June 19, 2010
FDA Advisory Panel Nixes "Pink Viagra"
Flibanserin is a drug under consideration by the FDA for the treatment of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in women. An FDA advisory panel voted 10 to one that flibanserin was not significantly better than a placebo, and unanimously that the benefits did not outweigh side effects like dizziness, nausea and fatigue. While the FDA hasn’t officially ruled on this drug, it usually follows the advice of its advisory committees.
According to CBS “[e]ven before the vote today, the maker of flibanserin had started a web promotion - and caught heat for it.” For more on this, the Nature blog The Great Beyond sends us over to Pharmalot where Ed Silverman points out that
a documentary on female sexuality has been airing on the Discovery Channel website this month. (Here’s part one of the four part series.) It’s sponsor: Boehringer Ingelheim, the German pharmaceutical company that makes flibanserin. Boehringer has also tried to ‘raise awareness’ of the controversial Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder via Twitter.
[w]ith almost $2 billion a year in sales, male sexual dysfunction drugs are big business - so the drug companies are eager to please women, too. Viagra and drugs like it fix the physical problem of blood flow, but flibanserin is an antidepressant to treat vague symptoms by targeting the brain. Drug companies have tried more than two dozen times to come up with a treatment to reawaken a woman's sex life. But for many women, the idea of popping a pill just isn't that sexy.
June 17, 2010
Are Seasoned Profs Better at Preparing Students for Advanced Learning?
In an article published in the Journal of Political Economy, researchers detail the results of a study that indicates that experienced professors are better at preparing students for long-term academic success than their less-experienced counterparts. However, that ability isn't necessarily reflected in their students' teaching evaluations. As ScienceDaily reports,
the study's authors, Scott Carrell of U.C. Davis and James West of the U.S. Air Force Academy, say their results raise questions about the value of student evaluations as measures of instructor quality. Student evaluations are widely used by colleges in tenure and promotion decisions, but Carrell and West considered a different measure of instructor quality. They looked at how well instructors in introductory courses prepare students for more advanced courses in related subjects.
Their data come from Calculus I and follow-on classes at the U.S. Air Force Academy. All Air Force Academy students are required to take Calculus I, Calculus II, and nine math-based technical courses regardless of their majors, and professors in all sections of classes use an identical syllabus and give identical exams. That gives the researchers a chance to compare instructors on a relatively even playing field.
The study found that students' achievement in follow-on coursework was strongly influenced by their Calculus I instructor. Students who had a seasoned Calculus I professor with a Ph.D. tended to do better in follow-on coursework than students who had less-experienced and less-credentialed Calculus I instructors. This happened despite the fact that students of seasoned professors tended to have lower grades in Calculus I. The results, the researchers say, suggest that less experienced instructors have a tendency to "teach to the test," while more experienced teachers produce "deep learning" of the subject matter that helps students down the road.
The findings weren't a result of newer professors being "easy-graders," because the Calculus I course was designed to remove as much instructor discretion as possible from their student's grades. Midterm and final exams are group graded, where one instructor grades a single question for the entire course to ensure uniformity of partial credit. The deep learning produced by more-experienced instructors was not reflected in their students' teaching evaluations, the study found. Less-experienced instructors -- whose students tended to do better in the short-term but worse in later classes -- received higher ratings on student evaluations. For example, the instructor who ranked dead last in "deep learning" in the sample of 91 Calculus I instructors ranked sixth best in student evaluations.
Taken together, the findings imply that student evaluations give instructors -- especially those who do not have tenure -- incentive to teach in ways that "have great value for raising current scores, but may have little value for lasting knowledge," the authors conclude.
June 15, 2010
Study Suggests that A Combo of Polyphenols in Green Tea and Red Wine Could Halt Prostate Cancer Growth
Scientists believe that antioxidants in a combination of red wine and green tea inhibit the growth of prostate cancer as well as colon cancer, breast cancer and gastric cancers. An article in ScienceDaily discusses this new and exciting discovery that may lead to a major advance in the treatment of these cancers:
This new discovery, published online in The FASEB Journal, explains how antioxidants in red wine and green tea produce a combined effect to disrupt an important cell signaling pathway necessary for prostate cancer growth. This finding is important because it may lead to the development of drugs that could stop or slow cancer progression, or improve current treatments.
'Not only does SphK1/S1P signaling pathway play a role in prostate cancer, but it also plays a role in other cancers, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, and gastric cancers,' said Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal. 'Even if future studies show that drinking red wine and green tea isn't as effective in humans as we hope, knowing that the compounds in those drinks disrupts this pathway is an important step toward developing drugs that hit the same target.'
'The profound impact that the antioxidants in red wine and green tea have on our bodies is more than anyone would have dreamt just 25 years ago,' Weissmann added. 'As long as they are taken in moderation, all signs show that red wine and green tea may be ranked among the most potent 'health foods' we know.'
June 13, 2010
Regulations For 10% Tax on Tanning
The Internal Revenue Service announced that it has issued regulations detailing how the 10-percent excise tax on indoor tanning services (created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ) will be administered. The regulations go into effect on July 1 and were published in the Federal Register. According to the IRS press release
[i]n general, providers of indoor tanning services will collect the tax at the time the purchaser pays for the tanning services. The provider then pays over these amounts to the government, quarterly, along with IRS Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return.
The tax does not apply to phototherapy services performed by a licensed medical professional on his or her premises. The regulations also provide an exception for certain physical fitness facilities that offer tanning as an incidental service to members without a separately identifiable fee.
Hat tip to Alan Goldberg, Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Health Law at George Mason University and Moderator of the HIT listserv for the AHLA.