Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Canadian sister of the NEA

Yesterday I was talking about how so many "news" articles about eczema are of the "eczema is..." variety. Here's one such: "Winter brings itchy, scratchy woes to sufferers of eczema," courtesy of Now, being Canadian (as well as American) and having spent eleven years in Saskatchewan, I can attest that Canadians know winter, and that winter indeed brings on the misery. There are two reasons, I think: once everything freezes, the air becomes very dry and sucks moisture out of your skin; and inside, the air from central heating dries you out too. Try that for five or six months of every year.

The article isn't really news, and the author isn't well-informed ("An allergen-- and there are many, including harsh soaps, perfumed items, fabric softeners, dust mites and certain foods...") but it did contain a nugget that was news to me. It introduced me (and, hence, you) to the Eczema Society of Canada, a nonprofit sister of the National Eczema Association. You have to check out the ESC's website. It's very well done. Their mission is to educate sufferers and to increase public awareness of the disease, and they're clearly doing both.

Another interesting point: the ESC website has a section devoted exclusively to hand eczema. I don't know why this is-- is hand eczema of particular interest to the society's board? I have eczema on my hands, but I also have it virtually everywhere. I guess certain people must subject their hands to stresses while doing their jobs-- maybe they have to wear rubber gloves-- I know a former dentist of mine had trouble with his latex gloves.

In the past few years a specific treatment for hand eczema has been developed by the Swiss company Basilea. The drug is aliretinoin and the trade name is Toctino. A business news item of note, from Bloomberg: apparently the stock of Basilea, which is a midsize company, just took a big jump because an investment research firm decided Basilea was undervalued and ripe for a takeover. Part of Basilea's value stems from $130 million it won in a suit against Johnson & Johnson because J&J mismanaged clinical trials of another Basilea drug. J&J, you may know, owns Aveeno.

Why should we care about these details of the business world? Well, I like to know stuff, and while I generally find business news boring, somehow it's more interesting when it involves companies that make products that I use. Also, if you want to know about emerging eczema treatments, the business section is where you should look. Any treatments that qualify as eczema "cures" are going to have to be made by companies for a profit.

And the companies that innovate the cures will be small ones-- that is how innovation happens in pharma-- and then big pharma, like J&J, is going to buy the small companies. So I like to know what's going on both at the small and big ends of the eczema therapy market.

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