Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is This A Zebra Or A Horse?

Physicians are trained that when hoofbeats are heard, they are usually from horses and not from zebras. "Zebra" is their term for an highly unlikely or surprising diagnosis. You don't go looking for zebras when most things are horses.
  • Picture the older patient with the hoofbeats of slurred speech. Stroke?
  • Picture the younger patient with the same hoofbeats of slurred speech. Alcoholism again?
  • Picture the homemaker having trouble opening jars. Arthritis?
  • Picture the businessman whose left arm feels funny and whose golf shot has gone all to pot. Stress?
  • Picture the young athlete who can't hit the baseball. Time for eyeglasses?
People with ALS have incredibe stories to tell about the long and expensive paths they had to take to get a correct diagnosis. It often takes years for physicians to look past all of those red-herring horses and see the ALS. We don't know how many people die every day from ALS without ever having been diagnosed correctly.

Doctors are trained not to jump straight to that "rare" diagnosis. Even if they suspect ALS, they don't want to make the diagnosis. There is nothing in the doctor's bag that will treat ALS, and there is no more difficult conversation on earth than to share that with a dying patient.

What if there were an effective treatment? Would ALS be diagnosed sooner? Would ALS be a topic that would be on the radar of more primary care physicians, and thus addressed promptly? Would a larger recognized patient population make the world more aware that Aunt Mary may not just have arthritis or that Uncle Joe may not have fallen off the wagon again.

In past decades, markets in many therapeutic areas that did not have effective treatments had been grossly underestimated. Today we have promising clinical trials going on for ALS. Perhaps part of that promise will be that ALS will be diagnosed more quickly and accurately. There may be a lot more hoofbeats in the ALS market than anyone realized.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

There Are Two Cars In Each Garage

Picture two houses, each with two cars in its garage.

One family buys a new car ever eight or ten or more years, cares for it, and is not terribly susceptible to that intoxicating new car smell.

The other family loves to trade in and get a new car every two or three years and loves the new car smell.

Each family has two cars in its garage. Which family provides more revenue for the automotive industry? There is no question that the garage that gets a new car every couple of years is General Motors' dream!

Think about ALS and other diseases. ALS never has very many patients "in the garage" at one moment. They exit and enter at a voracious clip in a cruel trade-in program.

Our agencies and government have a tradition of looking at a snapshot of garages to compare diseases. Two cars are two cars. Somebody needs to look at the number of new cars that enter the garages over time. The significance of ALS is much larger than a pair of full two-car garages would ever indicate!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Most Elegant Solutions To Difficult Problems Are Simple

Here is an elegant solution for a very difficult problem... and we find that Patrick is not only smart, he's delightful!

Enjoy the video and then please pass the link along to everyone you know who works with people with ALS.

Speakbook - How it works from speakbook on Vimeo.