Pharmaceuticals

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Health care types have spent years trying to make the point that seniors are being prescribed medications that are unnecessary and dangerous. But the message hasn't really sunk in.

More than 20 percent of people with Medicare Advantage coverage are taking at least one high-risk medication, a new study finds.

The patent medicines sold in days gone by may, contrary to the name, not have had real government patents. But that didn't stop their makers from claiming the concoctions could cure ailments ranging from indigestion to jaundice and fever.

Now, researchers have put some of these old elixirs and pills in the Henry Ford Museum's large collection of patent medicines to a modern test. They found a mix of potentially harmful metals like lead and mercury along with benign ingredients, including calcium and iron.

With one-quarter of adults over age 45 taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, it figures that more than a few people would have trouble sticking with the program.

More than a few, actually.

A big new study of statin use in the real world found that 17 percent of patients taking the pills reported side effects, including muscle pain, nausea, and problems with their liver or nervous system.

That's a lot higher than the 5 to 10 percent reported in the randomized controlled trials that provided evidence for regulatory approval of the medicines.

A decision by India's Supreme Court to reject Novartis AG's bid to patent a version of one cancer drug could lead to more exports of cheap medicine from that country to "poor people across the developing world," the BBC writes.

NPR's Julie McCarthy tells our Newscast Desk that the ruling, announced Monday, ends a six-year legal battle that has been closely watched by pharmaceutical firms, humanitarian aid organizations and generic drug manufacturers.

She adds that:

United Parcel Post has agreed to forfeit $40 million it made in payments from pharmacies that shipped controlled substances to Americans without valid prescriptions.

Reuters reports:

"The company also agreed to put a compliance program into place to prevent illegal online pharmacies from distributing drugs through its shipping services in the future, authorities said.

Last year, a new drug called Zaltrap was approved as a kind of last-chance therapy for patients with colorectal cancer. Studies suggested Zaltrap worked almost exactly as well as an existing drug called Avastin. In fact, the main difference between the two drugs seemed to be the price.

"I was rather stunned," Dr. Leonard Saltz, who specializes in colorectal cancer, told me.

Zaltrap costs about $11,000 per month — about twice as much as Avastin, Saltz said.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case worth billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies and American consumers. The issue is whether brand-name drug manufacturers may pay generic drug manufacturers to keep generics off the market. These payments — a form of settlement in patent litigation — began to blossom about a decade ago when the courts, for the first time, appeared to bless them.

Go looking for animal products, and apparently you will find them everywhere.

That's the takeaway from the book Veganissimo A to Z, recently translated into English for the first time. What's veganissimo? It's veganism of the highest order, according to the German authors Reuben Proctor and Lars Thomsen, who call themselves "professional vegans." (Is veganism a healthful way to eat? Sorry, we're not going there in this post.)

Adderall and other ADHD medications are among the most prescribed drugs in America.

Quite a few of those pills don't end up being used to treat ADHD, though. They're used as "smart drugs" or "study drugs" by students who find the pills give them a mental edge.

The American Academy of Neurology now says: Stop that.

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