Is Humira a Wonder Drug? One data point only…

14 Nov

As scientists we all know that making decisions on single data points is just so wrong. When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry then we are all conscious of the interplay of the nature of clinical testing, the use of statistics to “clarify” a drug’s performance and risks, the power of marketing to deliver that drug to the marketplace and how long term testing of the drug in the marketplace can deliver those “oops!” moments and result in withdrawals from the market. I am not going to name ANY drugs in regards to my comments above…you can make up your own favored set of oops-pharmaceuticals and favorite ads…

That said, when the quality of life of a family member or friend is so dramatically impacted in a positive sense by a drug it is worth celebrating. When life suddenly becomes worth living again and the gray pallor of daily struggle is replaced by a smile and red rosy cheeks then it should be acknowledged. With that may come the worry of long term side effects and downsides but for some the here and now is simply more important.

I am SURROUNDED by people with stomach conditions with labels such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis and so on. And, based on what a doctor has said, there all labels for similar conditions and the reality is the number of people with such conditions are increasing and while there are treatments it’s very complex to diagnose and treat. Many people don’t even know they have one of these conditions and put it down to upset stomach, gas or related general upset. Based on my experience the estimates of 4 million worldwide suffering such conditions is very low.

One of my friends has been in that gray pallor mode of life for a long time. >10 bowel movements per day (imagine the pain!), general distress on a daily basis and an inability to function in public life because of the need to be near to a public toilet. With multiple drugs prescribed over the years and being scoped through most orifices giving up on medicines was an option. And then he took Humira (adalimubab). Originally marketed for arthritis this drug is now showing good results in Crohn’s disease patients and, in the case of my friend, ulcerative colitis (but remember they are all mixed together!) There are potential serious side effects listed but this is a call to anyone out there with friends or family with one of the potential disorders listed above. If they are losing hope and are willing to challenge their doctors to try new medications suggest that the doctor review the potential of Humira. It put a smile on the face of my friend in less than a week and gave him back quality of life. We’ll see what happens long term.  (I’d like to point you to a chemical structure of Humira on ChemSpider but it is NOT a small molecule. You can find details on Drugbank though.)


About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.
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Posted by on November 14, 2007 in Uncategorized


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