Identity Verified Thinker in Business / Industries / Pharmaceuticals
Dennis Lendrem
Dennis Lendrem
MSc in Medical Statistics, PhD from Oxford. Background in Pharmaceutical R&D. Contributor to popular magazines and trade magazines including Scrip Magazine, New Scientist and the Economist. Formerly Editor of the journal Pharmaceutical Statistics.
 
Jul. 12, 2012 3:24 pm
It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. Arthur C Clarke I have a friend who has spent his entire adult life studying Chironomidae (Ki-ron-o-mid-ee). Chironomidae are a tiny insect. And there are good, sound economic reasons for studying Chironomidae . But this isn’t the reason he studies Chironomidae . The reason he studies Chironomidae is...  Read More
Jul. 10, 2012 1:17 pm
In When HRT Met CHD we learned that epidemiological studies seem to tell us that women who agree to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) appear to have a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). However, when the first randomized clinical trials were performed to test this hypothesis these demonstrated that HRT actually increases the risk of CHD. How so? Well, what the epidemiological...  Read More
Jul. 7, 2012 4:14 pm
My colleague Iain Grant once told me the secret to a successful launch. 1. Say what you mean. 2. Mean what you say. 3. Do what you say. 4. Say what you do. The first step is about communicating facts - explaining what it is you are doing. People need to know what you are asking them to do and why you are asking them to do it. The second is about communicating feelings - it's about honesty....  Read More
Jul. 4, 2012 2:58 pm
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. Charles Darwin The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from the illusion that they are better than others - mistakenly rating their skills much higher than average. This bias is attributed to an inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes. People with poor...  Read More
Jul. 3, 2012 1:03 pm
In Do Scientists Do Science? we questioned what scientists actually know about scientific method. We observed alarming gaps in the teaching of scientific method - the elimination, or minimization of bias through sound experimental design. Instead graduate students are left to pick it up as they go along. Learning by osmosis. I came across Richard Feynman's opening remarks again in his...  Read More
Jun. 30, 2012 4:56 am
The good money is on the myth. At least in the short-term. Myths are widely held but false beliefs or ideas. And the difficulty with myths is that they are hard to de-bunk without reinforcing the myth. A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Mark Twain To counter the myth we have to address that myth. And in addressing that...  Read More
Jun. 26, 2012 12:36 pm
Argument: a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition. Monty Python Rational thinkers frequently call upon logic to defend an argument. But not everyone thinks logically. Pointing out logical fallacies may win over logical thinkers to your argument. But, like I said, not everyone thinks logically. Logical thinking is powerful. But logical thinking is...  Read More
Jun. 19, 2012 1:49 pm
The problem with smart people is they have no idea how real people think. Norman Einstein, Scientific Radicals Unthinking attempts to debunk myths may reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To effectively debunk a myth requires three things: the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth - otherwise the misinformation becomes more familiar and may be...  Read More
Jun. 13, 2012 1:05 pm
Defensive communication is a guarded form of communication designed to protect the sender rather than inform the recipient of the message. Like my mayonnaise. Allergy Advice: Contains Egg. May Contain: Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds, Mustard, Celery, Wheat, Barley, Fish, Soybeans, Milk, Sulphites and Cereals containing Gluten. Mayonnaise Labelling The manufacturer seems...  Read More
Jun. 11, 2012 12:28 pm
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Niels Bohr (1885-1962) Late-stage attrition is the biggest challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry. Which means that any statements regarding expected marketing authorization approval have to be guarded. A fact tacitly acknowledged in the company report: Cautionary statement regarding forward-looking statements ...  Read More
Jun. 8, 2012 8:51 am
Pournelle's Law of Costs and Schedules: Everything costs more and takes longer. Ordering Principle: Those supplies necessary for yesterday's experiment must be ordered no later than tomorrow noon. Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law. Koestler's Observation: The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems...  Read More
Jun. 1, 2012 8:36 am
Statistics: the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions. Evan Esar (1899 - 1995) In the 1970s women in the village of Whickham outside Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK took part in a study. Twenty years later a follow-up study investigated their mortality and survival rates. These data are presented by age group and smoking...  Read More
May 30, 2012 3:58 pm
Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. Robert Hanlon Sometimes I can become frustrated by red tape and bureaucracy. I can begin to think that the world is out to get me. I forget that the world treats me with blind, searing indifference. Sometimes I forget to apply Hanlon's Razor. As a young child, Hell and Heaven kind of made sense to me. ...  Read More
May 26, 2012 3:54 am
The news is quite slack in the UK at the moment - we haven’t invaded another country for ages , it is way too hot for street riots and we have a few weeks yet before the Queen’s Jubilee, the European Soccer Championships and the Olympic Games. So this is the only reason I can think of that the Daily Express one of Britain’s biggest UK daily newspapers would make this item - Seaweed Pill Will...  Read More
May 14, 2012 3:05 pm
In the 1980s and 1990s it became common medical practice to prescribe post-menopausal hormones for the prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD). The FDA had not approved these drugs for this indication but some studies showed an apparent reduced risk of CHD in women prescribed post-menopausal estrogen. However, the evidence in favour of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was not clear-cut. ...  Read More
May 11, 2012 1:19 pm
Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain (1835 - 1910) In 2010 the UK Government over-turned the decision of the previous government and announced it would modify the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to permit the purchase of the F35-C “cats and traps” aircraft. Yesterday, two years later, the Defence Secretary, Philip...  Read More
Apr. 30, 2012 1:11 pm
The great tragedy of science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. Thomas Huxley This weekend the papers were full of the news about the latest results from the PIVOT study of prostate cancer. This study – the Prostate Intervention Versus Observation Trial - was set up to compare surgical removal of the prostate gland versus observation or “watchful...  Read More
Apr. 19, 2012 2:42 pm
Make sure you invite powerful stakeholders to the christening. We know the story. The beautiful princess pricks a finger on an enchanted needle and sleeps for a hundred years. Who enchanted the needle? The wicked fairy. And why did she enchant the needle? Because the king and queen failed to invite her to the christening of their beautiful daughter. Moral of the story for project...  Read More
Apr. 14, 2012 11:01 am
In 1981 Brian MacMahon and co-workers at Harvard published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine presenting evidence linking coffee consumption to pancreatic cancer. The New York Times ran a headline Study Links Coffee Use to Pancreatic Cancer . The story was picked up by Time magazine and Newsweek and snowballed from there. The MacMahon paper compared the coffee drinking...  Read More
Apr. 11, 2012 4:14 pm
HealthDay has already received plenty of stick for its coverage of the HER2-based peptide vaccine AE37 - see the Health News Review . In truth, I thought it was one of the more balanced pieces of journalism that I've seen. To cut a long story short preliminary data in a study of 217 breast cancer survivors suggest the vaccine triggers an immune response. Immune responses were observed in 86%...  Read More
Apr. 11, 2012 5:49 am
Bacon sandwiches increase your chance of experiencing bowel cancer by 20%. On the face of it, this is a worrying statistic. However, elsewhere, I have already discussed the dangers of reporting relative risks. Relative risks are frequently used to "sex up" or "spin" statistics in order to make news headlines. So as soon as I see a relative risk, I want to see the underlying absolute...  Read More
Apr. 8, 2012 3:00 am
Once a social or economic indicator or other surrogate measure is made a target for the purpose of conducting social or economic policy, then it will lose the information content that would qualify it to play that role. Goodhart's Law The Investigational New Drug application (IND) and the New Drug Application (NDA) are two key stages in the pharmaceutical submission process. The...  Read More
Apr. 6, 2012 4:31 am
If the shoe fits, wear it. In my Tuesday blog I featured a pharmaceutical company report featuring 11 molecules in late-stage development with submissions for four of them “expected in the forthcoming year”. Of the 11 molecules one was indeed approved the following year. Two more were approved 5 years later - though subsequently one had to be withdrawn due to safety concerns. The...  Read More
Apr. 3, 2012 1:12 pm
Twenty years in pharmaceuticals and just two of my projects made it to the market place. And, in truth, I was one of the lucky ones. Many scientists spend their entire professional lives working on molecules that never make it to market. It really is no surprise to them to hear that pharmaceutical development is an expensive and risky business . And it was always amusing to read of our...  Read More
Mar. 30, 2012 9:53 am
High attrition is not the problem. Late stage attrition is the problem. In pharmaceuticals, late stage attrition hurts. Ask AstraZeneca. Or their partner, Targacept. AstraZeneca sought to boost their R&D pipeline in a joint venture with Targacept. Targacept holds the rights to several new molecular entities for the treatment of depression and for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. In...  Read More
Mar. 27, 2012 3:00 pm
Fast-Fail thinking is not without its critics. The idea that in high risk businesses such as pharmaceuticals the key to success is to eliminate marginal or failing products as quickly as possible - to increase the "failure" rate - is seen by many people not just as counterintuitive but palpably false. We have a technical term for such people. We call them morons. Norman...  Read More
Mar. 26, 2012 3:35 pm
CNN ran a story last week on prostate cancer . 'Cutting' your risk of prostate cancer CNN The story contained details of an observational study reporting a 15% reduction in relative risk of prostate cancer amongst men circumcised before first intercourse. The story was then picked up by half the rest of the world. Now I’ve already droned on about the problems of...  Read More
Mar. 25, 2012 12:02 pm
Fast-Fail strategies first arose in R&D in the pharmaceutical industry during the early 1990s. At that time the prevailing thinking was that increasing development speed would reduce time to market. And reducing time to market would in turn maximize the patent-protected lifetime of products. This thinking led to a rash of development speed initiatives. However, these development speed...  Read More
Mar. 22, 2012 3:40 pm
In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead. Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b15 There's an old joke about a mathematician and a statistician. The joke is based on the Paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise . In this paradox, Achilles is in a footrace...  Read More
Mar. 14, 2012 4:18 pm
Alarm bells ring whenever I see these words in a news headline: Promising Exciting Breakthrough Wonder Cure Miracle Dramatic Increase Dramatic Decrease Doubles the Risk Halves the Risk Ban these words ? Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I’m becoming cynical? Maybe I've seen the story just too many times? Like the Pleconaril story [1] . A putative cure for the...  Read More
 
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