HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Music Genome Project is Here!

I don't know how many of you suffer from the frustration of trying to find a radio station that plays only music that you like - and perhaps you are a bit tired on all the songs on your ipod . . . .   Well, the solution is finally here - the music genome project from  You type in your favorite list of songs and viola - it matches those songs to music that is similar and creates a radio station just for you.  I haven't played around with it too much but it does seem like a fun tool and perhaps can introduce to some fun new music.

Here is the website's overview of its mission:

When was the last time you fell in love with a new artist or song?

At Pandora, we have a single mission: To play music you'll love - and nothing else. 

To understand just how we do this, and why we think we do it really, really well, you need to know about the Music Genome Project®

Since we started back in 2000, we have been hard at work on the Music Genome Project. It's the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Together our team of fifty musician-analysts has been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song. It takes 20-30 minutes per song to capture all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound - melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more - close to 400 attributes! We continue this work every day to keep up with the incredible flow of great new music coming from studios, stadiums and garages around the country.

With Pandora you can explore this vast trove of music to your heart's content. Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings - new and old, well known and completely obscure - to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you. . . .

Wow - what will people think of next.  Enjoy!

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Patent on Feelings

The Wall Street Journal's Health blog reports on one of Microsoft's latest patent attempts.  The story states,

Say you’re sitting at your computer, typing away, and suddenly you see something — an ominous email from the boss, maybe — that makes you nervous. Your heart races, and you lose focus on your work. A minute later, a colleague IMs you and offers to lend a hand. Creepy? Useful? Both?

We pose the question because Microsoft has applied for a patent on a system for “monitoring group activities” that could automatically keep an eye on people’s vital signs as a way to see how everybody’s doing and to send help when it’s needed.

The system could use sensors to “detect at least one of heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement, facial movements, facial expressions, and blood pressure,” the application says.

Those signs could allow a system of the future to “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user via physiological and environmental sensors and then offer or provide some type of assistance accordingly.”

The patent application is posted on the Web site of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and was described in a recent story in the Times of London.  The application (which refers not only to desktop computers but also to mobile devices) “does not relate to any of Microsoft’s current product plans,” Microsoft VP of Intellectual Property and Licensing Horacio Gutierrez said in a statement. . . .

Hey sounds great to me -  it sure would be fun to have this technology available at the next faculty meeting.  Those meetings could use some extra spark .    Ok, on a serious note, I find it rather troubling for a number of reasons - doesn't the technology sound a bit like a lie detector test (i.e., perhaps a bit unreliable).   Plus, my e-mail box still contains a lot of spam.  I am sure that my co-workers will want to know my response to yet another ad for an impotence cure. . . . .    I can hardly wait for their assistance . . . .

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Health Stories

Just in time for my Health Law class, Ezra Klein helpfully points to a website that has started a video collection which provides first person accounts of numerous experiences with low-quality health care in the United States.  The website is "Health Care for All" and can be accessed here.

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Drug Studies Suppressed - but only the negative ones

The New England Journal of Medicine reports this week on a report showing that a majority of studies that get published about antidepressants are positive, while negative studies remain unpublished.  The article is entitled: "Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy." Here is the abstract: 

Background Evidence-based medicine is valuable to the extent that the evidence base is complete and unbiased. Selective publication of clinical trials — and the outcomes within those trials — can lead to unrealistic estimates of drug effectiveness and alter the apparent risk–benefit ratio. 

Methods We obtained reviews from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for studies of 12 antidepressant agents involving 12,564 patients. We conducted a systematic literature search to identify matching publications. For trials that were reported in the literature, we compared the published outcomes with the FDA outcomes. We also compared the effect size derived from the published reports with the effect size derived from the entire FDA data set. 

Results Among 74 FDA-registered studies, 31%, accounting for 3449 study participants, were not published. Whether and how the studies were published were associated with the study outcome. A total of 37 studies viewed by the FDA as having positive results were published; 1 study viewed as positive was not published. Studies viewed by the FDA as having negative or questionable results were, with 3 exceptions, either not published (22 studies) or published in a way that, in our opinion, conveyed a positive outcome (11 studies). According to the published literature, it appeared that 94% of the trials conducted were positive. By contrast, the FDA analysis showed that 51% were positive. Separate meta-analyses of the FDA and journal data sets showed that the increase in effect size ranged from 11 to 69% for individual drugs and was 32% overall. 

Conclusions We cannot determine whether the bias observed resulted from a failure to submit manuscripts on the part of authors and sponsors, from decisions by journal editors and reviewers not to publish, or both. Selective reporting of clinical trial results may have adverse consequences for researchers, study participants, health care professionals, and patients. 

In response to this article and its findings, Dr. Steven Nissen recommends legislation that would require all drug studies to be placed in a public registry. To hear more about his proposal, listen here.

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Childhood Cold Medicines and Cloned Food: Your FDA at Work

The FDA announed today that cold medicines are too risky for very young children age 2 and under.  They will decide later about the safety of such cold medicines for slightly older children.  From the Associated Press,

Parents may be left with only love and lots of liquid to give their sniffling babies and toddlers now that the government is declaring over-the-counter cough and cold medicines too risky for tots.  The Food and Drug Administration was issuing that warning Thursday to parents of children under 2.

It's a move expected for months: Drug companies last October quit selling dozens of versions of nonprescription cold remedies targeted specifically to babies and toddlers. That month, the FDA's scientific advisers also voted that the drugs don't work in small children and shouldn't be used in preschoolers, either — anyone under age 6.

The FDA still hasn't decided if OTC decongestants, antihistamines and cough suppressants are appropriate for older children, officials told The Associated Press. Expect a decision on that by spring, the deadline necessary to notify manufacturers before they begin production for next fall's cold season.

For now, FDA's first official ruling focuses on youngsters under 2, warning that "serious and potentially life-threatening side effects can occur."

The good news - well that "lots of liquids" can now included milk from cloned animals!! Woo!!  In a brief article yesterday, the New York Times noted that the FDA had found that food and milk from cloned animals and their progeny is safe.  I know that I trust them completely.

Also, further good news as an earlier story by the New York Times indicates that parents will be saving lots of money by not purchasing these drugs:   "There are about 800 pediatric cold products sold in the United States that use one or more of 39 different drugs. Parents spend around $500 million every year buying nearly 95 million boxes containing 3.8 billion doses of medicine."

As I have mentioned before - drugs for parents of sick children (something non-drowsy that makes one feel happy about the fact that they will be up all night  - perhaps singing soft songs) might be a lucrative nitch market. (Plus, you maybe need report only the positive clinical trials for these drugs - oo - the New England Journal of Medicine may have just squashed that as well, see here for brief overview of story).

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)