HEALTH

Study finds ‘dreaming the pain away’ helps young abdominal pain sufferers

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children that suffer with abdominal pain can take the pain away with their imagination.

By using relaxation music and imagining such scenarios as floating on a cloud, researchers found that the method led to improvements in the severity of pain. In the study, children had 20 minute sessions of “guided imagery”, a concept which reduces discomfort while imagining a relaxed and peaceful environment.

The research followed on from studies showing hypnosis is an effective treatment for a range of conditions known as functional abdominal pain, which includes things like irritable bowel syndrome.

It has been estimated that frequent stomach pain with no identifiable cause affects up to 1-in-5 children, researchers said.

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Pfizer reports 3Q profit rise, revenue drop

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Job cuts helped raise Pfizer’s third-quarter 2009 profits by 26% over third-quarter 2008, even though the company had lower overall sales, according to an earnings report released Tuesday.

The world’s largest drug maker reported profits of $2.9 billion, compared with $2.3 billion a year ago, though revenues were $11.6 billion, a 3% decrease from $12 billion in third-quarter 2008. The company said the decrease in revenues and the rise in the value of the dollar kept profits from increasing further.

Pfizer’s $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth, while giving the company a leg up in vaccines, biologics and OTC drugs, helped offset profits by requiring it to pay higher interest rates on its bonds, according to the report. The company incurred $22.5 billion in debt through the acquisition, prompting Standard & Poor’s to lower its bond rating from AAA to AA.

Such drugs as the pain drug Lyrica (pregabalin) and the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) had strong sales overseas, but primary-care drugs in general had a mediocre performance thanks to lower sales of Lipitor in the United States. Cancer drugs, likewise, had lackluster performance, despite growth in recent years in the cancer drug market in general.

Though the drug Sutent (sunitinib malate) sold well, the company lost market exclusivity in Europe for the drug Camptosar (irinotecan), and had lower sales overseas due to the strengthening of the dollar, helping to drive sales down from $389 million in third-quarter 2008 to $371 million this quarter.

Meanwhile, sales of specialty drugs — drugs prescribed by specialist doctors rather than primary-care physicians — were $1.6 billion, a 3% increase over third-quarter 2008, thanks largely to strong sales of such drugs as the multiple sclerosis treatment Rebif (interferon beta-1a) and the pulmonary arterial hypertension drug Revatio (sildenafil citrate).

“The completion of the Wyeth acquisition represents a significant milestone in the transformation of Pfizer,” Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler stated. “We are beginning to implement our integration plan in order to quickly maximize the value of our expanded and more diversified global product portfolio in key high-growth areas. With customer-centric businesses, supported by research organizations, Pfizer is now well positioned to deliver greater value to patients and shareholders.”

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S&P lowers Pfizer’s bond rating

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Credit rating firm Standard & Poor’s has lowered Pfizer’s bond rating due to the debt it incurred in its acquisition of Wyeth, which the drug maker completed Thursday.

S&P reduced Pfizer’s debt rating from AAA to AA following the acquisition, attributing the downgrade to the difficulties Pfizer could have facing the twin challenges of a slower market and looming patent expirations. Pfizer paid $68 billion for Wyeth, racking up about $22.5 billion in new debt, and S&P had warned at the beginning of the year that it might lower the rating.

Still, the acquisition greatly expands Pfizer’s pipeline and portfolio of pharmaceutical, biotech and OTC drugs.

“Pfizer’s newly strengthened company will have some of the best assets, people, pipeline and capabilities in the industry,” CEO Jeffrey Kindler said in a statement Friday as the two companies began their first day as a single entity. “We have a clear responsibility to turn those strengths into meaningful results for patients, customers and the communities we serve, as well as for our shareholders.”

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