Barbara is a medical writer and editor with over 25 years of experience. She writes for trade magazines, consumer magazines and the news section of journals such as the Lancet Oncology. She also has extensive experience in editing CME and other clinical articles.
Contact Barbara to find out more about her writing and editing services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read an excerpt from Barbara's story on cancer drug shortages:
Drug Shortages Strain Cancer Treatment and Oncology Clinical Trials
Cancer drug shortages are having devastating effects—not only on patients and clinical oncologists, but also on researchers who use standard generic oncology medications in clinical trials.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified at least two dozen oncology drugs that are in short supply, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has warned that shortages will intensify before the problem is resolved. Most of these drugs are low cost generic injectables used to treat a variety of cancers from breast cancer to GI malignancies.
“The most difficult thing in the world is to sit across from a patient who has the potential for a cure and tell them we do not have the necessary agents,” said oncologist and researcher Charles Penley, MD, incoming chairman of the government relations committee of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in a hearing about drug shortages at the U.S. House of Representatives in September.
In an interview, Dr. Penley reported that cancer patients are sometimes traveling from one city to another in an effort to get treatment.
At times, Dr. Penley and the 47 other medical oncologists in his practice, Tennessee Oncology in Nashville, have had to substitute more expensive drugs for generics in short supply, or oral drugs that are not fully covered by insurers—and so patients have greater out-of-pocket expenses, he says.
HHS has reported that more than 300 clinical trials include cancer drugs that are in short supply. Many oncology researchers have been unable to obtain generic injectables or have experienced delays in obtaining them, according to Dr. Penley. These standard medications are the backbone of many clinical trials that compare new therapies or regimens to existing treatments, he says.
In some cases we've had to use substitutions for standard treatments—such as Epirubicin (anthracycline) for doxorubicin in breast cancer treatment. These two drugs have similar activity, but are not identical,” Dr. Penley says. Such therapeutic changes midstream in a clinical trial could potentially raise questions about the validity of results, according to Dr. Penley.
The causes of the oncology drug shortage are multifactorial and include difficulty procuring drug ingredients, production-disrupting quality-control issues, and corporate decisions to discontinue production of unprofitable agents, according to American Society of Clinical Oncology.
--From the news section of the journal Clinical and Translational Science
Barbara is an experienced medical writer who has written about a wide range of medical topics, including oncology, infectious disease, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis, orthopedics, ophthalmology, psychiatry, alternative medicine and women's health. She has also written about the business of medicine, including the Obama health plan, the business of genomics and cancer drug shortages.
Read an excerpt from Barbara's article on how to interpret news reports about health and medicine:
By Barbara Boughton
We’re bombarded with health news about cancer treatments and cancer prevention from a variety of sources—the Internet, radio and TV news and talk show programs, as well as magazines and newspapers. This barrage of health news can sometimes seem contradictory—for instance, when different scientific studies or researchers come to different conclusions about a cancer treatment, screening test or preventive health strategy.
Or this wealth of information may be at the very least confusing. So how can a wise consumer decipher all this health information, particularly when it comes to news about cancer, and understand what’s valuable and what may be nonsense? It’s an important issue, because your choices about health may be made based on news you hear about what is most likely to decrease cancer risk or improve treatment for the disease.
The most crucial answer to these questions is to apply a healthy dose of skepticism to what you read and hear about health in the media and on the Internet. Understanding a little bit about the design and significance of different types of scientific studies, and how statistics about health are reported, is also helpful. And there are several key questions you should ask yourself when you hear about the latest health news, and resources that you can turn to for help in deciphering the latest scientific study—and what the findings from these studies mean for you.
According to a survey by the National Cancer Institute, consumers increasingly used the Internet as a source for heath news from 2002 to 2008. But they were also more savvy about health information—less trusting of news about cancer they found on the Internet, and more likely to ask their physicians for help in understanding such news, according to a 2010 report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Unfortunately, it is not just the Internet that can be a unreliable source of information for health news. Even mainstream newspapers and magazines can sometimes report health news about cancer in a way that’s misleading or even inaccurate.
The reasons for such inaccurate reporting lie not just with journalists under pressure to grab attention with “screaming headlines” and “breathless reporting” or those who don’t have the training to understand scientific studies, Dr. Woloshin says.
Scientists who believe passionately in what they do, or who want to advance their careers, may overstate the importance of their research findings when interviewed in news reports. And even press releases sent out by medical journals—which reporters sometimes rely on for information--may misstate or overstate the significance of their published research, Dr. Woloshin notes.
“That doesn’t mean not to believe anything,” Dr. Woloshin says. “But it does mean to ask some questions and not assume that what you’re reading is true or important,” he adds.
-From the magazine Women & Cancer
Copyright Barbara Boughton. All Rights reserved.