myelin repair in people with multiple sclerosis, an old antihistamine shows modest improvement in the function of chronically demyelinated optic nerves.


Thanks in part to a close collaboration between a scientist and a physician, the prospect of myelin repair therapy in multiple sclerosis (MS) is better than it has ever been. A new study of an old antihistamine may be the first demonstration of effective myelin repair in people, a finding strengthened by follow-up studies in mice. And it probably set some kind of new speed record in moving a science discovery into the clinic for testing.

The randomized double-blind study tested the antihistamine clemastine in 50 people whose relapsing-remitting MS also included long-standing visual system damage known as chronic demyelinating optic neuropathy. The preliminary findings of the phase 2 trial will be presented on Tuesday, 19 April 2016, at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Continue reading “Old Drug Performs New Trick”


A Five-Dimensional View of Pain

Progress report on ACTTION/APS Pain Taxonomy effort

Image:© Andrey Korobov | Dreamstime.com

Leaders of a major effort to systematically classify all common chronic pain conditions expect to have the first stage completed by mid-July 2014. The Pain Taxonomy, a project of the ACTTION public-private partnership, and the American Pain Society is one of two independent initiatives launched last spring to fill a widely perceived need for an updated evidence-based approach to improve diagnosis, treatment, and research of chronic pain (see PRF related news story).

Key issues and decisions of the initial consensus meeting held in May 2013 are summed up in the March 2014 issue of The Journal of Pain. The paper also describes the organizing principles, structured framework, and working outline for the final product.

“We had a lot of discussion about how revolutionary to be,” said Roger Fillingim, director of the University of Florida Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence in Gainesville, US, and co-chair of the taxonomy initiative. In the end, the group decided the field lacked sufficient ammunition in the form of evidence to completely overthrow the prevailing diagnostic approach based on body location, affected tissues, and associated disease states. Continue reading “A Five-Dimensional View of Pain”

Journalist-bloggers write about sex, lies and conflicts of interest


Courtesy Maria Reyes-McDavis/Creative Commons License.

Why blog?

For some of the leading health and science journalist bloggers speaking at a January 2011 event hosted by the New England Science Writers, blogging is a way to satisfy many journalistic ambitions: Have an impact, engage influential audiences, break news, write more enterprising stories, achieve recognition, and draw attention to their other work.

The video is posted here (thanks to Dianne Finch and National Association of Science Writers). Summary and links follow. Continue reading “Journalist-bloggers write about sex, lies and conflicts of interest”

Nobel secrets revealed (some of them, anyway)

Now that all three 2010 Nobel Prizes in the natural sciences have been awarded, speculation can turn to the bigger question: What does it really take to win a Nobel?

History attests to many Prize-worthy candidates who have been passed over and others who have passed away (a Nobel is no longer given posthumously).

Swedish virologist Erling Norrby has the ultimate inside scoop, which he explores in a new book. And he reports that luck can play as much of a role at the highest levels of Nobel decision-making as it does in the prize-worthy discoveries themselves. Continue reading “Nobel secrets revealed (some of them, anyway)”

Factoring in disclosure

Courtesy Expedient InfoMedia/Creative Commons License

In the mid-1980s, a young woman of my acquaintance who distrusted the results of the studies funded by companies with a financial interest in their results was concerned about the side effects of her birth control pills. She asked her gynecologist about the evidence for the risks and benefits.

Her doctor assured her. The modern contraception dosing was so low that the serious side effects associated with the early pill had become quite rare. Her doctor handed her copies of several recent large studies from major medical journals.

Each paper disclosed its funding source: a major pharmaceutical maker.

The woman could not judge the science, but she had closely followed the string of scandals beginning in the late 1970s and mid 1980s that prompted congressional hearings and began eroding public trust in academic-industry relationships. In almost every case, life science researchers with financial interests in the outcome engaged in flagrant misconduct and badly done studies. Continue reading “Factoring in disclosure”

Tell me about it

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To preserve trust in biomedical research findings, many journals require authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest.

Unfortunately, just about every journal—and institution and professional organization—has slightly different rules about what constitutes conflict of interest, said Christine Laine, editor of Annals of Internal Medicine. An author could disclose something for one journal and not for another and still be in compliance with the rules of both journals. Continue reading “Tell me about it”