Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roll Call

Just wondering if I have many regular readers out there in the blogosphere, if so how about you leave a quick comment so I can get an Idea of who and where so I can make my posts a little more customised?

I'm sure only about 0.01% of my loyal fans will respond so I'm reckoning for about 50 comments here... haha... Leave a quick hello if you have time, and a link where we can read your wonderful stuff... (Tumbleweed rolls by)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Parallel Importation: A Pharma perspective

Parallel Importion has grown hugely in the last few months, but what is it all about?

Read on and be shocked and appalled (and educated... probably)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Google Reader

I have recently had my life ruined, that's right ruined. A previous problem I had with spending too much of my life reading blogs was recently made much much worse - I discovered "Google Reader".
I suppose that on balance I am now reading so much great stuff every day that it would be unfair to say that Google reader has ruined my life, but it has certainly made me more addicted to reading blogs than ever.

The concept is fairly simple, the reader allows you to subscribe to your favorite (or most hated) blogs and then have the new articles from these blogs sent to your Google reader account. This means that seeing as you don't have to click around to many different blogs you A) Save alot of time and B) gain the ability to read a much greater volume of material.

I have gone from reading about 10 blogs regularly to about 50 now, and as soon as any of these blogs post new material Google reader will highlight which blog it is and how many unread pieces they have put up... Wonderful stuff.

Sign up to Google Reader @ and you too can have your life ruined (in a good way)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Quote This!

Well I decided to update my slideshare presentation on the various quotations that have appeared on my blog since the beginning, the end result is "Quote this" a rather nice collection of quotes - hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ryanair: Considering charging by weight?

All the way back in July last year I mentioned how some airlines (Ryanair) should be charging passengers based on their weight (see here), with the logic that people should be paying for a proportionate amount of fuel they are using.

I believe I wrote:
"If an airline lowered the weight of its average passenger, through enforcing restrictions, by say 7kg (just a bit more than a stone), and assuming a plane holds 200 passengers that would mean having 1400kgs less to be lugging through the air"

Well Ryanair launched a competition recently asking for customers' suggestions on how they could best cut costs and... well look what came out as the most popular idea:
“Over 100,000 passengers logged on to to take part in our competition and almost one in three (over 30,000) think that very large passengers should be asked to pay a fat tax,” Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said.

It has to be said though that there are fairly obvious problems with this plan, firstly what is the definition of fat? (for example a grossly obese midget might weigh less than a skinny 7 footer - should you charge on absolute weight or excess weight?) secondly unless you are going to stand people on a scales in the airport how are you going to calculate it, and thirdly it could backfire and be a PR disaster.

However I still maintain that if it is acceptable for car insurance companies to discriminate based on sex, a way of getting cheaper rates to a group that contribute less cost - then it should be acceptable for other services to do this too... Just need to find a way to implement it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pfizer: Dangers of buying drugs online

I came across this ad via "Adfreak" blog. The ad, seemingly sponsored by Pfizer, aims to detail the possible dangers of buying prescription drugs online (which may be fakes), rather than from authorised licensed pharmacists. It's better if I don't ruin the fun for you, but lets just say it involves a rat and a mouth.

Diamonds (and quotations) are forever

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is being tall an advantage?

Is being tall important? Sarkozy seems to think it is...

Many studies have come to the conclusion that with all things being equal in terms of education and experience taller workers tend to earn more money and tend to attain higher ranks in their companies.

According to Steven Landsburg: Economists have known for a long time that it pays to be tall. Multiple studies have found that an extra inch of height can be worth an extra $1,000 a year or so in wages, after controlling for education and experience.

I feel that the above statement is probably true, but only to a certain extent, above a certain height, say 6'7' a person's height becomes somewhat comical and probably acts a distraction.
The average height for a man in Ireland is 5'10' - I am 6'5', an extra $7,000 coming my way perhaps...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crestor to be launched in India - How many boxes will stay there?

Major pharma manufacturer Astrazeneca are planning on launching their major drug Crestor in India, but according to the website "pharmagossip" they will be selling it at 1/5th the price of the product in other markets. In a way this is a smart move, capturing a large slice of the Indian market (1 billion plus people) is definitely worthwhile, however it will be interesting to see what this does to sales of Crestor in higher priced countries.

The last job I had was with a pharma company, and one of the major problems facing the company was importers buying products in Northern Ireland for a cheaper price (circa 20%), shipping them to the republic, and then undercutting the price charged by the Irish subsidiary and keeping the difference in prices. This practice is known as parallel importation, and most people would probably be more familiar with Parallel importation of cigarettes and alcohol - This Christmas saw Northern Irish off-licences see record sales due to a weak Pound.

Astrazeneca say "The launch of CRESTOR® is in line with our India strategy to bring global brands to India at prices affordable for Indian patients", it will be interesting to see how many boxes of Indian priced crestor find their way around the world... I would imagine ALOT will go "missing" and find their way to a pharmacy near you.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why I should check youtube videos before posting

Apologies to anyone who received my previous post via any sort of reader... I didn't check the quality of the youtube video that I had embedded and it turns out it was more than a little offensive... I have updated the post with the correct video now... to those of you who only saw the newest version of my post... good!

Apologies again.


Pharmaceutical advertising - is it appropriate? (No)

It goes without saying that great deal of the advertising on American television is rather absurd, but I find that the absurdity reaches a particular high with “Direct to Consumer” (DTC) advertising for pharmaceutical products. Unlike in Ireland, and most of the developed world, Pharma manufacturers are free to put adverts for their blockbuster products on TV so long as they are fair and balanced.

This “fair and balanced” concept means that the advert must devote a good deal of time to the possible adverse side effects caused by the drug – which tends to result in rather ridiculous endings to these ads where horrific side effect - after horrific side effect - are read out.

When I was on my travels recently I saw an advert for the contraceptive pill “Yaz”. (In a side note, I find this ad to be particularly bizarre, the fact that one of the friends starts to talk about the virtues of Yaz in such a scientific way is just... odd)

The FDA, which in theory controls what these ads can and cannot say, forced the makers of Yaz to run a commercial to “clear up” some unclear information in the above ad. My favourite line in this clear up is the following

“Yaz is for the treatment of PMDD and moderate acne, not for the treatment of PMS or mild acne”

...I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent but I’m not quite sure if my brain is able to decide which is worse mild acne, or moderate acne?

The argument behind allowing Pharma to go DTC is that is helps educate the consumer as to the choices available to them, and to be fair I suppose in the case of some commercials this is true. However on the most part the adverts seem to act as a method of scare mongering, listing off a selection of adequately vague symptoms that captures about 75% of the population – do you often feel tired? – angry? – overly happy? - then this is the drug for you... the list goes on

Well some bright spark decided that it might be a good idea to compare the average health literacy score (where there is DTC advertising) with a country where there is not, and for the purpose of this comparison Americas neighbour to the north was chosen. Below is the graph detailing average health literacy by sex of each nation. Now while the data may not be perfect, we can clearly see that the US score is at best essentially the same, and is clearly not superior to that of a country which does not permit DTC advertising.

My personal leaning on this matter are very much toward the non-DTC camp. Healthcare is not really something to be toyed around with, and in my opinion should be left firmly in the hands of qualified healthcare providers. I also understand that in non-DTC countries, like Ireland, the advertising efforts are redirected towards doctors via sales reps, however I think you can trust that a qualified doctor is much less likely to be swayed by glossy pamphlets and a few free pens. (bribing of doctors is another days post).
Healthcare should be kept in the hands of doctors and not advertisers, and let’s hope that someday the US government see that point.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tall Irishman = Ed

Big news: seems that at the moment my blog comes up as the NUMBER ONE HIT ON THE INTERNET for "Tall Irishman"... Its not much - but its something

Friday, April 17, 2009

"More or Less" a podcast that I like more than is normal

"Welcome to more or less the series that frees numbers from abusive situations and releases them into the community to do good work and lead happy lives" - Tim Harford

My favorite podcast at the moment is "More or Less" a podcast from the BBC dealing with the everyday use of numbers and statistics and how we should be looking at them.

Although it might sound nerdy and boring, it is in fact only nerdy. Tim Harford, author of "The Undercover Economist" has a wonderful way of making seemingly boring facts and figures very interesting and memorable.
Give it a look -Click here

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Slickness, Shininess and Streamlining

I was browsing through this blog the other day and read an article that I thought was very on the button about overly glitzed up presentation, as a result of demands from "people who are more concerned with you having slides that “look good” rather than slides that get the message across effectively"

The article reminded me about a few sentences from the book "Coming up for air" by George Orwell. While in cafe and taking in the surrounding atmosphere, the main character makes an observation about the way the modern world is heading. Sitting there he notices:
A sort of propaganda floating round, mixed up with the noise of the radio, to the effect that food doesn't matter, comfort doesn't matter, nothing matters except slickness and shininess and streamlining.

I think this is the way that a large portion of presenters, journalists and people in general think: its not the facts, the food - its the slickness, shininess and streamlining.

In summary the food does matter... and all this talk of food makes me want to go get some lunch, which I think I will.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Graphjam - Graphs I like alot

I like the website Graphjam, I like it... ALOT. This website features funny graphs, a term which to most might seem oxumoronic... but trust me it is some funny stuff and very much appeals to your inner-nerd.

Below are two of the most recent graphs from the website (click here) :

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pfizer boxershorts cause outrage (just not with doctors)

Having worked in a pharmaceutical company in Ireland I can tell you as a matter of fact that the marketing materials left with family doctors range from the boring (pens) to the more boring (post-its), with the occasional branded mug thrown in there to spice things up.

Then along came some enterprising individual in Pfizer Ireland who decided to make a truly original marketing piece, and now by the sounds of things he will be lined up against some wall and shot in the next while!

"This should not have occurred and only did so through the poor judgment of a Pfizer employee" state Pfizer, adding "A full internal investigation to ensure this type of incident does not occur again has already commenced", so something pretty awful must have happened right?

Well, to mark the tenth anniversary of the landmark drug Viagra's entry to the Irish market, a marketer in Pfizer Ireland HQ had the bright idea to send out boxershorts emblazoned with the company logo to family doctors in their database. According to Pfizer "We acted immediately to apologise for this error of judgment and to seek return of the item"... now is it just me or are they missing the boat on this one.

Firstly, they came up with an original piece of marketing, amidst a sea of post-its, pens and mugs, which doctors are bound to remember, more than the usual pathetic stuff doled out to them.
Furthermore the doctors seem to have enjoyed the gift, one doctor "hadn’t had such a good laugh at a time when there weren’t many opportunities to do so". Pfizer admit that as of yet "very few GPs have returned the freepost envelope"

Secondly the little stunt has got the story in the Irish Times, which also draws attention to 1. the fact its the 10th anniversary, and 2. that Viagara is the : "most commonly prescribed drug for the serious medical condition, which has a number of underlying causes including diabetes"... Free advertising anyone...

Brilliant innovative marketing idea, absurd (although perhaps feigned, if they are smart) corporate reaction.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The state of the US Media - Charlie Brooker

Below is a must watch video off YouTube featuring BBC4's Charlie Brooker giving a quick summary of the sometimes strange, mostly bizarre, US news industry. Great video showing all the big hitters on the US news stations, Also featuring Glenn Beck and his very odd demeanour which is VERY VERY VERRRRY like the movie "Network", so much so that I'm pretty sure he will tell us to go to our window and shout I'm as MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE.
(Caution if you are eating or drinking anything during this video you will probably ruin your computer... I warned you)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lunch is for wimps? A presentation

This is a presentation based on an article I wrote a while back about the disappearance of the "lunch hour". It would seem that the lunch hour is in danger of extinction.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Visualising Titanic Survival

Came across this data visualisation... actually I don't remember where, but its quite an interesting way of depicting data, it takes a while to fully cop on to what is being shown here, but once you have it sussed it makes quite a bit of sense.

The graph below details survival of the Titanic's sinking, and also filters this by sex and class.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Water wastage slides

While watching the programme "Working lunch" on BBC a while back I saw a feature about the shocking leakage of water in supply pipes in Great Britain. However although billions of litres are being lost each day, it is households that are targeted to reduce their usage - while swimming pools worth of water are leaking into the ground, people are told to fix their dripping taps and other activities that are fairly meaningless.

Take a look above or by clicking here

Dermott Mannion resigns as Aer Lingus CEO - good

Good bye Dermot, it's been nice (to the tune of Supertramps "Goodbye stranger")

Well last night Dermot "won't sell" Mannion decided to step down as CEO of Aer Lingus, commenting that "My decision to step down will allow a new CEO to bring fresh thinking and new ideas to the business". Well I think people are bandying about a few names for this position, with Sean Coyle the current CFO being the front runner for this position... well how about trying... Michael O'Leary on for size.

It still amazes me that the Aer Lingus board are holding out against the Ryanair bid, I have a feeling that view O'Leary and his associates as some sort of blood thirsty mob. And whether that is true or not is irrelevant, they are at least a profitable blood thirsty mob.

In the 12 months to December Aer Lingus made a... wait for it... LOSS of €105m, Ryanair? well in March they showed profits of €80m. The worst part of this is when Ryanair put in their official big for AL the AL board claimed there was no need to sell out as they were, and would continue to be a profitable airline.

The question the board need to ask themselves, and be forced to answer to the shareholders is: Are you more profitable now, and into the future under the current management than if you sold out to Ryanair? and if the answer to this is no, which it most likely is then sell up and get out of that board room, Aer Lingus is a private company, the boards responsibility is to shareholders, and thats the end of it...

See you later Dermot

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Woody on showing up

Thought I would go ahead and recycle this quotation I put up in 2007, the man makes a great point...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Media, Statistics and the importance of putting context to the numbers

(Those of you with RSS readers need to click through on the link below)

This is a little presentation I put together after reading an article on the BBC website about statistics in the media, an area that I have unlimited complaints about. I have to admit that this is not a particularly original creation content wise, but I think I have been able to greatly improve the look and feel of the original work.

Have a look and let me know what you think - Analises your blog's personality, seemingly

Came across the website http://www.typeanalyzer/ (via Tom Murphy) which claims to be able to judge your blog's personality. A quick copy and paste of my web address into their analyser came up with the following result:Supposedly I/my blog is classed as being, Myers Briggs terms, an ISTP. (that is to say -Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perception)

I do quite enjoy the description that accompanies that too - "They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously"

I'm sure the absolute scientific value of this website is questionable, but its most certainly worth a look.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Done with the past

Great quote here from a great movie. (seriously worth a look)
I suppose in a few years time when people are looking for decent jobs, and their employers stumble upon appropriate photos from days gone by this quote might become somewhat relevant.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Discovery Channel ad: Boom de yada!

One of the better things I cam across on American television was the following advert run on the Discovery channel over there. It really is one of the best ads I have ever seen and includes appearances by many of the Discovery Channel's "cooler" tv personalities, and a brief contribution from Stephen Hawking.