This Week on the Blogosphere

Review of best-reads on the blogosphere.

PhRMA StaffFebruary 18, 2011

We've done a lot of writing this week about issues pertaining to the biopharmaceutical sector, but we're just one small chunk of health care. A lot of unrelated articles have caught our eyes this week, and we think they're worth sharing with you.

Like many of you, I've been intrigued by Watson, the IBM-manufactured computer that won against previous Jeopardy heavyweights. To be honest, I've been just as interested in its shortcomings as its abilities, but it definitely showed its mettle in competition. Now, according to The Health Care Blog, IBM will be collaborating with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to turn the technology into a physician's assistant service "that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant" - perhaps to be available in as few as 18 months. The post does acknowledge the potential for reticence on the part of healthcare providers, however, who may (perhaps rightfully) prefer to trust their own brains.

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog writes about a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that evaluates the use of a bicycle-like pedal exercise machine in the office. The machine is intended to allow users to pedal at their desks, rather than sitting still all day long, but the study questions whether participants actually used it and, ultimately, whether it would lead to better health outcomes. Personally, I can't help but wonder if it might be more effective than a cup of coffee as a pick-me-up, the same way a walk around the block always seems to help.

NPR Blog of the Nation covers the findings of a study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that may resonate with the loved ones and caregivers of Alzheimer's Disease patients. The study found that "the emotion tied to a memory lingers in the mind even after the memory is gone." So when you visit your stricken loved ones, they may not remember the details of your time together, but they'll remember that you - and they - were happy.

The Washington Post's Health & Science section did an in-depth look at sleep. The detailed articles discuss how to get the most of too-little sleep, how genders differ in how they lose sleep, the effect on the heart, what sleep aids may or may not work, and more.

Many of the medicines with which we're familiar started clinical trials for a completely different indication - some even receiving approval for that indication - before reports of other effects have led to the indications that we know today. According to The New York Times's Well blog, some scientists at UCLA and the Veterans Administration had quite a surprise when their bald test mice - for a study about stress - grew back full coats of fur over the course of three months after being treated with the compound being studied. Will this lead to a treatment someday? It's impossible to tell. As we've discussed, the R&D process is full of failed efforts. But it's a great example of how that process is also full of surprises.

Ever wonder why we're sometimes instructed to take medicine by placing the pill under our tongues? The quick answer is that it results in the medicine getting into your bloodstream faster. But WHY? On The Huffington Post, New York cosmetic dentist Thomas P. Connelly D.D.S. explains.

Last, The Enterprise Blog mourns the passing of Jack Calfee, a noted expert in health care policy and strong advocate for innovation.

What did we miss? What healthcare news has caught your eyes this week? We'd love to see.

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