Higher Ed: Medical Cannabis Courses Are Now Available at US Universities

Posted in Articles, BioEducation, Uncategorized

Back in the day when I was going to graduate school in Madison, WI,  there was no such thing as medical Cannabis (although there was plenty of weed to go around).  But, as the line in that old Dylan song goes “the times they are a changin”

Late last month, the University of California-Davis announced that it would be joining Humboldt State University in offering undergraduate students a course entitled Physiology of Cannabis.  FYI, Humboldt State has been offering courses in medical Cannabis since 2012 (not surprising since the school is located in prime Cannabis cultivation territory).

According to UC-Davis officials the semester-long, three credit course will be aimed at biology students and will cover the endocannabinoid system, the effects of cannabinoids on the human body and the therapeutic value of Cannabis.

Likewise, Sonoma State University announced that it will be offering a one day symposium on March 11, 2017  to members of the healthcare industry in the Bay area. The symposium is entitled Medical Cannabis: A Clinical and it is intended as a workforce development course.  Nurses, physicians and pharmacists can get continuing education credit for the course. Topics that will be covered include the history of cannabis, an introduction to cannabinoids and terpenes, dosing and administration of cannabinoids, legal implication and other medical-related issues. The university is also planning a three day course on Cannabis regulatory issues later in the month.

While these courses are available, there is currently no undergraduate degree program in Cannabis science/medicine offered by any US university or college. That said, don’t be surprised if this major becomes a reality in States where medical and recreational Cannabis are legal.

Until next time…

Good Luck, Good Job Hunting and Happy Trails

Healthcare and Social Media

Posted in Social Media

I received this infographic from an organization that is promoting a Masters of Public Health program.  It is interesting and I thought I would share it with BioJobBlog readers.
Healthcare and Social Media
Source: Healthcare and Social Media

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

A Possible Dark Side of a Career in Big Data Management

Posted in Career Advice

For the past year or so, I have been touting the job opportunities in the field of “big data” in which massive amounts of personal data including medical information, social media usage, mobile device usage, buying behaviors, etc are accumulated, analyzed and used for marketing purposes. While there may be growing career opportunities for life scientists in the field, especially bioinformaticists, computational biologists and database managers, before you take the plunge you may want to read an article in today’s NY Times entitled “You For Sale: Mapping, and Sharing the Consumer Genome” (great title for us biologists).

The articles walks readers through how Acxiom —a 40 year old data mining company and the second largest provider of consumer information in the US—mines and “refines” (Acxiom executives call what they do, refining rather than mining”) personal information and sells it to paying customers. Admittedly, I previously knew little about how data mining algorithms work but I must say reading the article provided me with me insights and clarity about the pervasiveness and potential for misuse and abuse of the services and features offered by Acxiom and other companies of its ilk. BTW, the largest provider of data mining services in the US is Epsilon.

According to the article, “Acxiom maintains its own database on about 190 million individuals and 126 million households in theUnited States. Separately, it manages customer databases for or works with 47 of the Fortune 100 companies.” And, not surprisingly the company hires top talent from the software industry including its CEOScottE. Howe, previously a corporate vice President of advertising at Microsoft and Phil Mui, formerly group product manager for Google Analytics as it chief product and engineering officer.

There is little doubt that electronic healthcare records will help to improve patient access and health outcomes once it is fully implemented. And, the success of this new industry will be contingent upon hiring talented biologists, healthcare professionals and software engineers. But, for every benefit that a new technology can bestow upon humanity, there is always a down side.

To that point, it is important to get a complete picture of an industry before you make a decision about a career in it! If big data management is the direction that you want your career to take, then go for it but remember to keep your “eyes and ears open.”

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!



AstraZeneca Sheds 7,300 Jobs

Posted in BioEducation

After announcing its quarterly earnings and a 24 percent increase in 2011 profits, AstraZeneca (AZ) today made public its decision to eliminate another 7,300 jobs. Earlier this week there was speculation that job cuts were likely but the exact numbers were not disclosed. 

The reasons given for the layoffs despite increased annual profits? Government spending cuts for healthcare and stiff generic competition for several of its blockbuster drugs including Seroquel XR (depression), Atacand (hypertension) Crestor (cholesterol-lowering) and Symbicort (asthma); all of which have lost or will be losing patent protection in the near future. According to a company press release generic competition cut revenues by $2.0 billion in 2011 whereas government price interventions cost the company another $1.0 billion. The announced job cuts are expected to save AZ $1.6 billion by 2014—great news for shareholders but not so much for the employees who are losing their jobs!

Most of the cuts will take place in R&D. To that end, the company will close its facility in Montreal and layoff staff at its Soedertaelje site in Sweden. Interestingly, the company plans on focusing more on neuroscience and intends to hire 40 to 50 scientists in its new Innovative Medicine unit which is partly based in Boston, MA and Cambridge in England.

While layoffs at AZ were expected, the size of the current layoff does not bode well for other pharmaceutical employees. It is becoming increasingly clear that big pharma companies are getting out of R&D and focusing their efforts on M&A and licensing deals to fill their thinning pipelines. Also, while shedding R&D and sales jobs in developed markets, big pharma companies are investing heavily in building facilities and hiring thousands of R&D and sales personnel in emerging markets. From my perspective, it appears that big pharma has consciously decided to abandon developed Western markets where sales growth is in the single digits in favor of emerging ones where double digit growth is expected for the next decade.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!


Healthcare Informatics: Who’s Hiring?

Posted in BioEducation

The past several years I have been touting healthcare informatics technology (HIT) as an alternate career option for life scientists. For those of you who may not know, healthcare informatics is a field tasked with organizing, mining and distributing electronic health records (EHRs) to physicians and other healthcare providers. Persons with a background in medicine/biology and familiarity with computer software and managing and manipulating large digital data sites are ideal candidates for HIT jobs

The US federal government is mainly responsible for the growth of the US HIT field because it is offering financial incentives (mandated in the 2009 federal stimulus package) to healthcare providers who switch from paper to EHRs. The government began to disburse the money last May to those institutions and providers who applied for the funds. To date, hospitals and healthcare providers have received $2.5 billion of a potential $27 billion in stimulus funds.

At present, nearly 40 percent of American primary care physicians and approximately 25 percent of hospitals use EHRs. Thousands more are likely to adopt EHRs this year to qualify for federal stimulus monies. 

So, which major companies are hiring health informatics employees? They include:

  1. Epic Systems
  2. Allscripts
  3. Meditech
  4. Cerner
  5. IBM
  6. McKesson
  7. Siemens
  8. GE Healthcare

Of course, there are smaller companies and start-ups that are also looking for health informatics employees. To that end, persons with a strong background in biology who are comfortable writing code or working with software packages that handle large datasets ought to consider careers in HIT.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (check out Epic in Madison, WI)


Mobile Healthcare Communications Conference for 2012

Posted in Social Media

Increasingly, healthcare professionals, patients and consumers are turning to and using their mobile devices for healthcare information. Further, development of mobile software platforms and associated are allowing patients to more regularly directly communicate with their physicians. To help sort out the growing complexity of the mobile healthcare communications industry, the Business Development Institute (BDI) entitled “Mobile Healthcare Communications 2012:Case Studies and Roundtables” will be held on Thursday, January 26, 2012 from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM at The Graduate Center of the City University of NY (365 5th Ave, NY, NY 10016).

Registration fee for the event is $195 per attendee. BioJobBlog readers who wish to attend should use promo code BC for a discounted rate of $175.

Speakers and roundtable moderators include:

  1. Lance Hill, CEO, Within3
  2. Scott Hopkins, Executive Vice President, Anderson Direct Marketing
  3. Dr. Katherine Malbon, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital
  4. Talya Miron-Shatz, PhD, Marketing Department, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania 
  5. Jenna Mons, Consumer Product Manager for LAP-BAND®, Allergan 
  6. John Vieira, Daiichi-Sankyo

Event sponsors include:

BioCrowd, PR NewswireWithin3 ; Anderson Direct MarketingCinchcastJournal of Communication in HealthcareManhattan ResearchNew York UniversitySociety for Healthcare Strategy and Market DevelopmentPixels & Pills

For event related questions and registration, please contact Maria Feola-Magro at mfeola@bdionline.com or 212.765.8043.

For sponsorship/speaking opportunities, including pricing, please click here or contact Jennifer Brous at jbrous@bdionline.com or 212-765-8358.

For additional information, including registration, please click here to visit the event website.

See you at the conference!

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!

EyeonFDA Blog: Why FDA Needs to Be Clear About Social Media

Posted in Social Media

Mark Senak, author of the EyeonFDA blog and a life sciences/healthcare social media enthusiast, wrote a fantastic piece yesterday that provides cogent ideas and insights into the need for FDA to expeditiously craft guidance on the use of social media in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

Here are the facts. First, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, social media has fundamentally changed the way in which we interact with one another and ushered in a new era of communication. Unlike the old, so-called “broadcast communication method”—information is continuously streamed from a static source, websites, television, radio etc, to perspective customers and stakeholders—the new paradigm requires that communications must be personal, portable and participatory for effective messaging. Second, the primary source of information sought by most persons who use the Internet is healthcare and medical information. While much of the content is accurate, some is not; which may put persons seeking medical information at great risk. In other words, social media is not just about marketing and medical education; it is also about preserving public health.

The agency has historically been unable to issue guidance on new forms of communication. For example, FDA held its first public meeting in 1996 on Internet use by life sciences and healthcare companies. Sadly, the agency has yet to issue any official guidance on this topic. In late 2009, FDA held another public meeting and promised that draft guidance on the internet and social media would be forthcoming by the end of 2010. Unfortunately the guidance did not materialize in 2010 and it has been delayed twice in 2011. Recently, the agency publicly reaffirmed its commitment to issuing the guidance but without a specific timetable for its release. Consequently, it is anyone’s guess when or if the guidance will be released.

Unlike many, I do not believe that FDA guidance on the Internet and social media is absolutely necessary. However, I will admit that issuance of said guidance will provide drug and healthcare companies with some of the assurances that they need in order to actively use social media to engage patients, physicians and other stakeholders. For this reason alone, FDA ought to issue the guidance (which is never perfect and always a work in progress) and end the social media stalemate that currently exists. Failure to do so may have serious consequences on the public health of many Americans.

Hat tip to Mark!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!


A Commentary: Pharma's Ongoing PR Problem

Posted in BioBusiness

Not a day goes by without some report about pharma’s ongoing problems with illegal drug promotions, class action suits against blockbuster medications or civil or criminal settlements with state and federal governments. A quick perusal of articles posted to the Pharmalot Blog in November alone revealed no fewer than eight big pharma companies including Lilly, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer, Pfizer, Novartis and Amgen that were involved in some sort of legal action regarding inappropriate marketing claims or failure to disclose potential side effects of blockbuster drugs. To make matters worse, a larger than usual number of pharma companies have experienced manufacturing problems that have resulted in drug recalls or shortages. This list includes companies such as Genzyme, Baxter, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and most recently Boehringer Ingelheim. While chronic legal and manufacturing problems are extremely troubling (some assert it is just the cost of doing “business”), I believe that the amount of money spent lobbying Congress for legislation favorable to the industry is even more egregious.

According to a recent post on Knowledge Ecology International, the pharma industry has so far spent $115,571,832 on lobbying in 2011 (this number is sure to go higher by the end of this fiscal year). Interestingly, the biggest year for pharmaceutical industry lobbying was in 2009—a year after the Affordable Health Care Bill was passed—with totals in excess of $186,000,000. Just think about how many jobs could have been saved if companies reinvested the money into R&D rather than greasing the palms of lobbyists to induce Congress to pass laws to continue to get favorable tax rates, improve ROI and bolster the stock prices of those companies! To wit, Newt Gingrich, a Republican Presidential candidate and Former Speaker of the House has been accused of lobbying former congressional colleagues to vote for a Medicare drug subsidy while he was a paid consultant to AstraZeneca. Gingrich vehemently denies these allegations; probably because he realizes that most Americans don’t like big pharma and may vote against him if the claims are proven to be true and he wins the Republican presidential nomination.

Not withstanding the legal issues and unnecessary lobbying, what is really hurting the pharmaceutical industry is its lack of communication and transparency with patients and its unfailing practice of putting profits before healthcare. While every big pharma company I know always talks about fulfilling unmet medical needs, meeting those needs always comes at great costs (literally) to patients. Sadly, many patients can no longer afford the costs of potentially lifesaving medicines and treatments. Unless pharma begins to change the way it presents itself to the American public, it will continue to suffer the lost of confidence and trust of the American people. And, if the industry is unable to regain the public’s trust, its inability  will ultimately result in legislation that allows the US government to control drug prices: something that exists in most other countries in the world and big pharma has been desperately trying to prevent for the past 50 years!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!


Despite Near-Record Recalls, the Price of Prescription Drugs Continues to Rise

Posted in BioBusiness

Ed Silverman, the intrepid author of the Pharmalot Blog, reported today that the average price of prescription drugs through last month rose 7.2 per cent; which tops the annual price rate increases over the past decade. The cost analysis was done on 130 prescription drugs.

The biggest winners were: Suboxone, marketed by Reckitt Benckiser to treat opioid addiction which rose 21 percent. Cephalon raised the price of its Provigil narcolepsy pill by 15 percent and Sunovion Pharma hiked the prices of its Xopenex asthma and COPD med by 9.8 percent. Other drugmakers on the list included Genentech, Merck and Abbott Laboratories.

Ed cautioned that “the price changes are based on WAC, or wholesale acquisition cost, for more than 90 percent of the drugs, which means that less than 10 percent of increases are based on direct price or suggested wholesale price” Nevertheless, any wholesale price increases are always passed on to the end users aka patients!

It is troubling that in these tough economic times that drug prices continue to rise at unprecedented rates. And access to reasonably priced medicines continues to diminish.  Not surprisingly, prices continue to rise in advance of healthcare reform legislation that doesn’t kick in entirely until 2014.

Until next time

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


Health Informatics Career Resource List

Posted in BioJobBuzz

As I mentioned in numerous previous posts, health or healthcare informatics is one of the hottest and fasting growing sectors of the US economy. And, not surprisingly, career counselors and job prognostication experts are predicting job shortages unless more Americans are trained for these job opportunities.  To that end, William Hooper of HealthTechTopia sent me a link to a list of 25 online health informatics resource collections

Those of you who are interested or considering pursuing a career in the emerging health informatics field ought to check it out!

 Until next time…

 Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!