News Briefs

Pharmacists slip a notch in poll

A Gallup poll in November 1999 revealed that, for the first time since 1985, pharmacists moved out of their No. 1 ranked position as the most honest and ethical professionals in the United States. With this poll, pharmacists moved to second, giving their distinguished position to nurses, one of 20 groups of professionals not previously included in the poll.

Nurses were given a high/very high rating of honesty and ethics by 73% of Americans polled; pharmacists received the high/very high rating by 69% of those polled. Car salesmen continue to come in last, behind newly included HMO managers and telemarketers.

For additional information on the recent Gallup Poll findings, see index.html.

One tale tells another

National Data Corporation (NDC) Health Information Services and PharMetrics Inc. recently announced their plan to co-develop and co-market a Web-based tool that will measure pharmaceutical brand performance by linking diagnosis to prescription use.

Web expertise and information technologies at NDC will combine with the PharMetrics integrated outcomes database to reveal the link between diagnosis and prescribing. The data base — built with unidentifiable patient information — constructs episodes of disease histories from medical and pharmacy claims data from more than 10 million patients and 100 million disease episodes.

"Our partnership with NDC helps us to leverage our unique information assets and deliver what so many in the pharmaceutical industry have been asking for — a tool that helps track the impact of prescription drug use on total patient care using clinically based information," explains Jim Stowe, president and CEO of PharMetrics.

For additional information on the database, see

Osteoporosis risk may be reduced

Data show a reduced risk of vertebral fracture in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who use risedronate. In two studies with a total of 3,684 women (mean age of 69 years) with a history of vertebral fracture, subjects were randomized to receive either risedronate 2.5 mg/day or 5 mg/day or placebo. All subjects were given 1 g/day calcium (plus vitamin D if needed). Analysis showed a statistically significant effect of risedronate on the incidence of new vertebral fractures after one year of treatment. For more details, see J Bone Mineral Research 1999; 14(supp 1):S136.

Merck offers vaccine site

Merck & Co. Inc. hosts a Web site containing information for health care provid ers (both in the United States and abroad) and consumers concerning vaccines and diseases with related vaccines. Patient information on vaccine-preventable diseases is available at this site, as are news stories and journal articles of related interest. Visit the vaccine site at

FDA to expand monitoring of herbs, vitamins

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced its intention to expand monitoring of serious adverse reactions to herbs, vitamins, and other dietary supplements. In addition, the agency plans to expand its role in setting manufacturing standards for that industry. To achieve those goals, the FDA will need financial cooperation from Congress. With studies that form a sound scientific base for nutritional products, consumers may have more confidence in the safety and labeling of supplements they take.

Clinical trials information Web site is launched

The National Institutes of Health has announced the launch of, a Web site designed for easy use by consumers. The database contains information on more than 4,000 federal and private clinical studies in more than 47,000 locations across the United States. The information can be found at http://clinical Information provided in the database includes locations of study sites, study design and purpose, entry criteria, and contact information for those recruiting patients.

Next Generation Internet’ is on the horizon

Increasing the public’s use of the federal Internet database Medline means increasing the budget for the Next Generation Internet (NGI) project in 2001, according to Donald Lindberg, MD, National Library of Medicine (NLM) director.

In a recent statement to the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transpor tation, Lindberg said an increase in the NGI budget would, among other things, increase band- width for the Medline, the library’s database. Advanced medical imaging requires more bandwidth than is currently available on the Internet. Additional bandwidth would allow prompt diagnosis based on transmission of complex images.

Another NGI improvement, Lindberg said, would be assuring protection of privacy among members of the public using Medline. Other potential new applications for Medline include home health care, continuing medical education, public education, and possibly even reduction of errors in medical practice.

In the past four years, public use of Medline has increased from 7 million searches a year to 250 million per year. Although widely used by scientists and health care workers, about 34% of Med line searches are performed by members of the public seeking information about their health.

The NLM plans to support more than $45 million in NGI projects, including telemedicine projects, advanced medical imaging, and patient- controlled personal medical records systems, Lindberg said. NLM hopes, he added, to see new Internet applications based on the "ability to gather information at a distance and to transfer massive amounts of data instantaneously and accurately while maintaining medical data privacy," Lindberg told the subcommittee.

For more details on this effort, see www.nlm.

Amrinone name changed

The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Nomenclature Committee and the United States Adopted Names (USAN) Council have approved a name change for amrinone to inamrinone. Amrinone is the generic of Inocor. The change follows a proposal made by the USP and USAN last fall to avoid confusion and medication errors between amrinone and amiodarone. Errors reported to the USP Medica tion Errors Reporting Program due to such confusion between the two drugs included injuries to patients and death. The change in name from amrinone to inamrinone is to take effect July 1, 2000, upon the printing of the second supplement of the United States Pharmacopeia-National Formulary.

Recommendations to test children for diabetes

A consensus panel of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Diabetes Associ a tion now recommends that children who are at high risk for Type 2 diabetes be tested for the disease, USA Today reports. Starting at 10 or the onset of puberty, whichever is first, overweight children with two or more other risk factors should be tested. Although children with diabetes used to have Type 1 only, Type 2 diabetes now comprises about 20% of new cases of diabetes in children. Of children with Type 2 diabetes, 85% are obese.

Other risk factors to consider include family history of Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or blood pressure (possibly indicating problems of insulin regulation), and minority race or ethnicity. Early detection is essential for early treatment of this disease, which has multiple long-term effects on many of the body’s systems.