Business briefs: Pharma's ad spend, Baby sheds HIV status

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Although sequestration is all about government programs, recent numbers from research firm Cegedim Strategic Data indicate that the pharmaceutical industry has been focusing on its own version of cost-cutting, and 2012 ad spend was on the list of things to be chopped. Among their findings, released in a recent white paper: the industry spent $27 billion on US ads last year, 8% less than in 2011. DTC advertising fell to $3.1 billion, a 22% difference from the year before, and detailing had a 5% falloff, to $15 billion. The much-documented standby, direct mail, held its own, and garnered an additional 16% in budget allocations, for which pharma put out $1.1 billion. In 2012 Eli Lilly anti-depressant Cymbalta kept its position as the most promoted brand in the US, while Pfizer was the top-spending drug maker, despite a 2% decline in outlays, shelling out some $2.4 billion for various types of promotion.

Early antiviral intervention appears to have turned an HIV-positive baby into an HIV-negative one, reported multiple news outlets including the New York Times and radio/web source NPR. The two-and-a-half-year-old Mississippi patient went off the medical grid after 18 months, and was then sought out by health authorities. The doctor, Hannah Gay, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said the infant had been without antivirals for about six or seven months, and results seem to indicate that the early intervention—31 hours after birth, including subsequent doses—appears to have eradicated the virus from the child's bloodstream. “We think it was that very early and aggressive treatment...that curtailed the formation of viral reservoirs,” Gay told NPR, meaning the virus couldn't do the equivalent of burrow in and hide until the coast was clear. NPR noted that these viral reservoirs are critical footholds and can take “70 years of steady, three-drug antiviral treatment to eliminate.” NYT said if the case is confirmed, the baby will be the second documented HIV cure case. The other, Timothy Brown, became HIV-free after receiving a bone marrow transplant.

Boston Children's Hospital is tired of waiting for technology to catch up to its needs and is diving into the app world on its own, reported Mobihealth. The news source said the Harvard-affiliated hospital kicked off an innovation campaign in 2011, and a pilot app of that year's winning proposal has been shown to deliver lab results 28% faster than without it. Mobihealth says the hospital is also in the process of deploying a patient-centric app which provides test results and “names and photos of each patient's care team.”

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