As a pharmacy professor, I’ve been surprised at how few blogs out there are written by pharmacists or pharmacy students. In my subjective observations, there are tons of blogs written by physicians and nurses. There are about 200,000 registered pharmacists in the US, about one-fourth the number of physicians so it’s not as though pharmacists are terribly outnumbered by other healthcare professionals.
So, it was with great pleasure that I stumbled onto Secundum Artem via a comment by the author, N.B., in a thread on Respectful Insolence.
Secundum artem is a Latin phrase meaning “according to the art.” It is frequently used to doing something in the accepted manner of a skill or trade; in medicine, it is often taken to mean “use your skill and judgment.”
Okay, I’m a softie for anyone who takes their blog name from the Greek or Latin. What can I say?
In what appears to be N.B.’s inaugural post, he takes on the slight modifications or purifications drug companies have made in drug composition to prolong patent life, using the comparison of the antidepressants citalopram and escitalopram (the latter composed of just one of the isomers comprising the former):
Escitalopram, for the curious, is the popular antidepressant Lexapro. By purifying the S-form from what chemists call the “racemic mixture” (the 50/50 mix of both forms), Forest Pharmaceuticals gets to call what they’ve cooked up a “new drug” and has an exclusive patent on their creation for about the next 20 years. Joy! Studies do suggest that Lexapro works a little better than Celexa, and that it’s slightly better tolerated, but it’s also pricier because it’s currently brand-name-only: $80.31 for 30 tablets of the 10 mg strength vs $39.99 for the roughly equivalent generic citalopram 20 mg tablets. It might be worth the difference. It might not.
Heck, I’m impressed with any pharmacy student who remembers enough of their medicinal chemistry to actually use it in the context of an economic drug comparison. In continuing this discussion, N.B. suggests to drug reps and the companies they represent:
Don’t come to me and tell me how awesome your drug is unless you’re prepared to prove it. And if your drug really isn’t all that awesome, quit telling me how awesome it is. The FDA may have approved it because you demonstrated it was better than placebo with studies that showed statistical significance, but don’t hype it up when we’re talking about 5% absolute gains. I realize that it’s the job of people who do marketing to get way more excited about their products than is rational, but this is medicine. That just won’t do here.
Despite all of my criticisms about the direction pharmacy education has taken in the last 15-20 years, I still contend that a well-trained pharmacist who continues to care about the core content of their profession is one of the most valuable members of the healthcare team. Some physicians I know tell me that keeping a good relationship with their clinical pharmacist is their secret weapon in objectively staying on top of drug usage trends.
If the first few weeks of Secundum Artem is any indication, this is a pharmacy student you should watch.
By the way, I’d like to put up a “Pharmacy” category on my blogroll sidebar. If you have any experience with good blogs written by pharmacists or pharmacy students, please suggest them in the comment thread. Thanks!