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Live Notes from @HarvardMed Bioethics: Authors Jerome Groopman, MD & Pamela Hartzband, MD, discuss Your Medical Mind

Writer: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

As part of the Harvard Medical School Series on Bioethics: author, clinician and professor Jerome Groopman, MD and Pamel Harzband, MD gave an online discussion of their book “Your Medical Mind”, a part of Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics Program’s Critical Reading of Contemporary Books in Bioethics Series. The Contemporary Authors in Bioethics series brings together authors and the community to discuss books that explore new and developing topics in the field. This was held as an online Zoom meeting on March 26, 2020 at 5 pm EST and could be followed on Twitter using #HarvardBioethics.  A recording of the discussion will be made available at the Harvard Med School Center for Bioethics.

 

Available at Amazon: From the Amazon book description:

An entirely new way to make the best medical decisions.

Making the right medical decisions is harder than ever. We are overwhelmed by information from all sides—whether our doctors’ recommendations, dissenting experts, confusing statistics, or testimonials on the Internet. Now Doctors Groopman and Hartzband reveal that each of us has a “medical mind,” a highly individual approach to weighing the risks and benefits of treatments.  Are you a minimalist or a maximalist, a believer or a doubter, do you look for natural healing or the latest technology?  The authors weave vivid narratives of real patients with insights from recent research to demonstrate the power of the medical mind. After reading this groundbreaking book, you will know how to arrive at choices that serve you best.

 

Doctors Groopman and Hartzband began the discussion with a recapping medical research studies and medical panels, which had reported conflicting results or reversal of recommendations, respectively.  These included studies on the benefits of statin therapy in cholesterol management, studies on whether or not Vitamin D therapy is beneficial for postmenopausal women, the ongoing controversy on the frequency with which women should get mammograms, as well as the predictive value of Prostate Specific Antigen and prostate cancer screening.  The authors singled out the research reports and medical panels reviewing the data on PSA in which the same medical panel first came out in support of using PSA levels to screen for prostate cancer and then later, after reconvening, recommended that PSA was not useful for mass screenings for prostate cancer.

In fact, both authors were

completed surprised of the diametrically opposed views within or between panels given similar data presented to those medical professionals.

The authors then asked a question:  Why would the same medical panel come to a reversal of their decision and more, importantly,  why are there such disparate conclusions from the same medical data sets, leading to varied clinical decision-making.

In general, Drs. Groopman and Hartzband asked how do physicians and patients make their decisions?

To answer this they looked at studies that Daniel Bernouli had conducted to model the economic behaviors of risk aversion in the marketplace. Bernouli’s theorem correlated market expectation with probability and outcomes

expectation = probability x utility of outcome

However, in medicine, one can measure probability (or risk) but it is very hard to measure utility (which is the value or worth of the outcome).

For example, they gave an example if a person was born blind but offered a risky to regain sight, the individual values their quality of life from their own perspective and might feel that, as their life is worthwhile as it is, they would not undergo a risky procedure. However a person who had suddenly lost their sight might value sight more, and be willing to undergo a risky procedure.

Three methods are used to put a value on utility or outcome worth with regards to medical decisions

  1. linear scale (life or death; from 0 to 1)
  2. time trade off:  e.g. how much longer do I have to live
  3. standard gamble:  let’s try it

All of these methods however are flawed because one doesn’t know their future medical condition (e.g. new information on the disease) and people values and perceptions change over time.

An example of choice of methods the medical community uses to make decisions include:

  • In the United Kingdom, their system uses a time trade off method to determine value in order to determine appropriate course of action which may inadvertently, result in rationed care
  • in the United States, the medical community uses the time trade off to determine cost effectiveness

 

Therefore Drs. Groopman and Harztband, after conducing multiple interviews with patients and physicians were able to categorize medical decision making based on groups of mindsets

  1. Maximalist: Proactive behavior, wants to stay ahead of the curve
  2. Minimalist: less intervention is more; more hesitant to try any suggested therapy
  3. Naturalist:  more prone to choose natural based therapies or home remedies
  4. Tech Oriented: wants to try the latest therapies and more apt to trust in branded and FDA approved therapeutics
  5. Believer:  trust in suggestions by physician; physician trusts medical panels suggestions
  6. Doubter: naturally inquisitive and more prone to investigate risk benefits of any suggested therapy

The authors also identified many Cognitive Traps that both physicians and patients may fall into including:

  • Relative versus Absolute Numbers: for instance putting emphasis on one number or the other without regard to context; like looking at disease numbers without taking into consideration individual risk
  • Availability: availability or lack of available information; they noticed if you fall in this trap depends on whether you are a Minimalist or Maximalist
  • Framing:  for example  when people talk to others about their conditions and hear stories about others treatments, conditions .. mainly anecdotal evidence

Stories can be helpful but they sometimes increase our overestimation of risk or benefit so framing the information is very important for both the patient as well as the physician (even doctors as patients)

Both authors have noticed a big shift in US to minimalism probably because of the rising costs of healthcare.

How do these mindsets affect the patient-physician relationship?

A University of Michigan study revealed that patients who would be characterized as maximalists pushed their physicians to do more therapy and were more prone to seek outside advice.

Physicians need to understand and listen to their patients during the patients’s first visit and determine what medical mindset that this patient has.

About the authors:

Jerome Groopman, M.D. is the Dina and Raphael Recanati Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Chief of Experimental Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and one of the world’s leading researchers in cancer and AIDS. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker and has written for The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal,The Washington Post and The New Republic. He is author of The Measure of Our Days (1997), Second Opinions (2000), Anatomy of Hope (2004), How Doctors Think (2007), and the recently released, Your Medical Mind.

Dr. Pamela Hartzband is an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Medical School and Attending Physician in the Division of Endocrinology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She specializes in disorders of the thyroid and pituitary glands. A magna cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College, Harvard University, she received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She served her internship and residency in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and her specialty fellowships in endocrinology and metabolism at UCLA.

More articles on BioEthics and Patient experiences in this Online Open Access Journal Include:

Ethics Behind Genetic Testing in Breast Cancer: A Webinar by Laura Carfang of survivingbreastcancer.org

Tweets and Re-Tweets by @Pharma_BI ‏and @AVIVA1950 at 2019 Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference: Consuming Genetics: Ethical and Legal Considerations of New Technologies, Friday, May 17, 2019 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM EDT @Harvard_Law

Innovation + Technology = Good Patient Experience

Drivers of Patient Experience

Factors in Patient Experience

Patient Experience Survey

Please also see our offering on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076HGB6MZ

“The VOICES of Patients, Hospital CEOs, Health Care Providers, Caregivers and Families: Personal Experience with Critical Care and Invasive Medical Procedures,”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: After Trump’s Drug Pricing Blueprint: What Happens Next? A View from Washington; June 3 2019 1:00 PM Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

 

Speaker: Dan Todd, JD

Dan Todd is the Principal of Todd Strategy, LLC, a consulting firm founded in 2014 and based in Washington, DC. He provides legislative and regulatory strategic guidance and advocacy for healthcare stakeholders impacted by federal healthcare programs.

Prior to Todd Strategy, Mr. Todd was a Senior Healthcare Counsel for the Republican staff of the Senate Finance Committee, the Committee of jurisdiction for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. His areas of responsibility for the committee included the Medicare Part B and Part D programs, which includes physician, medical device, diagnostic and biopharmaceutical issues.

Before joining the Finance Committee, Mr. Todd spent several years in the biotechnology industry, where he led policy development and government affairs strategy. He also represented his companies’ interests with major trade associations such as PhRMA and BIO before federal and state representatives, as well as with key stakeholders such as physician and patient advocacy organizations.

Dan also served as a Special Assistant in the Office of the Administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency charged with the operation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. While at CMS, Dan worked on Medicare Part B and Part D issues during the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act from 2003 to 2005.

Cost efficiencies were never measured.

Removing drug rebates would cost 180 billion over 10 years. CBO came up with similar estimate.  Not sure what Congress will do. It appears they will keep the rebates in.

  • House  Dems are really going after PBMs; anytime the Administration makes a proposal goes right into CBO baseline estimates;  negotiations appear to be in very early stages and estimates are up in the air
  • WH close to meet a budget cap but then broke down in next day; total confusion in DC on budget; healthcare is now held up, especially the REBATE rule; : is a shame as panel agrees cost savings would be huge
  • they had initiated a study to tie the costs of PartB to international drug prices; meant to get at disparity on international drug prices; they currently are only mulling the international price index; other option is to reform Part B;  the proposed models were brought out near 2016 elections so not much done; unified agenda;
  • most of the response of Congress relatively publicly muted; a flat fee program on biologics will have big effect on how physicians and health systems paid; very cat and mouse game in DC around drug pricing
  • administration is thinking of a PartB “inflation cap”;  committees are looking at it seriously; not a rebate;  discussion of tiering of physician payments
  • Ways and Means Cmmtte:  proposing in budget to alleve some stresses on PartB deductable amounts;
  • PartD: looking at ways to shore it up; insurers 80% taxpayers 20% responsible; insurers think it will increase premiums but others think will reduce catastrophic costs; big part of shift in spending in Part D has been this increase in catastrophic costs
  • this week they may actually move through committees on this issue; Administration trying to use the budgetary process to drive this bargain;  however there will have to be offsets so there may be delays in process

Follow or Tweet on Twitter using the following @ and # (hashtags)

@pharma_BI

@AVIVA1950

@BIOConvention

@PCPCC

#BIO2019

#patientcost

#PrimaryCare

 

Other articles on this Open Access Journal on Healthcare Costs, Payers, and Patient Care Include:

The Arnold Relman Challenge: US HealthCare Costs vs US HealthCare Outcomes

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that the federal healthcare program will cover the costs of cancer gene tests that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration

Trends in HealthCare Economics: Average Out-of-Pocket Costs, non-Generics and Value-Based Pricing, Amgen’s Repatha and AstraZeneca’s Access to Healthcare Policies

Can Blockchain Technology and Artificial Intelligence Cure What Ails Biomedical Research and Healthcare

Live Conference Coverage @Medcity Converge 2018 Philadelphia: Oncology Value Based Care and Patient Management

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Live Conference Coverage @Medcity Converge 2018 Philadelphia: Oncology Value Based Care and Patient Management

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

3:15 – 4:00 PM Breakout: What’s A Good Model for Value-Based Care in Oncology?

How do you implement a value-based care model in oncology? Medicare has created a bundled payment model in oncology and there are lessons to be learned from that and other programs. Listen to two presentations from experts in the field.

Moderator: Mahek Shah, M.D., Senior Researcher, Harvard Business School @Mahek_MD
Speakers:
Charles Saunders M.D., CEO, Integra Connect
Mari Vandenburgh, Director of Value-Based Reimbursement Operations, Highmark @Highmark

 

Mari: Building strategic partnerships with partners focused on population based health and evidence based outcomes. they provide data analytics and consultative services.  Incorporate risk based systems.  also looking at ancillary segments because they see cost savings.  True Performance is their flagship performance program and 11% lower ED (saving $18 million) rates and 16% lower readmissions ($200 million cost savings).  Also launched the Highmark Cancer care Program with Johns Hopkins.  They monitor the adherence pathways and if clinician shows good adherence they give reimbursements.

Charles:  Integra is a cloud based care platform focused on oncology and urology and allow clinicians to practice value based care. Providers must now focus on total cost including ER visits, end of life and therapies (which is half of total cost in US).  The actionable ways to reduce costs is by reducing ER visits.  What is working? Data on reimbursements models is very accurate so practices can dig into data and find effieciencies.  However most practices do not have the analytics to do this.

  • care navigation
  • care path based treatment choices
  • enhanced patient access and experience

What is not working

  • data not structured so someone has to do manual curation of records
  • flawed logic based on plurality of visits but physician doesn’t know who else they saw
  • target pricing not taking into account high prices of new therapies
  • lack of timely reporting either by patient or physician
  • insufficient reimbursements
  • technology limitations

 

4:10- 4:55 Breakout: What Patients Want and Need On Their Journey

Cancer patients are living with an existential threat every day. A panel of patients and experts in oncology care management will discuss what’s needed to make the journey for oncology patients a bit more bearable.

sponsored by CEO Council for Growth

Moderator: Amanda Woodworth, M.D., Director of Breast Health, Drexel University College of Medicine
Speakers:
Kezia Fitzgerald, Chief Innovation Officer & Co-Founder, CareAline® Products, LLC
Sara Hayes, Senior Director of Community Development, Health Union @SaraHayes_HU
Katrece Nolen, Cancer Survivor and Founder, Find Cancer Help @KatreceNolen
John Simpkins, Administrative DirectorService Line Director of the Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia @ChildrensPhila

 

Kezia: was a cancer patient as well as her child getting treated at two different places and tough part was coordinating everything including treatments and schedules, working schedules

Katrece: had problem scheduling with oncologists because misdiagnosis and her imaging records were on CD and surgeon could not use the CD

John:  the above are a common frustration among patients at a time when they don’t need the confusion. He feels cancer centers need to coordinate these services better

Sara:  trying to assist people with this type of coordination is very tough even with all the resources

Kazia:  she needed to do all the research on her own because big dichotomy being an adult and a pediatric patient where pediatrics get more information and patient centered care. She felt she felt burdening the physicians if she asked the same questions.  How can we get more interaction with primary care physicians and feel comfortable with their interaction?

John: there is this dichotomy especially on wait times for adults is usually longer.  We can also improve patient experience with counseling patients

Katrece: Just working with a patient navigator is not enough.  The patient needs to take charge of their disease.

Sara: Patient communities can help as sometimes patients learn from other patients.

Amanda:  in breast cancer , navigators are common but must take care they are not only people patients see after a while

John:  at CHOP they also have a financial navigator.  On the adult side there are on call financial navigators.  Recent change of the high deductible plans are a major problem.  Although new families are starting to become comfortable with the financial navigator

Katrece:  guiding your children through your experience is important.  It was also important for her to advocate for herself as she had three different sites of cancer care to coordinate and multiple teams to coordinate with each other

Amanda:  A common theme seems to be hard trying to find the resources you need.  Why is that?

Kazia:  Sometimes it is hard to talk about your disease because it can be emotionally draining comforting other people who you told about the disease and they are being empathetic.  Sometimes they want to keep their ‘journey’ to themselves

John:  A relative kept her disease secret because she didn’t want to burden others…. a common cancer patient concern

Sara: Moderation of a social group is necessary to keep it a safe space and prevent trollers (like in Facebook support groups).

Kazia:  most group members will get together and force those trollers out of the group

Katrece: alot of anxiety after treatment ends, patient feels like being dropped on the floor like they don’t get support after treatment.  If there were survivorship navigators might be helpful

Amanda: for breast cancer they do a Survivor Care Package but just a paper packet, patients do appreciate it but a human coordinator would be a great idea

 

 

 

 

Please follow on Twitter using the following #hashtags and @pharma_BI

#MCConverge

#cancertreatment

#healthIT

#innovation

#precisionmedicine

#healthcaremodels

#personalizedmedicine

#healthcaredata

And at the following handles:

@pharma_BI

@medcitynews

 

Please see related articles on Live Coverage of Previous Meetings on this Open Access Journal

LIVE – Real Time – 16th Annual Cancer Research Symposium, Koch Institute, Friday, June 16, 9AM – 5PM, Kresge Auditorium, MIT

Real Time Coverage and eProceedings of Presentations on 11/16 – 11/17, 2016, The 12th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL, Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston

Tweets Impression Analytics, Re-Tweets, Tweets and Likes by @AVIVA1950 and @pharma_BI for 2018 BioIT, Boston, 5/15 – 5/17, 2018

BIO 2018! June 4-7, 2018 at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/press-coverage/

 

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Measuring generic medicine performance

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

Measuring performance in off-patent drug markets

Category: Abstracted Scientific Content
Author(s):
GaBi 2015; 4(4).   http://gabi-journal.net/issues/vol-4-2015-issue-4

 

Generic medicines can play a role in curbing rising pharmaceutical costs, and therefore the cornerstone of key policies within Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries has been to promote the wider use of generics after patent expiry or loss of market exclusivity of originator drugs. At patent expiry however, prices and market share of different generics in different countries vary significantly [1, 2] compared with branded originator drugs. Studies examining the effect of generics entry on originator prices and market share have produced contradictory results [3, 4].

In an attempt to address the key concerns of decision makers about the performance of generic policies, Kanavos [5] has developed a methodological framework comprising five indicators (independent of policy mix) that can be used as a benchmark for evaluating generic policy in non-tendering settings once originators lose exclusivity. These indicators are: (1) generic drug availability after patent expiry; (2) delay in time to generic entry; (3) number of generic competitors; (4) price development of originators and generics after loss of exclusivity; and (5) evolution of generic volume market share.

Kanavos [5] proposes a number of metrics to assess the performance of each of the indicators over time. For generic drug availability, the metrics include: (1) the share of total molecules studied in each country, with generic entry within the first 12 and 24 months after patent expiry; (2) the proportion of total sales facing generic entry within the same time-frame; and (3) the proportion of sales facing generic entry in the top and bottom decile of each market by sales, 12 and 24 months after patent expiry.

Intercontinental Medical Statistics data (last quarter of 1998 to the last quarter of 2010) for 101 molecules that had lost patent protection in 12 EU countries were analysed to test and measure the performance of the indicators. Countries were divided into three tiers according to perceived strength of their generic policies. The aim was to understand the drivers behind generic entry and competition in each country, and to identify any associated changes in prices, sales and market share over time after the originator patent had expired.

The empirical analysis carried out by Kanavos [5] confirms the hypothesis that different regulatory policies produce diverse outcomes. Some general predictions were confirmed, and the expected effects of individual policies were questioned.

Tier 1 countries (Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK), for example, had high levels of generic prescribing and substitution, consistently less time delay to generic entry, higher numbers of generic competitors, faster price declines and higher generic volume shares compared with Tier III countries (Greece, Italy and Portugal), which showed opposite trends; these countries implemented price capping on generics and had fewer incentives for generic prescribing. Tier II countries (Austria, Finland, France, Spain and Sweden) had moderate levels of generic prescribing and used price reduction strategies.

Price reductions in some countries implementing supply-side measures, such as price capping or linking generic price to the originator price as done in Greece, Italy and France, were significantly slower over time than seen in countries that did not have these controls, such as Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK; countries with no such controls had the shortest delay in time to generic entry and the highest rate of generic penetration.

Kanavos [5] questions the extent to which reference pricing facilitates faster and more extensive generic competition after patent expiry. In Sweden and the UK, which do not have international reference pricing (IRP), delays to generics entry are shorter compared with countries that have IRP. The UK’s open-market pricing system for post-patent drugs allows price competition to be achieved quickly after patent expiry, and the decreases in the price of both generic and originator drugs 12 and 24 months after patient expiry are relatively large. Other reasons accounting for the speed of competition in the UK include implementation of attempts to teach medical students the cost-saving benefits of generic products, and implementation of mandatory International Nonproprietary Names (INN) prescribing.

Germany, in contrast, has an established IRP system but a more competitive market compared with the UK. An association, however, was identified between the use of reference pricing and a pattern of high prices for originator drugs and continually decreasing prices for originator drugs after patent expiry. The volume share for generics 24 months after originator patent expiry is large in Germany. Greece is an outlier; although it has implemented a reference pricing system, this has not been reinforced with INN prescribing or mandatory generic substitution that could increase generic uptake.

Another question addressed by Kanavos [5] is the effect of the introduction of generic drugs on the prices of originators whose patents have expired. In most cases, prices of originator drugs were found to decline in response to generic entry. Paradoxically, in Germany and Denmark, prices of originator drugs in fact increased [6, 7]. The opposite has been observed in Greece, where prices of off-patent originators that do not face generic entry generally decreased although in some cases they increased. This suggests that generic competition and availability of generics are important determinants of price reductions of off-patient originator brands, since in their absence the price of these products can increase.

Countries that have strong demand-side policies, e.g. mandatory or strongly encouraged INN prescribing, have a higher degree of generic penetration after patent expiry and lower time delays to generic entry compared with countries that do not encourage these policies. The effect of generic pricing and substitution, however, may be related to the specific components of the policies, i.e. whether physicians or patients are permitted to overrule generic substitution and whether pharmacists are offered incentives or disincentives to dispense generic over branded products, as well as the price difference between originator brand and generic.

Although the author acknowledges some limitations to the study, he suggests that the broad conclusions and specific findings have important policy implications. He believes that further research is needed to identify the most effective policy mix that will maximize generic entry and penetrations and lead to greater expenditure optimization by health insurers.

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Victoria Hale: Pharmaceutical Pioneer

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

Bringing Life-Saving Medicine to Those Who Can Least Afford It

http://www.genengnews.com/insight-and-intelligence/victoria-hale-pharmaceutical-pioneer/77900545/

The quest for innovative, affordable, and sustainable medical solutions for women has driven Victoria Hale, Ph.D., to start multiple companies. [iStock/© zodebala]

http://www.genengnews.com/media/images/AnalysisAndInsight/Oct27_2015_iStock_22080713_FamilyPoverty1381802542.jpg

http://www.genengnews.com/Media/images/AnalysisAndInsight/oct27_2015_VictoriaHale_Headshot5521815813.jpg

  • Three years into working for Genentech, Victoria Hale, Ph.D., faced a pivotal moment. Her career was on track to becoming a high-ranking, well-paid executive in one of the major pharmaceutical companies. Instead, she quit her job to create a whole new model for the way pharmaceuticals are developed.

Prior to Genentech, while working at the FDA, she witnessed an example of what happens to medicines for unprofitable markets. A pharmaceutical company was developing one new drug for two promising indications, one a potential blockbuster and the other an orphan disease. Corporate executives decided to focus on the blockbuster and abandon the orphan disease because it distracted the team from the more profitable indication.

Dr. Hale saw this as a glaring injustice.

“I felt that it was important to make drugs for everyone who needs them, regardless of whatever level they can pay,” she says. “People cannot develop medicines themselves. Experienced, trained professionals are the only ones who know how to do this. There are people who have medicines for any disease here, while 5,000 miles away babies are dying for lack of simple medications.”

Observing the inequities in how drugs were distributed, she asked a fundamental question: “What if we removed the profit requirement? What if we created a nonprofit model for developing pharmaceuticals?”

As someone with a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Hale was well aware that bringing a new drug to market can cost in the billions. Her strategy, with a future nonprofit, was to find drugs with patents that had expired or which were not being used because of low profit margins. Even so, getting governmental approval for a new use for an existing drug can cost $50 million.

  • Struck a Chord

Nevertheless her vision of creating a nonprofit model for addressing injustices in how drugs are distributed began attracting donors. Her first major fundraising success came when the Gates Foundation provided her with a $4.7 million check for seed money. In the years since, she has been granted $150 million in total for several programs. Other philanthropic organizations have continued to fund her efforts, and, surprisingly, if not amazingly, Dr. Hale was able to find an anonymous donor who provided an $82 million grant to fund low-cost highly effective contraception efforts.

Dr. Hale can point to many examples of how this nonprofit approach has successfully played out in practice. One example is the work that the company she founded in 2000, OneWorld Health, is doing in providing a cure for black fever. This is a disease that has historically infected a million people a year in India leading to 300,000 death annually.

Black fever, or visceral leishmaniasis, is a disease of the poor. A malnourished person may have a compromised immune system, making him or her vulnerable to the parasite that causes leishmaniasis.

“When I was first looking into black fever,” remembers Dr. Hale, “there was a treatment available, but the cost was more than $100, and families faced the choice of going into debt for three generations or allowing the family member to die.”

Dr. Hale learned of an injectable antibiotic, paromomycin, that was apparently effective against the parasite in the laboratory setting. It hadn’t been formally studied in people for use against black fever, and there was no money to continue further research on it, so although a cure existed, it hadn’t been proven and it wasn’t available for those who needed it. However, using her nonprofit approach, Dr. Hale and her colleagues were able to raise the $50 million from the Gates Foundation for clinical trials in India, and succeeded in demonstrating efficacy and safety.

Today, Dr. Hale, who was awarded the 2015 Award for Leadership in Women’s Health Worldwide at the 23rd Annual Congress of the Academy of Women’s Health, and her colleagues are able to produce paromomycin for $10 per treatment. As a result, and combined with other public health interventions, India may soon be free of this scourge.

Another of Dr. Hale’s concerns is unwanted pregnancy. Her organization Medicines360 is able to provide an IUD that has a 40-fold greater success rate than the pill, it lasts for three years, and is sold for $50 each to women who lack adequate insurance. Medicines360 makes it available to family planning clinics that provide services to low-income women. The consequences for women and for society are incalculable.

Like OneWorld Health, Medicines360 is also a new approach to pharmaceuticals. Medicines360 is particularly aimed at pharmaceuticals for women, and it has a unique operating model: it reinvests profits generated through commercial sales revenue and puts these profits into advocacy, education, research, and development. The goal is to provide innovative, affordable, and sustainable medical solutions for women.

For Medicines360, profits aren’t the motive; they’re the means to a mission. Dr. Hale believes that her nonprofit can be a model for other nonprofit pharmaceutical companies and also for hybrid companies that could get part of their funding from philanthropists and part from traditional sources. She already knows that there are young idealistic people who will carry the model forward and who are pushing this agenda.

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Doubts about Valeant’s Activity in California

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

Documents Raise New Questions About Valeant’s Pharmacy Relationships in California

A key Valeant pharmacy was denied a license in California for making false statements. Months later, people affiliated with it gained an ownership stake in a licensed pharmacy.

Charles Ornstein  ProPublica, Oct. 22, 2015

Over the last week, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, a large drug maker, has seen its stock price plunge amid allegations of questionable dealings with pharmacies.

Now ProPublica has obtained documents showing how people affiliated with Valeant’s main pharmacy used a backdoor approach to gain an ownership stake in California after the pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services, was denied a permit to operate in the state.

Philidor’s license application was denied in May 2014 after the California Board of Pharmacy accused the company and its representatives of making “false statements of fact.” Specifically, the board said Philidor lied when listing the pharmacy’s owners, its accountant and its authorized signatories for financial transactions.

Several months later, a holding company whose chief executive identifies herself onlineas Philidor’s director of pharmacy operations purchased a 10 percent stake in West Wilshire Pharmacy in Los Angeles.

Since last Friday, Valeant’s stock has plummeted almost 40 percent as investors have raised as-yet-unanswered questions about its accounting and business practices, particularly its relationship with so-called specialty pharmacies that generally charge patients lower co-payments than retail pharmacies.

Disclosure of the West Wilshire transaction seems likely to intensify those questions. It’s unclear how it enables Philidor or Valeant to distribute drugs any more easily than a contractual relationship with a California pharmacy would. Calls to Philidor, Valeant and West Wilshire were not returned.

Virginia Herold, the executive officer of California’s Board of Pharmacy, said it’s vital that pharmacies and their owners provide truthful information to the board.

“The board spends a lot of time investigating applications to ensure the individuals are who they say they are,” Herold said, though she declined to discuss Philidor specifically because the pharmacy has appealed its license denial. “It is a concern to us when someone misrepresents that.”

Valeant rose to prominence through acquisitions of drugs and companies, including Bausch & Lomb and skin-care company Medicis. It specializes in taking over companies with portfolios of small, sleepy drugs, slashing research and development spending, and raising drug prices aggressively. A bevy of high-profile hedge funds, most prominently Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management, have taken big stakes in Valeant.

Increasingly, Valeant and other drug companies are encouraging patients to use specialty pharmacies. They are essentially mail-order pharmacies that help patients and doctors navigate insurance company requirements.

Specialty pharmacies are seen as a reliable distribution channel for expensive drugs, offering patients convenience and lower costs while maximizing insurance reimbursements from those companies that cover the drug. Patients typically pay the same co-payments whether or not their insurers cover the drug.

But investors are concerned that Quebec-based Valeant has not disclosed the full extent of its relationship with Philidor and its network of other pharmacies. They also are concerned about the convoluted ownership structure of the network, which has only grown more confusing with Valeant’s recent disclosures.

Camarillo, Calif.-based R&O Pharmacy filed a lawsuit in federal court against Valeant earlier this month, contending Valeant demanded it pay $69 million for drugs even though “it seems that Valeant has no evidence whatsoever to back up its claims.”

R&O’s complaint postulated two theories to explain Valeant’s actions: “1. Valeant and R&O are victims of a massive fraud perpetuated by third parties; or 2. Valeant is conspiring with other persons or entities to perpetuate a massive fraud against R&O and others.”

The lawsuit was first reported on Monday by a group called the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation.

During a conference call with analysts on Monday, Valeant said that R&O is one of the specialty pharmacies in its network. Valeant said it shipped approximately $69 million worth of drugs to R&O, which was worth about $25 million to Valeant’s bottom line.

“R&O is improperly holding amounts it received from payers,” Valeant said in a slide presentation.

Valeant also disclosed for the first time Monday that it had a “contractual relationship with Philidor and late last year we purchased an option to acquire Philidor.” Philidor is based in Hatboro, Penn., outside Philadelphia.

Then, on Wednesday, Philidor issued its own statement shedding a little more light on its network. Philidor said it is licensed in 46 states and the District of Columbia. “Philidor has contractual relationships with the affiliated pharmacies, such as R&O Pharmacy, under which we provide those services. Philidor does not currently have a direct equity ownership in R&O Pharmacy or the affiliated pharmacies, but does have a contractual right to acquire the pharmacies now or in the future subject to regulatory approval.”

Neither Valeant nor Philidor made reference to West Wilshire Pharmacy.

ProPublica pieced together some details about what’s gone on in California using documents requested under the state’s Public Records Act and other documents on the state pharmacy board’s website.

Philidor applied for a California license in August 2013, listing Matthew S. Davenport as its chief executive. The board denied the application on May 16, 2014, citing “false statements of fact” and failure to comply with pharmacy laws, among other things.

In a Philidor filing with the federal government in July 2013, it lists Andrew Davenport as its CEO. Andrew Davenport, who is reported to be Matthew Davenport’s brother, also was featured as the pharmacy’s chief executive in an interview posted recently on theFacebook page of a Pennsylvania state senator.

Matthew Davenport is listed as the chief innovation officer of BQ6 Media Group, which bills itself as a “privately held marketing firm specializing in pharmaceutical communications.”

Until last year, West Wilshire was owned entirely by Shahrokh Makhani, a licensed pharmacist. He sold a 10 percent stake in August to a company called Lucena Holdings LLC., which was formed in Delaware but has an address in Ambler, Penn.

Lucena lists Sherri Leon as its chief executive officer. Leon’s LinkedIn page lists her as director of pharmacy operations for Philidor since August 2013.

Also listed as an ownerof Lucena is Gregory W. Blaszczynski. He was Philidor’s bookkeeper, accountant and a signatory on its financial transactions, according to the pharmacy board’s denial of Philidor’s license. Blaszczynski is also listed as chief financial officer of BQ6 Media Group, where Matthew Davenport works.

There are other indications that Philidor and West Wilshire are closely tied. West Wilshire’s online privacy policy mentions Philidor directly. In addition, both companies direct questions to the same toll-free number. West Wilshire’s website is also hosted on an online network that belongs to Philidor.

On Thursday afternoon, Valeant announced that it would hold a conference call Monday to “lay out the facts including allegations made against our company regarding our relationship with Philidor and R&O.”

It said many of the reports to date “contain numerous errors, unsupported speculation and incorrect interpretations of facts and circumstances to the detriment of the shareholders of the company.”

ProPublica reporter Jesse Eisinger contributed to this report.

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Protecting Your Biotech IP and Market Strategy: Notes from Life Sciences Collaborative 2015 Meeting


 

Protecting Your Biotech IP and Market Strategy: Notes from Life Sciences Collaborative 2015 Meeting

Achievement Beyond Regulatory Approval – Design for Commercial Success

philly2nightStephen J. Williams, Ph.D.: Reporter

The Mid-Atlantic group Life Sciences Collaborative, a select group of industry veterans and executives from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device sectors whose mission is to increase the success of emerging life sciences businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region through networking, education, training and mentorship, met Tuesday March 3, 2015 at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (USP) to discuss post-approval regulatory issues and concerns such as designing strong patent protection, developing strategies for insurance reimbursement, and securing financing for any stage of a business.

The meeting was divided into three panel discussions and keynote speech:

  1. Panel 1: Design for Market Protection– Intellectual Property Strategy Planning
  2. Panel 2: Design for Market Success– Commercial Strategy Planning
  3. Panel 3: Design for Investment– Financing Each Stage
  4. Keynote Speaker: Robert Radie, President & CEO Egalet Corporation

Below are Notes from each PANEL Discussion:

For more information about the Life Sciences Collaborative SEE

Website: http://www.lifesciencescollaborative.org/

Or On Facebook

Or On Twitter @LSCollaborative

Panel 1: Design for Market Protection; Intellectual Property Strategy Planning

Take-home Message: Developing a very strong Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio and strategy for a startup is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT for its long-term success. Potential investors, partners, and acquirers will focus on the strength of a startup’s IP so important to take advantage of the legal services available. Do your DUE DIGILENCE.

Panelists:

John F. Ritter, J.D.., MBA; Director Office Tech. Licensing Princeton University

Cozette McAvoy; Senior Attorney Novartis Oncology Pharma Patents

Ryan O’Donnell; Partner Volpe & Koenig

Panel Moderator: Dipanjan “DJ” Nag, PhD, MBA, CLP, RTTP; President CEO IP Shaktl, LLC

Notes:

Dr. Nag:

  • Sometimes IP can be a double edged sword; e.g. Herbert Boyer with Paul Berg and Stanley Cohen credited with developing recombinant technology but they did not keep the IP strict and opened the door for a biotech revolution (see nice review from Chemical Heritage Foundation).
  • Naked patent licenses are most profitable when try to sell IP

John Ritter: Mr. Ritter gave Princeton University’s perspective on developing and promoting a university-based IP portfolio.

  • 30-40% of Princeton’s IP portfolio is related to life sciences
  • Universities will prefer to seek provisional patent status as a quicker process and allows for publication
  • Princeton will work closely with investigators to walk them through process – Very Important to have support system in place INCLUDING helping investigators and early startups establish a STRONG startup MANAGEMENT TEAM, and making important introductions to and DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIOPS with investors, angels
  • Good to cast a wide net when looking at early development partners like pharma
  • Good example of university which takes active role in developing startups is University of Pennsylvania’s Penn UPstart program.
  • Last 2 years many universities filing patents for startups as a micro-entity

Comment from attendee: Universities are not using enough of their endowments for purpose of startups. Princeton only using $500,00 for accelerator program.

Cozette McAvoy: Mrs. McAvoy talked about monetizing your IP from an industry perspective

  • Industry now is looking at “indirect monetization” of their and others IP portfolio. Indirect monetization refers to unlocking the “indirect value” of intellectual property; for example research tools, processes, which may or may not be related to a tangible product.
  • Good to make a contractual bundle of IP – “days of the $million check is gone”
  • Big companies like big pharma looks to PR (press relation) buzz surrounding new technology, products SO IMPORTANT FOR STARTUP TO FOCUS ON YOUR PR

Ryan O’Donnell: talked about how life science IP has changed especially due to America Invests Act

  • Need to develop a GLOBAL IP strategy so whether drug or device can market in multiple countries
  • Diagnostics and genes not patentable now – Major shift in patent strategy
  • Companies like Unified Patents can protect you against the patent trolls – if patent threatened by patent troll (patent assertion entity) will file a petition with the USPTO (US Patent Office) requesting institution of inter partes review (IPR); this may cost $40,000 BUT WELL WORTH the money – BE PROACTIVE about your patents and IP

Panel 2: Design for Market Success; Commercial Strategy Planning

Take-home Message: Commercial strategy development is defined market facing data, reimbursement strategies and commercial planning that inform labeling requirements, clinical study designs, healthcare economic outcomes and pricing targets. Clarity from payers is extremely important to develop any market strategy. Develop this strategy early and seek advice from payers.

Panelists:

David Blaszczak; Founder, Precipio Health Strategies

Terri Bernacchi, PharmD, MBA; Founder & President Cambria Health Advisory Professionals

Paul Firuta; President US Commercial Operations, NPS Pharma

 

Panel Moderator: Matt Cabrey; Executive Director, Select Greater Philadelphia

 

Notes:

David Blaszczak:

  • Commercial payers are bundling payment: most important to get clarity from these payers
  • Payers are using clinical trials to alter marketing (labeling) so IMPORTANT to BUILD LABEL in early clinical trial phases (phase I or II)
  • When in early phases of small company best now to team or partner with a Medicare or PBM (pharmacy benefit manager) and payers to help develop and spot tier1 and tier 2 companies in their area

Terri Bernacchi:

  • Building relationship with the payer is very important but firms like hers will also look to patients and advocacy groups to see how they respond to a given therapy and decrease the price risk by bundling
  • Value-based contracting with manufacturers can save patient and payer $$
  • As most PBMs formularies are 80% generics goal is how to make money off of generics
  • Patent extension would have greatest impact on price, value

Paul Firuta:

  • NPS Pharma developing a pharmacy benefit program for orphan diseases
  • How you pay depends on mix of Medicare, private payers now
  • Most important change which could affect price is change in compliance regulations

Panel 3: Design for Investment; Financing Each Stage

Take-home Message: VC is a personal relationship so spend time making those relationships. Do your preparation on your value and your market. Look to non-VC avenues: they are out there.

Panelists:

Ting Pau Oei; Managing Director, Easton Capital (NYC)

Manya Deehr; CEO & Founder, Pediva Therapeutics

Sanjoy Dutta, PhD; Assistant VP, Translational Devel. & Intl. Res., Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

 

Panel Moderator: Shahram Hejazi, PhD; Venture Partner, BioAdvance

  • In 2000 his experience finding 1st capital was what are your assets; now has changed to value

Notes:

Ting Pau Oei:

  • Your very 1st capital is all about VALUE– so plan where you add value
  • Venture Capital is a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP
  • 1) you need the management team, 2) be able to communicate effectively                  (Powerpoint, elevator pitch, business plan) and #1 and #2 will get you important 2nd Venture Capital meeting; VC’s don’t decide anything in 1st meeting
  • VC’s don’t normally do a good job of premarket valuation or premarket due diligence but know post market valuation well
  • Best advice: show some phase 2 milestones and VC will knock on your door

Manya Deehr:

  • Investment is more niche oriented so find your niche investors
  • Define your product first and then match the investors
  • Biggest failure she has experienced: companies that go out too early looking for capital

Dr. Dutta: funding from a non-profit patient advocacy group perspective

  • Your First Capital: find alliances which can help you get out of “valley of death
  • Develop a targeted product and patient treatment profile
  • Non-profit groups ask three questions:

1) what is the value to patients (non-profits want to partner)

2) what is your timeline (we can wait longer than VC; for example Cystic Fibrosis Foundation waited long time but got great returns for their patients with Kalydeco™)

3) when can we see return

  • Long-term market projections are the knowledge gaps that startups have (the landscape) and startups don’t have all the competitive intelligence
  • Have a plan B every step of the way

Other posts on this site related to Philadelphia Biotech, Startup Funding, Payer Issues, and Intellectual Property Issues include:

PCCI’s 7th Annual Roundtable “Crowdfunding for Life Sciences: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters?” May 12 2014 Embassy Suites Hotel, Chesterbrook PA 6:00-9:30 PM
The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on KannaLife Sciences and the Discipline and Potential of Pharmacognosy
The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on Computer-Aided Drug Design and Gfree Bio, LLC
The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on Vaccines and Philimmune, LLC
The Bioscience Crowdfunding Environment: The Bigger Better VC?
Foundations as a Funding Source
Venture Capital Funding in the Life Sciences: Phase4 Ventures – A Case Study
10 heart-focused apps & devices are crowdfunding for American Heart Association’s open innovation challenge
Funding, Deals & Partnerships
Medicare Panel Punts on Best Tx for Carotid Plaque
9:15AM–2:00PM, January 27, 2015 – Regulatory & Reimbursement Frameworks for Molecular Testing, LIVE @Silicon Valley 2015 Personalized Medicine World Conference, Mountain View, CA
FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg on HealthCare for 310Million Americans and the Role of Personalized Medicine
Biosimilars: Intellectual Property Creation and Protection by Pioneer and by Biosimilar Manufacturers
Litigation on the Way: Broad Institute Gets Patent on Revolutionary Gene-Editing Method
The Patents for CRISPR, the DNA editing technology as the Biggest Biotech Discovery of the Century

 

 

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Stress and Anxiety

Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

 

Introduction

This article follows immediately after two on diet and obesity and diet and exercise. The hypothalamus has been discussed in some detail, although There is more that needs to be said about glutamate receptors, which is a topic in itself. However, this material fits in place quite well.  There is a considerable amount of obesity, and exercise is limited by time and commitment.  The shrinking middle class and the working poor, and the unemployed poor as well, have a struggle to make ends meet, and with the divorce rates that we are seeing, it is stressful for a single mother to carry on a complete life as mother and caregiver, and it is not unusual to see one or both couples in a household, regardless of sex, to hold two jobs.  Students enter colleges for higher education and leave with significant debts.  Graduates with advanced degrees may have to compete with a crowd of qualified applicants for an academic position, or even for a job in technology.  In addition, there is an increase in stress related disorders in the   pre-school, elementary and middle school population.  We no longer have to read the front pages to learn that a violent act has been carried out somewhere, in some neighborhood in our great nation that has experienced a great civil war, two world wars, the Mc Carthy hearings, the Cold War, and Vietnam, and the Iraq War, all of which was accompanied by migrations, immigration, and outsourcing of jobs.  The following is another look at how we are adjusting.

 

Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress management program as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy in patients with anxiety disorder

Sang Hyuk Lee, Seung Chan Ahn, Yu Jin Lee, Tae Kyu Choi, et al.
J Psychosomatic Research 62 (2007) 189–195
http://dx.doi.org:/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2006.09.009

Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a meditation-based stress management program in patients with anxiety disorder.
Methods: Patients with anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to an 8-week clinical trial of either a meditation-based stress management program or an anxiety disorder education program. The Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Symptom Checklist- 90 — Revised (SCL-90-R) were used to measure outcome at 0, 2, 4, and 8 weeks of the program. Results: Compared to the education group, the meditation-based stress management group showed significant improvement in scores on all anxiety scales (HAM-A, P=.001; STAI state, P=.001; STAI trait, P=.001; anxiety subscale of SCL-90-R,P=.001) and in the SCL-90-R hostility subscale (P=.01). Findings on depression measures were inconsistent, with no significant improvement shown by subjects in the meditation-based stress management group compared to those in the education group. The meditation-based stress management group did not show significant improvement in somatization, obsessive–compulsive symptoms, and interpersonal sensitivity scores, or in the SCL-90-R phobic anxiety subscale compared to the education group. Conclusions: A meditation-based stress management program can be effective in relieving anxiety symptoms in patients with anxiety disorder. However, well-designed, randomized, and controlled trials are needed to scientifically prove the worth of this intervention prior to treatment.

 

Evidence and Potential Mechanisms for Mindfulness Practices and Energy Psychology for Obesity and Binge-Eating Disorder

Renee Sojcher, Susan Gould Fogerite, and Adam Perlman
Explore 2012; 8(5):271-276
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2012.06.003

Obesity is a growing epidemic. Chronic stress produces endocrine and immune factors that are contributors to obesity’s etiology. These biochemical alsocan affect appetite and eating behaviors that can lead to binge-eating disorder. The inadequacies of standard care and the problem of patient noncompliance have inspired a search for alternative treatments. Proposals in the literature have called for combination therapies involving behavioral or new biological therapies. This manuscript suggests that mindbody interventions would be ideal for such combinations. Two mind body modalities, energy psychology and mindfulness meditation, are reviewed for their potential in treating weight loss, stress, and behavior modification related to binge-eating disorder.

Whereas mindfulness meditation and practices show more compelling evidence, energy psychology, in the infancy stages of elucidation, exhibits initially promising outcomes but requires further evidence-based trials. “Diets Don’t Work” has been a mantra repeated over and over in the media. In fact, in a 2006 study in which investigators compared several popular diets comprising either high carbohydrates, high protein, or high fat, they found a rapid regression of compliance after six months, to the extent that it did not matter which diet had initially been more effective. In another study, authors examined a combination of diet and exercise compared with diet alone and observed that 50% of their subjects in both groups regained the weight that they lost after one year, despite their having lost more weight with the combination therapy. Despite the failure of diet alone in most studies, strategies incorporating both diet and exercise can be effective: a Cochrane review on exercise for overweight or obesity concluded that exercise had a positive effect on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors and that this effect was enhanced by a combination of exercise with dietary interventions.

The authors of a more recent study found that the benefits of exercise in inducing weight loss may come through psychological pathways rather than through actual energy expenditure. These factors include self-regulation and self-efficacy, which may mediate the relationship between exercise and weight change. Psychological interventions, particularly behavioral therapy and CBT, have been shown to be effective, especially when combined with diet and exercise. However, these interventions are costly and require extensive clinical contact for long durations to achieve efficacy. The authors of a recent randomized controlled trial (RCT) with a three-year follow-up period looked at a new form of CBT that addresses patients’ overeating and low level of activity, as well as factors that impede weight maintenance, and found that this form of therapy did not result in improved weight maintenance. These authors concluded that CBT is not sufficiently effective in helping patients maintain their weight loss in the long term. Although 20% of people will not change their eating behaviors under stress, most do; approximately 40% will increase and 40% will decrease their eating.

The emotional eaters, who tend to increase food intake, are more likely to crave high-fat/sweet and rewarding comfort foods. The basis for this behavior is becoming understood to entail brain pathways that involve learning and memory of reward and pleasure. Habit formation and decreased cognitive control are also involved. These habits form the basis of BED. Binge eating occurs when a person eats larger amounts of food than normal in a short amount of time. It therefore involves a loss of control and is often precipitated by a range of negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger, and loneliness. Overweight subjects may or may not be characterized as binge eaters.

The stress response, also known as the “fight or flight response,” involves the interaction of the autonomic nervous system, which includes the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems, the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and endocrine secretion. Together, these systems comprise neuro-endocrine pathways that collaborate to maintain the body’s regulation of homeostasis. This mechanism is very effective when stress is acute, but in the case of chronic stress, the effect can be injurious to one’s physiological state. Over time, chronic exposure to stress hormones contributes to“ allostatic load.” The stress hormones released by the body, mostly cortisol, can alter the body’s fuel metabolism, especially by adipose tissue, leading to an increase in upper-body obesity. Furthermore, hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, and neuropeptide Y can affect appetite and cause changes in fat mass storage. This results in the linking of stress and obesity.

Given the limited success of conventional approaches and the new information about the psychological and physiological mechanisms underlying obesity, we propose that a specific sub-group of mind-body therapies, including energy psychology and mindfulness-based approaches, could add an important new dimension to the integrative treatment of eating disorders. Energy psychology refers to a family of therapies that are used for treating physical disorders and psychological symptoms, which includes Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT). These therapies incorporate concepts originating from non-Western healing and spiritual systems, including acupuncture, acupressure, yoga, meditation, and qigong, and they combine physical activity with mental activation on the basis of the premise that the body is composed of electrical signals or energy fields. Energy psychology has been quite controversial among psychotherapists and has been the subject of much heated debate in the literature. Nonetheless, the clinical application of these practices is growing and is beginning to be investigated for efficacy. Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (ie,MB-EAT) involves the cultivation of mindfulness, mindful eating, emotional balance, and self-acceptance.

A pilot trial of a six-week group curriculum for providing mindfulness training to obese individuals, called Mindful Eating and Living (ie,MEAL), showed significant increases in measures of mindfulness and cognitive restraint around eating and significant decreases in weight, eating disinhibition, bingeeating, depression, perceived stress, physical symptoms, negative affect ,and C-reactive protein. In a recent systematic review of eight studies, authors examined a variety of mindfulness techniques in treating eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and BED. Because trial quality varied and sample sizes were small, the researchers concluded that mindfulness may be effective in treating eating disorders but that further research was needed. The authors noted, however, that all of the articles that met the study’s criterion reported positive outcomes for the mindfulness intervention. Two additional studies recently addressed the treatment of obesity with a combination of mindfulness strategies and ACT. Lillis et al. conducted a RCT on 87 subjects who had all completed at least a six-month weight loss program. Using a wait list control against treatment of the experimental group through a one-day workshop, the authors found that, compared with the control group, the experimental group showed greater improvements in obesity-related stigma, quality of life, psychological distress, and reduction of body mass in a three-month follow-up. Alberts et al. conducted an RCT on 19 participants in a 10-week dietary group treatment that examined the effect of mindfulness plus ACT on food cravings. Experimental subjects underwent an additional seven-week, manual-based mindfulness/acceptance training. The control group received information on healthy food choices. The experimental group showed significantly lower food cravings, a lower preoccupation with food in four subscales, less loss of control, and better positive outcome expectancy, as compared with the control group. There was no significant effect observed for emotional craving. The authors of both of these studies conclude that mindfulness strategies combined with acceptance are effective in reducing the behaviors that lead many obese patients to overeat. With regards to stress, mindfulness can reduce psychological factors that have been shown to contribute to obesity.

In a recent well conducted systematic review, Mars and Abbey examined 22 studies with conditions ranging from participants with Axis I disorders, various diagnosed medical disorders, and healthy subjects. Axis I disorders include a range of psychopathologies such as childhood developmental and adjustment abnormalities, adult anxiety, and mood, sleep, and sexual disorders. Subjects with BED are known to have greater comorbidity forAxis I disorders. The authors report that five studies examining Axis I disorders showed statistically significant results for an eight-week, two hours per week MBCT program in reducing psychological stress, recurring bouts of depression, and pain. They conclude that, despite some methodological difficulties in the trials, mindfulness therapy may have a positive impact on reducing stress and depression. Despite increasing public awareness of obesity’s detrimental effects on health, the conventional approaches to managing this condition have not been effective. The recommended standard care for overweight and obesity, namely diet and exercise, are for the most part ineffective in the long term. Behavioral therapy and CBT may have some effect but are costly and difficult to implement. Issues with bariatric surgery and pharmacological therapies attributable to cost and the potential for harm, as well as lack of long-term efficacy, have limited their utility.

The effectiveness of a stress coping program based on mindfulness meditation on the stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by nursing students in Korea

Yune Sik Kang, So Young Choi, Eunjung Ryu
Nurse Education Today 29 (2009) 538–543
http://dx.doi.org:/10.1016/j.nedt.2008.12.003

This study examined the effectiveness of a stress coping program based on mindfulness meditation on the stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by nursing students in Korea. A nonequivalent, control group, pre-posttest design was used. A convenience sample of 41 nursing students were randomly assigned to experimental (n=21) and control groups (n=20). Stress was measured with the PWI-SF(5-point) developed by Chang. Anxiety was measured with Spieberger’s state anxiety y inventory. Depression was measured with the Beck depression inventory. The experimental group attended 90-min sessions for eight weeks. No intervention was administered to the control group. Nine participants were excluded from the analysis because they did not complete the study due to personal circumstances, resulting in16 participants in each group for the final analysis. Results for the two groups showed

(1) a significant difference in stress scores (F=6.145,p=0.020),

(2) a significant difference in anxiety scores (F=6.985,p=0.013), and

(3) no significant difference in depression scores (t=1.986,p=0.056).

A stress coping program based on mindfulness meditation was an effective intervention for nursing students to decrease their stress and anxiety, and could be used to manage stress in student nurses. In the future, long-term studies should be pursued to standardize and detail the program, with particular emphasis on studies to confirm the effects of the program in patients with diseases, such as cancer.

 

 

Meditation and Anxiety Reduction: A Literature Review

M. M. Delmonte Clin
Psychol Rev 1985; 5: 91-102
Meditation is increasingly being practiced as a therapeutic technique. The effects of practice on psychometrically assessed anxiety levels has been extensively researched. Prospective meditators tend to report above average anxiety. In general, high anxiety levels predict a subsequent low frequency of practice. However, the evidence suggests that those who practice regularly tend to show significant decreases in anxiety. Meditation does not appear to be more effective than comparative interventions in reducing anxiety. There is evidence to suggest that hypnotizability and expectancy may both play a role in reported anxiety decrease. Certain individuals with a capacity to engage in autonomous self-absorbed relaxation, may benefit most from meditation.

 

Meta-analysis on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic disease: What should the reader not make of it?

Ernst Bohlmeijer, Rilana Prenger, ErikTaal
Letters to the Editor/J Psychosom Res 69 (2010) 613–615
http://dx.doi.org:/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2010.09.005

In a letter to the editor, Nyklíček et al. discuss the study of Bohlmeijer et al. [1]on the meta-analysis on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic disease. They claim that the effects of MBSR are underestimated in this meta-analysis due to the inclusion of a study using an active education support group as control group and to the omission of some subscales for which larger effect sizes have been found. We do not agree that the study using an active education support group as a control group should not have been included in the meta-analysis. It is a common procedure to include studies with various types of control groups, e.g., waiting-list, placebo, minimal interventions, or evidence-based treatment. Normally, subgroup analyses can be conducted, contrasting studies that use differen ttypes of control groups. As seven studies used a waiting-list control condition and only one study used an education support group, this subgroup comparison was not useful. However, when we conducted a meta-analysis of the seven RCTs using a waiting-list control group an overall effect size of 0.30 instead of 0.26 was found. In addition, it is often found in meta-analyses that the largest effect sizes are reported in studies that use waiting-list control groups, e.g. ,Refs.[2,3]. The fact that almost all studies included in our meta-analysis in fact used waiting-list control groups makes it unlikely that the effects of MBSR were underestimated. As to the second claim by Nyklíček e tal.that some outcomes were selectively omitted from the meta-analysis, we can state that the subscales of the POMS were included in the meta-analysis.The program that was used in our study, Comprehensive Meta-Analysis, combined the scales that measure the same outcome, e.g., anxiety in one study. So the larger effects sizes for the subscales of the POMS were included in the meta-analysis. Lastly, Nyklíčeketal. State that ‘decentering’ is not an exclusive process of MBCT but is a central feature of MBSR as well. MBCT was specifically developed for people with recurrent depression and on the basis of a thorough analysis of the role of specific cognitions in people with recurrent depression. In ouropinion, this may explain the large effect sizes that have been found in randomized controlled trials, e.g., [4]. In general, other studies have shown that integrating MBSR in behavioral therapy is a very promising strategy for enhancing the efficacy of treatments of psychological  distress[5,6]. However, more studies with different target groups are needed to answer the question as to which mindfulness-based intervention is most effective for which target group in which setting. Overall, in response to the letter to the editor by Nyklíček et al. we cannot corroborate their claim that the effects of MBSR were underestimated and have to stand with our conclusion that, on the basis of current RCTs, MBSR has small leffects on depression and anxiety in people with chronic medical diseases.

[1] BohlmeijerET, PrengerR, TaalE, CuijpersP.
The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on the mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: A meta-analysis.
JPsychosom Res 2010; 68:539–44.

[2]Powers MB, Zum Vörde Sive Vörding MB, Emmelkamp PMG.
Acceptance and commitment therapy: A meta-analytic review.
Psychoth Psychosom 2009; 78:73–80.

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Photo

Dr. Peter Eisenberg, left, said people with less money were treated differently by doctors.
Credit Preston Gannaway for The New York Times

When Dr. Jeffery Ward, a cancer specialist, and his partners sold their private practice to the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, the hospital built them a new office suite 50 yards from the old place. The practice was bigger, but Dr. Ward saw the same patients and provided chemotherapyjust like before. On the surface, nothing had changed but the setting.

But there was one big difference. Treatments suddenly cost more, with higher co-payments for patients and higher bills for insurers. Because of quirks in the payment system, patients and their insurers pay hospitals and their doctors about twice what they pay independent oncologists for administering cancer treatments.

There also was a hidden difference — the money made from the drugs themselves. Cancer patients and their insurers buy chemotherapy drugs from their medical providers. Swedish Medical Center, like many other others, participates in a federal program that lets it purchase these drugs for about half what private practice doctors pay, greatly increasing profits.

Oncologists like Dr. Ward say the reason they are being forced to sell or close their practices is because insurers have severely reduced payments to them and because the drugs they buy and sell to patients are now so expensive. Payments had gotten so low, Dr. Ward said, that they only way he and his partners could have stayed independent was to work for free. When he sold his practice, Dr. Ward said, “The hospital was a refuge, not the culprit.”

When a doctor is affiliated with a hospital, though, patients end up paying, out of pocket, an average $134 more per dose for the most commonly used cancer drugs, according to a report by IMS Health, a health care information company. And, the report notes, many cancer patients receive multiple drugs.

“Say there was a Costco that had very good things at reasonable prices,” said Dr. Barry Brooks, a Dallas oncologist in private practice. “Then a Neiman Marcus comes in and changes the sign on the door and starts billing twice as much for the same things.” That, he said, is what is happening in oncology.

Chemotherapy drug

Pertuzumab (breast cancer)
Rituximab (lymphoma, leukemia)
Bevacizumab (several cancers)
Cetuximab (head, neck, colorectal)
Trastuzumab (breast, stomach)
Fulvestrant (breast)
Leuprolide Acetate (prostate)
Epirubicin (breast)
Interferon alfa-2B (lymphoma, others)
Mitoxantrone (prostate, leukemia)
Doxorubicin (leukemia, others)
Goserelin (prostate, breast)
Daunorubicin (leukemia)
Idarubicin (leukemia)
Mitomycin C (stomach, pancreas)

Sources: IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics; RxList
By The New York Times

A Quirk in Drug Pricing

Insurers pay hospitals and doctors affiliated with hospitals more to adminster chemotherapy drugs than they pay independent doctors.

 

Insurance reimbursment per dose in a hospital or hospital-affiliated office Reimbursment per dose in a private practice

Chemotherapy drug

(and some cancers it can treat)

SEE FIGURE in article

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/health/private-oncologists-being-forced-out-leaving-patients-to-face-higher-bills.html?_r=0

The situation is part of the unusual world of cancer medicine, where payment systems are unique and drive not just the price of care but what drugs patients may get and where they are treated. It raises questions about whether independent doctors, squeezed by finances, might be swayed to use drugs that give them greater profits or treat poorer patients differently than those who are better insured.

But one thing is clear: The private practice oncologist is becoming a vanishing breed, driven away by the changing economics of cancer medicine.

Practices are making the move across the nation. Reporting on the nation’s 1,447 independent oncology practices, the Community Oncology Alliance, an advocacy group for independent practices, said that since 2008, 544 were purchased by or entered contractual relationships with hospitals, another 313 closed and 395 reported they were in tough financial straits. In western Washington, just one independent oncology group is left.

Christian Downs, executive director of the Association of Community Cancer Centers, said that although there are no good data yet, he expected the Affordable Care Act was accelerating the trend. Many people bought inadequate insurance for the expensive cancer care they require. Community doctors have to buy the drugs ahead of time, placing a burden on them when patients cannot pay. The act also requires documentation of efficiencies in medical care which can be expensive for doctors in private practice to provide. And it encourages the consolidation of medical practices.

The American Hospital Association cites advantages for patients being treated by hospital doctors. “The hassle factor is reduced,” said Erik Rasmussen, the association’s vice president of legislative affairs. Patients can have scans, like CT and M.R.I., use a pharmacy and get lab tests all in one place instead of going from facility to facility, he said.

And, he added, there is a reason hospitals get higher fees for their services — it compensates them for staying open 24 hours and caring for uninsured and underinsured patients.

For doctors in private practice, providing chemotherapy to uninsured and Medicaid patients is a money loser. As a result, many, including Dr. Ward before he sold his practice, end up sending those patients to nearby hospitals for chemotherapy while keeping them as patients for office visits.

“We hate doing it, I can’t tell you how much we hate doing it,” said Dr. Brooks, the Texas oncologist. “But I tell them, ‘It will cost me $200 to give you this medication in my office, so I am going to ask you to go to the hospital as an outpatient for infusions.’ ”

Dr. Peter Eisenberg, in private practice in Marin County in Northern California, said: “The disgrace is that we have to treat people differently depending on how much money they’ve got. That we do diminishes me.”

Hospitals may be less personal and less efficient, said Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer at the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Many private practice oncology offices, he said, “Run on time, they are efficient, you get in, you get out, as opposed to academic medical centers where they may be an hour and a half behind.”

Dr. Ward and others in private practice said they tried for years to make a go of it but were finally defeated by what he described as “a series of cuts in oncology reimbursement under the guise of reform to which private practice is most vulnerable.”

Lower reimbursements have two effects. One is on overhead. Unlike other doctors, oncologists stock their own drugs, maintaining a sort of mini-pharmacy. If a patient gets too sick to receive a drug or dies, the doctor takes the loss. That used to be acceptable because insurers paid doctors at least twice the wholesale price of drugs. Now doctors are reimbursed for the average cost of the drug plus 4.3 percent, there are more and more drugs to stock, and drugs cost more.

“The overhead is enormous,” Dr. Schilsky said. “This is one of the reasons why many oncologists are becoming hospital-based.”

The second — and bigger — effect is less profit from selling drugs to patients. For years, chemotherapy drugs provided a comfortable income. Those days are gone, doctors say.

The finances are very different in hospitals, with their

  • higher reimbursement rates for administering drugs,
  • discounts for buying large quantities, and
  • a special federal program that about 30 percent of hospitals qualify for.
  • The program, to compensate research hospitals and hospitals serving poor people,
  • lets hospitals buy chemotherapy drugs for all outpatients at about a 50 percent discount.

In addition, Dr. Schilsky notes, cancer patients at hospitals use other services, like radiation therapy, imaging and surgery.

“A cancer patient is going to generate a lot of revenue for a hospital,” Dr. Schilsky said.

Health care economists say they have little data on how the costs and profits from selling chemotherapy drugs are affecting patient care. Doctors are constantly reminded, though, of how much they can make if they buy more of a company’s drug.

Celgene, for example, in a recent email about its drug Abraxane, told one doctor who had bought 50 vials that he could get a rebate of $647.51 by buying 68 vials. If he bought 175 vials he’d get $1,831.93

This hidden profit possibility troubles Dr. Peter B. Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“When you walk into a doctor’s office you don’t know that in most cancer scenarios there are a range of therapeutic choices,” Dr. Bach said. “Unless the doctor presents options, you assume there aren’t any.”

While individual oncologists deny choosing treatments that provide them with the greatest profit, Dr. Kanti Rai, a cancer specialist at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Cancer Center, said it would be foolish to believe financial considerations never influence doctors’ choices of drugs.

“Sometimes hidden in such choices — and many times not so hidden — are considerations of what also might be financially more profitable,” he said.

A version of this article appears in print on November 24, 2014, on page A13 of the New York edition with the headline: Private Oncologists Being Forced Out, Leaving Patients to Face Higher Bills. 
SOURCE 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/health/private-oncologists-being-forced-out-leaving-patients-to-face-higher-bills.html?_r=0 

 

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Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

http://pharmaceuticalintelligence/7/8/2014/Proteins and cellular adaptation to stress

There are two recent articles that are, if not interesting, possibly important in the direction of cellular regulation, adaptation, and decline.  One deals with apoptosis, or cell death, which is synchronized with recovery of membrane and protein breakdown for reuse in synthesis and maintenance.  The other is a new perspective to Alzhemier’s Disease, for which there is no effective pharmacotherapy. In both cases, the stresses of the cell are critical to the responce to the environment.  This is not just about the classical transcriptomics story. This is a perfect followup to the just posted research on the regulatory role of a small RNA that is related to, but distinct from silencing RNA, and also the revelations about lncRNA.

Protein Helps Cells Adapt—or Die

Scientists show how cell stress both prevents and promotes cell suicide in a study that’s equally divisive.

By Ruth Williams | July 3, 2014

A cellular stress pathway called the unfolded-protein-response (UPR) both activates and degrades death receptor 5 protein (DR5), which can promote or prevent cell suicide, according to a paper published in Science today (July 3). The theory is that initial stress blocks cell suicide, or apoptosis, to give the cell a chance to adapt, but that if the stress persists, it eventually triggers apoptosis.

“This work has made the most beautiful simplification of all this big complex mess. Basically, they identified and pinpointed the specific protein involved in the switching decision and explain how the decision is made,” said Alexei Korennykh, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, who was not involved in the work.

But Randal Kaufman of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California, was not impressed. He questioned the physiological relevance of the experiments supporting the authors’ main conclusions about this key cellular process.

Protein folding in a cell takes place largely in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), but if the process goes awry, unfolded proteins accumulate, stressing the ER. This triggers the UPR, which shuts down translation, degrades unfolded proteins, and increases production of protein-folding machinery. If ER stress is not resolved, however, the UPR can also induce apoptosis.

Two main factors control the UPR—IRE1a and PERK. IRE1a promotes cell survival by activating the transcription factor XBP1, which drives expression of cell-survival genes. PERK, on the other hand, activates a transcription factor called CHOP, which in turn drives expression of the proapoptotic factor DR5.

Peter Walter of the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues have now confirmed that CHOP activates DR5, showing that it is a cell-autonomous process. But they have also found that IRE1a suppresses DR5, directly degrading its mRNA through a process called regulated IRE1a-dependent degradation (RIDD). Inhibition of IRE1a in a human cancer cell line undergoing ER stress both prevented DR5 mRNA decay and increased apoptosis.

However, in an e-mail to The Scientist, Kaufman expressed concern that “the significance of RIDD has not been demonstrated in a physiologically-relevant context.”

Walter insisted that the evidence for RIDD’s existence is “crystal clear.” His only concession was that “the effects aren’t 100 percent,” he said, because “RIDD degrades mRNA by a few-fold,” making it difficult to measure.

This RIDD debate aside, the researchers have also sparked a rumpus with their finding that IRE1a expression switches off just 24 hours after ER stress initiation, leaving PERK to drive the cell toward apoptosis. “We and others have evidence that suggests another model,” said Scott Oakes, a professor of pathology at the University of California, San Francisco, “which is that both PERK and IRE1a under high stress will send out death signals.”

Whether IRE1a promotes or inhibits apoptosis under extreme stress “is controversial,” said Ira Tabas, a professor at Columbia University in New York City. But it’s essential that scientists figure it out. Cell death from ER stress is a pathological process in many major diseases, Tabas said, and there are IRE1a inhibitors in pharmaceutical development. “It is very important because under high stress you have two different views here,” said Oakes. “One is that you want to keep IRE1a on, the other is that you want to shut it off.”

Because ER stress is central to many diseases, “a lot of people are passionate about it,” said Tabas, explaining the polemic views. “Who’s right? . . . I think it depends on the context in which the experiments are done—one pathway may be important in some settings, and another pathway may be important in different settings,” he suggested. What might help to resolve the issues, he said, will be “in vivo causation studies using actual disease models.”

Researchers will continue to debate. So, said Walter, “we’ll have to see what holds-up five years from now.”

M. Lu et al., “Opposing unfolded-protein-response signals converge on death receptor 5 to control apoptosis,” Science, 345:98-101, 2014.

Tags stress responseprotein foldingdisease/medicinecell & molecular biology and apoptosis

 

Protein May Hold the Key to Who Gets Alzheimer’s

 

By PAM BELLUCK     MARCH 19, 2014

 

It is one of the big scientific mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease: Why do some people whose brains accumulate the plaques and tangles so strongly associated with Alzheimer’s not develop the disease?

 

Now, a series of studies by Harvard scientists suggests a possible answer, one that could lead to new treatments if confirmed by other research.

 

The memory and thinking problems of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, which affect an estimated seven million Americans, may be related to a failure in the brain’s stress response system, the new research suggests. If this system is working well, it can protect the brain from abnormal Alzheimer’s proteins; if it gets derailed, critical areas of the brain start degenerating.

“This is an extremely important study,” said Li-Huei Tsai, director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the research but wrote a commentary accompanying the study. “This is the first study that is really starting to provide a plausible pathway to explain why some people are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s than other people.”

An image of tau tangles in the brain, often a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

An image of tau tangles in the brain, often a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

 

The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, focuses on a protein previously thought to act mostly in the brains of developing fetuses. The scientists found that the protein also appears to protect neurons in healthy older people from aging-related stresses. But in people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the protein is sharply depleted in key brain regions.

Experts said if other scientists could replicate and expand upon the findings, the role of the protein, called REST, could spur development of new drugs for dementia, which has so far been virtually impossible to treat. But they cautioned that much more needed to be determined, including whether the decline of REST was a cause, or an effect, of brain deterioration, and whether it was specific enough to neurological diseases that it could lead to effective therapies.

“You’re going to see a lot of papers now following up on it,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, who was not involved in the study. “While it’s a preliminary finding, it raises an avenue that hasn’t been considered before. And if this provides a handle on which to understand normal brain aging, that will be great, too.”

REST, a regulator that switches off certain genes, is primarily known to keep fetal neurons in an immature state until they develop to perform brain functions, said Dr. Bruce A. Yankner, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the new study. By the time babies are born, REST becomes inactive, he said, except in some areas outside the brain like the colon, where it seems to suppress cancer.

While investigating how different genes in the brain change as people age, Dr. Yankner’s team was startled to find that REST was the most active gene regulator in older brains. The researchers have found that this protein, normally active in fetuses, may also protect the neurons in older people.  It is not yet possible to measure the levels of this protein that is a gene regulator called REST, in living people.

“Why should a fetal gene be coming on in an aging brain?” he wondered. He hypothesized that it was because in aging, as in birth, brains encounter great stress, threatening neurons that cannot regenerate if harmed.

His team discovered that REST appears to switch off genes that promote cell death, protecting neurons from normal aging processes like energy decrease, inflammation and oxidative stress.

Analyzing brains from brain banks and dementia studies, the researchers found that brains of young adults ages 20 to 35 contained little REST, while healthy adults between the ages of 73 and 106 had plenty. REST levels grew the older people got, so long as they did not develop dementia, suggesting that REST is related to longevity.

But in people with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia, the brain areas affected by these diseases contained much less REST than healthy brains.

This was true only in people who actually had memory and thinking problems. People who remained cognitively healthy, but whose brains had the same accumulation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles as people with Alzheimer’s, had three times more REST than those suffering Alzheimer’s symptoms. About a third of people who have such plaques will not develop Alzheimer’s symptoms, studies show.

REST levels dropped as symptoms worsened, so people with mild cognitive impairment had more REST than Alzheimer’s patients. And only key brain regions were affected. In Alzheimer’s, REST steeply declined in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, areas critical to learning, memory and planning. Other areas of the brain not involved in Alzheimer’s showed no REST drop-off.

It is not yet possible to analyze REST levels in the brains of living people, and several Alzheimer’s experts said that fact limited what the new research could prove.

John Hardy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at University College London, cautioned in an email that information from post-mortem brains could not prove that a decline in REST caused dementia because death might produce unrelated damage to brain cells.

To investigate further, the team conducted what both Dr. Tsai and Dr. Reiman called a “tour de force” of research, examining REST in mice, roundworms and cells in the lab.

“We wanted to make sure the story was right,” Dr. Yankner said. “It was difficult to believe at first, to be honest with you.”

Especially persuasive was that mice genetically engineered to lack REST lost neurons as they aged in brain areas afflicted in Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Yankner said REST appeared to work by traveling to a neuron’s nucleus when the brain was stressed. In dementia, though, REST somehow gets diverted, traveling with toxic dementia-related proteins to another part of the neuron where it is eventually destroyed.

Experts said the research, while intriguing, left many unanswered questions. Bradley Wise of the National Institute on Aging’s neuroscience division, which helped finance the studies, said REST’s role needed further clarification. “I don’t think you can really say if it’s a cause of Alzheimer’s or a consequence of Alzheimer’s” yet, he said.

Dr. Samuel E. Gandy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Mount Sinai Medical Center, wondered if REST figured only in neurodegenerative diseases or in other diseases, too, which could make it difficult to use REST to develop specific treatments or diagnostic tests for dementia.

“My ambivalence is, is this really a way that advances our understanding of the disease or does this just tell us this is even more complicated than we thought?” he said.

Dr. Yankner’s team is looking at REST in other neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s. He also has thoughts about a potential treatment, lithium, which he said appears to stimulate REST function, and is considered relatively safe.

But he and other experts said it was too early. “I would hesitate to start rushing into lithium treatment” unless rigorous studies showed that it could forestall dementia, said Dr. John C. Morris, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Washington University in St. Louis.

Still, Dr. Morris said, the REST research the team conducted so far is “very well done, and certainly helps support this idea that we’ve all tried to understand about why Alzheimer’s is age-associated and why, while amyloid is necessary for the development of Alzheimer’s disease, it certainly is not sufficient.”

He added, “There have to be some other processes and triggers that result in Alzheimer’s.”

Correction: March 19, 2014 
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the gender of Dr. Li-Huei Tsai. Dr. Tsai is a woman.

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