June 29, 2021

Bad Pharma Good Pharma: how Patients and their Doctors are fooled about the drugs sold to them.

Snake oil salesmen are alive and well in the 2000's.
They know how to use the Congress to overturn FDA new
review panel recommendations and market away.

Bad Science is simply not doing science right. If you cut corners, never repeat experiments to confirm they are reproducible, bury negative results, then you can end up with egg on your face as a scientist. At best, the target for teasing by your colleagues, or at worst a biomedical company that contributes to the illness or deaths of many people and who will never be trusted again in the science or medical world. As it should be. 


Bad science or medicine seems to happen when money is part of the motivation equation in the form of "for profit". Unfortunately, that is the context where most commercial Pharma research occurs, including clinical trials. With shareholders to pay, there is a strong executive pressure to get the product developed and flying out of the pharmacy on Doctor's prescription pads as soon as possible. This factor, profits, are one of the greatest conflicts of interest (COI) we must manage.

For all of us, as the patient, this can have bad consequences. For our Doctors, they may be making prescription decisions based on information that is skewed or incomplete. They can be in a position where they cannot even get the full story on many of the drugs they must choose from. The Pharmacist will be in the same position as your Doctor. The problem that is keeping all three of us in the dark is reporting bias on the part of the drug developer. That is, under-reporting of negative trial results, and basic cherry-picking of trial results. While we have currently, in the United States, a political effort to reduce government regulations, we already suffer commercial lobbying and political overriding of FDA biomedical science recommendations on drug approvals. This includes ignoring expert panel recommendations to not approve a drug and instead let the company market away. Essentially neutering the ability of the FDA to save us all from snake oil salesmen, even in 2018.

June 26, 2021

Vaccination Update: COVID-19 and your antibodies to the virus.

 In my lab we have been doing side research since mid-summer of 2020 testing persons who recovered from COVID19 for antibodies in their blood. Later, in 2021 we added to the research study process to also test persons after they have been vaccinated with at least one dose of an FDA-approved vaccine. What have we learned in our little local community study here in Oakland County Michigan?

May 11, 2021

A year Later: Still COVID19 Cases and Deaths for Any Country

Just a small update to this post, which I first added here about a year ago, way back in 2020. I am a scientist in North America, who has lived and worked on both sides of the US/Canada border, and as a medical research professor, I felt it my duty to provide the public with access to numbers that they can trust. This data visualization lets you follow the progress of COVID19 in your own country and other countries, and visualize it over time. I have included some iFrame code to give you the ability to change the time frame and even the selection of countries you may be interested in. 

Currently, in addition to my eye research, I also manage a small local study in Oakland County, Michigan, to monitor the presence of antibodies to the COVID19 spike protein in persons. My students are finding that vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and J&J, do well at producing antibodies in our test volunteers, including ourselves. We are all vaccinated at this point. So keep wearing a mask, get vaccinated, and think about the people who will not get harmed because you buffer them from this pandemic disease. :)
5-11-2021

Here are some graphs that you can adjust to look at different timelines for cases of illness and deaths for any country. I embedded iFrame code in this posting to give you graphs that you can also adjust. Table and MAP views are also available. Book mark so you can return here as the data in these graphs will update automatically. 

February 20, 2021

We are Reaching Half-A-Million COVID 19 Deaths in the United States.

By the end of Monday 22nd February 2021, we will pass through and above 500,000 deaths from COVID19 in the United States. I calculate and plot the doubling time in days averaged over a moving 7-day period. Doubling time, based on the previous seven days average, as of the end of 2020 had dropped below100 days. The doubling time for US deaths from COVID19 is increasing again early in 2021, as seen in the current graph below.

February 11, 2021

What are the Special Syringes for More Vaccine Doses?

You have heard about the idea of getting an extra dose out of a vaccine vial? It is on the news regularly. The Pfizer vaccine comes in a volume to get 5 doses, but there is some extra volume provided to allow for getting those 5 doses. Then, if you have a special syringe you could get a sixth dose.

How? 

A regular syringe will empty a few hundred microliters of liquid when the plunger is pushed. When the plunger reaches the end of the regular syringe there will still be some liquid in the small channel between the plunger and the start of the fitted needle and inside the needle itself. This is called dead space volume and it can be 70 to 90 microliters. After five uses that adds up to about 400 microliters, almost half of a 1 milliliter (1 cc)  syringe, or at least one extra sixth dose.

There are, however, syringes like special insulin syringes that come with an attached needle and have a very thin, and very short channel between the plunger and the needle. Some have a thin plunger extension that also pushes into the thin channel. As a result of this, these syringes have a very low dead space volume, from 2 to 5 microliters. So, if you have these low dead space syringes, you do not lose that 400 microliters after five injections, so several hundred microliters remain in the vial to give you one more shot. The six shooter!

Ken Mitton

February 6, 2021

New Covid19 Variants Can Infect Those Who Had Covid19 Before. Vaccination Protects Better.

It looks like the newly adapting Covid19 variants can reinfect persons who had the illness before. There is emerging evidence from the UK that this is a new concern. However, there is also emerging evidence that vaccinated persons are more resistant to illness and infection from the same new variants. The South African variant is one example of the newly evolving Covid19 strains. 

Some preliminary testing has been done using patient blood serum from persons vaccinated with various versions of the vaccines now in use. Here is what we know as of early February 2021.

  • The Pfizer two-dose vaccine (RNA type) seems to generate serum antibodies that react and bind well to the spike protein of the South African variant.  The paper reporting this is not yet peer-reviewed in a journal but it is pre-print public here: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.07.425740v1
  • Other vaccines in the process of approval review in the UK seem to offer some reactivity to protect against the new South African variant too, as reported in this BBC news post: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-55850352
  • Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine offers limited protection against the new variant but the company is also now developing a second version of the vaccine to match the amino acid changes in some of the new variants that are evolving around the world.

So, for those persons who had Covid19, their immunity after a real infection may not be a justification for skipping vaccination. I am signed up and eagerly awaiting my turn. I will gladly get vaccinated and I suggest you get it too even if you have recovered from a covid19 infection. 

Ken Mitton
The Science Rant