Show me the drug money

While any DTC drug commercial will likely include shots of people happily hiking and a list of side effects longer than the symptoms of the disease it’s curing, one thing you won’t see advertised is the price of the prescription. New federal policy could change that for drugs covered under Medicare and Medicaid, forcing companies to disclose list prices in TV advertisements. While most patients don’t typically pay the full price for their prescriptions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says, “They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels.” PhRMA says their members would be willing to include a link to a website that has pricing information in advertisements, to which Azar pretty much replied, that’s not what I meant.

Taking too many SmartPills

When InsightCity talks about SmartPills, we’re usually being self-referential, but here’s something more like that stuff from Limitless. A study based on the Global Drug Survey found that 14% of respondents had used stimulants at least once to improve their mental performance in 2017, up from 5% in 2015. Those drugs range from the ADHD medications Adderall and Ritalin, to less legal substances like cocaine. US respondents had the highest use rates at 30%, but European numbers are creeping up as well with countries like the UK going from 5% in 2015 to 23% last year. Those who use these substances report increased focus, wakefulness, and other cognitive enhancements, but as with anything, side effects may vary. Not that we’re endorsing it, but if you’re interested in more ‘nootropics,’ here’s a list.

Less chemo on the horizon

A Phase III study of over 10,000 women with breast cancer has determined about 70% of breast cancer cases can be treated with hormone therapy alone. That’s huge news for patients who are apprehensive about starting chemotherapy, which has many undesirable side effects like immune deficiency and hair loss. Researchers used a genetic assessment on 21 genes linked to breast cancer to determine a score to identify which women are at low-risk for recurrence, and thus can skip the harsh therapy. This mainly affects patients with early-stage breast cancers, since those cases are less likely to have metastasized. Click here to learn how to properly perform your monthly breast exam. Don’t worry, it’s technically safe-for-work. They make sure to use man boobs instead of women’s to avoid censorship.

Side effects may include…

Sanofi got a ton of free press last week from hundreds of thousands of Twitter users. To update the (blissfully) uninformed, comedian Roseanne Barr had recently used the social media platform to make a racist statement about a former White House aide. Presumably in damage control mode afterwards, Barr tweeted an apology saying she had been “Ambien tweeting.” So Sanofi—who makes Ambien—had the opportunity to engage in some, uh, brand management. The company’s response thus makes very clear that, “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” Their tweet blew up, with nearly 69k retweets and over 185k likes. And while they note no Sanofi medication has side effects of racism, they weren’t clear on other companies’ drugs. Your move, social media managers.

A hissing in your ear that sounds like ‘SSRI’

Here’s some news that’s not exactly music to the ears of the 60 percent of tinnitus sufferers with depression; a study published in Cell Reports identified that SSRIs may exacerbate symptoms of tinnitus. The scientists focused on how neurons in mice’s sensory processing centers were affected by serotonin, and found that when those neurons get their drug fix they reach Tommy Boy levels of excitement. Unfortunately, that translates into increased sensitivity to sound, which is not great when you’ve already got a bunch of sounds in your ears to begin with. The research may mean that tinnitus patients will have to turn to other antidepressant types, which are generally recognized as less safe/side-effect-laden than SSRIs.

1. Female sexual dysfunction progress

In its release of new industry guidance, the FDA has acknowledged a need for progress in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction. The current treatment for the condition, Addayi, from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, is struggling due to its undesirable side effect profile, which includes severely low blood pressure and fainting. Talk about a mood killer. Palatin Technologies is set to release the results of its drug in late phase trials by the end of the year. Measures include changes in satisfying sexual relations and the female sexual function index. According to Bloomberg, treating female sexual dysfunction is more complicated than erectile dysfunction in males because treatments focus on neurotransmitters – like in depression and anxiety – instead of simple blood flow – like the hydraulics on a dump truck. Stay classy, InsightCity.