November highlights from the Biopharma Newsletter

by Last updated Dec 13, 2020 | Published on Dec 13, 2020Newsletter0 comments

Some of you might have noticed that I stopped publishing my regular newsletter on the blog—some of you might be here for the first time and don’t even know I have a newsletter. 😊

I stopped publishing here every week because I felt it was a bit of a repetition, and it was one more task I had to add to my weekly to-do list. But I also feel like having a sort of permanent place for some of the content, other than sending an email, and ‘puff’, it’s gone. So, I’ll start compiling some of the content of the previous month and share it here.

Feel free to comment and share this post with your network if you find it useful.

Vaccine hesitancy

“A vaccine greatest enemy is its own efficacy”

I once heard this, and although I can’t trace its origin anymore, it stuck with me. I have never seen a case of smallpox in my life, and although I had measles, I don’t remember it. And since humans tend to have a relatively short memory, if most of us don’t see or experience a disease, we unfortunately tend to diminish its importance.

A new study published in PLOS Medicine investigated the reasons for vaccination complacency in the United States, through a survey to 2,411 people, delivered in early 2018. They structured the survey in three parts. The first collected data about the places visited in a typical week, the second presented the participants with one of 7 hypothetical disease outbreaks and asked how they would respond, and the third collected sociodemographic data.

The findings show that different degrees of risk (in terms of local cases of disease) correspond with different proportions of populations willing to vaccinate, as well as sociodemographic aspects related to vaccine propensity. The authors say that this information can be helpful for campaigns that aim to reduce vaccine hesitancy and is useful for modelling feedback between human decision-making and the spread of disease.

Securing patient access to COVID-19 medicines

The international medicines’ regulators and the World Health Organisation (WHO) joined forces and are working together to make sure that patients have access to safe and effective medicines against COVID-19 as early as possible.

The International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA) and WHO have created a joint statement in which they reiterate that therapeutics and vaccines against COVID-19 can only be rapidly approved if the applications are supported by robust and sound scientific evidence, which allows medicine regulators to conclude on a positive benefit-risk balance for these products.

The statement notes that “these challenges are best addressed by working together to ensure existing rigorous scientific standards of review and oversight are maintained.”

The press release

Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine candidate, BNT162b2 (a name that just rolls out of the tongue, don’t you agree?), was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in trial participants. The phase III study began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,538 participants to date, 38,955 of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of November 8, 2020 (the cut-off date for the analysis). The number of COVID-19 cases reached 94, and the split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90%, at 7 days after the second dose, they say.

This is great news, of course, and an amazing feat for mankind. Who would have thought that it would be possible to produce a vaccine in just under a year?

The plastic problem

Ever since listening to a podcast episode about the (lack of) plastic recycling, I’ve been acutely aware about the sheer amount of plastic that we produce, even when trying to reduce it. Maybe like so many others, my pangs of remorse over my overflowing plastics recycling bin at home was soothed by my dutiful recycling habits. Now I feel like a fool. And suddenly, language takes a whole new level of importance.

I’ll explain.

Regarding the plastics quandary, it is true that plastic is recyclable. But how often do you buy something on a container that says that is made from recycled plastic? I think I can actually count them on my fingers. A laundry detergent, sadly ineffective at removing stains from kids’ clothes. A dishwasher liquid that exacerbated my hands eczema. And maybe a shampoo. I’m not sure about this last one though. What most plastic containers do say is that they are made from recyclable plastic. And there lies the difference.

Being made from recyclable plastic doesn’t mean that the plastic is actually going to be recycled.

I don’t have a solution for this problem, but it has taken my plastics awareness to a new level. It also made me realise once again that the way we communicate has a massive influence on how people listen (or don’t listen) to what we say.

Resources for writers and advertisers

Two virtual acquaintances created some useful resources that I’d like to share. The first is Sandra Muller, who developed a plain English dictionary that is gold for those of us writing for patients. Sometimes we get caught up in the weeds reading so many scientific papers and reports that we can’t speak plainly anymore. Can you think of how to say “yield” in a more straightforward way? Don’t worry, Sandra has your back 😊

Then, there’s Nat Bourre’s resource for medical writers and healthcare advertising agencies around the world. She’s compiling a global healthcare advertising guidelines and guidance resource that is a living document, and will be continuously updated. I confess that I started writing about the Portuguese scenario but haven’t finished it yet. Hopefully you’ll see it there before the end of the year.

Science pick of the month

Last week I heard an amazing episode of one of my favourite podcasts, This Week in Virology. They talked to Kate Rubins, all the way from the International Space Station! It was an amazing conversation, from the initial bits with NASA, to Dr. Kate’s story of how she got to be an astronaut, and her amazing floating hair—that I only got to see when I watched the YouTube video for the episode. The whole episode is just under 30 minutes, and well worth the time.

And that’s it, these are the November highlights from the Biopharma newsletter. Next month I’ll share some more. If you want to receive fresh news every week, just subscribe to the newsletter.

Comments and shares are always welcome 😊



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About Diana Ribeiro

About Diana Ribeiro

Diana Ribeiro is a pharmacist and freelance medical writer based in Cascais, Portugal. Before starting her career in medical writing, Diana worked 10+ years in hospital and community pharmacies, where she helped patients and healthcare professionals with drug management and information. Nowadays, she helps pharma, biotech, and meddev companies communicate with their audiences in a clear, accurate, and compelling way. Diana is an active member of the European Medical Writers Association, where she volunteers for the webinar team. You can find more about her on LinkedIn.


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