Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Eric J. Topol Criticizes Drug Ads

The heart-attack risks of arthritis painkillers Vioxx, Bextra and Celebrex have exposed a regulatory “house of cards” at the Food and Drug Administration, wrote Dr. Eric J. Topol, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Unbridled promotion exacerbated the public health problem,” Topol concluded. “The combination of mass promotion of a medicine with an unknown and suspect safety profile cannot be tolerated in the future.” Read more here. Topol’s Journal of American Medicine article: Arthritis Medicines and Cardiovascular Events?”House of Coxibs”
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Drug advertising has truly gone off the deep end. Driving down the beltline and seeing a nonsensical name on a billboard makes no sense.

Madison WiFi RFP: Cities Should Control Their Fate

Carol Ellison: “Opinion: Pennsylvania has given Big Broadband too much control over municipal wireless installations. Other states should not repeat the error.”

The holidays, it seems, can’t pass without a Scrooge story.
This year’s comes from the state of Pennsylvania where early this month Gov. Edward Rendell [Democrat] inked legislation that effectively left the future development of municipal wireless broadband services in that state in the hands of Big Broadband.
The bill lets incumbent carriers (in Pennsylvania, that would be Verizon) determine whether Pennsylvania cities can create? and charge for? municipal wireless access services. The new law came hot on the heels of Philadelphia’s announcement that it planned to do just that. Now, it’s up to Verizon to exercise thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Philadelphia’s wireless ambitions. The company claims it won’t scotch the city’s plan. But what happens when Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton or Harrisburg decide to unwire?

Via Glenn Fleishman. I have a bit of hope that someone other than SBC will win Madison’s WiFi RFP.

High Prices: How to Think About Prescription Drugs

Malcolm Gladwell pens a very useful look at prescription drug costs:

In the political uproar over prescription-drug costs, Nexium has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the pharmaceutical industry. The big drug companies justify the high prices they charge–and the extraordinary profits they enjoy–by arguing that the search for innovative, life-saving medicines is risky and expensive. But Nexium is little more than a repackaged version of an old medicine. And the hundred and twenty dollars a month that AstraZeneca charges isn’t to recoup the costs of risky research and development; the costs were for a series of clinical trials that told us nothing we needed to know, and a half-billion-dollar marketing campaign selling the solution to a problem we’d already solved. “The Prilosec pattern, repeated across the pharmaceutical industry, goes a long way to explain why the nation’s prescription drug bill is rising an estimated 17 % a year even as general inflation is quiescent,” the Wall Street Journal concluded, in a front-page article that first revealed the Shark Fin Project.

Comair Shutdown: 16 Bit Buffer Overflow (essentially, an older design)

Richard Smith offers up some background, and links on the Comair shutdown this past weekend.

According to the article, Comair is running a 15-year old scheduling software package from SBS International ( The software has a hard limit of 32,000 schedule changes per month. With all of the bad weather last week, Comair apparently hit this limit and then was unable to assign pilots to planes.
It sounds like 16-bit integers are being used in the SBS International scheduling software to identify transactions. Given that the software is 15 years old, this design decision perhaps was made to save on memory usage. In retrospect, 16-bit integers were probably not a wise choice.

It’s generally amazing things work as well as they do 🙂 This example also demonstrates the importance of keeping software up to date….