My favourite photos

I was looking through many of my photos today and thought that some of them are quite good! I have not really had a chance to look at them as none of them have been printed out, and really I had them on the website in the first place to share with people at home whilst I was travelling. As a result I had not really given any time to looking at them properly before now.

UPDATE: I moved my list of favourite photos onto Flickr. None the the photos are stored here anymore.

Generate XSD from Stored Procedure

I’ve always normally created XSD files manually, hand typing each field, and for each element. The procedure was a little tedious to say the least. I have been looking at ways to speed up database creation and the setup of basic project information in Visual Studio.NET.

The first thing I looked at was the Export to XML feature of Access 2000. As many of you will already know, you can link Access directly via ODBC to a live SQL 2000 database, or any other datasource for that matter. With SQL 2000, that means you can create tables, views and stored procedures using the more flexible designer in Access (shitty t-sql code, but who cares), compared to the simple editor provided by SQL Server Enterprise Manager.

I couldn’t get the Access export feature to work, so I looked at XSD.exe, part of the framework tools, allowing you to infer and create schemas. Something triggered and I remembered that the development environment uses this tool when creating datasets in Visual Studio.NET.

The result is that once your stored procedure is complete, simply add a new dataset to your solution, then connect to your local or remote database, drag the stored procedure onto the designer and hey presto – you have all the fields and data types created for you.

Very neat, yet obvious really. I don’t know I had missed it before. It makes me realise how much of VS.NET I might not be using to full capacity.

Scrap drug patents and pollution fever

Vast amounts of money is spent by pharmaceutical companies in the development of new drugs that go to help peoples lives. Currently it would seem that once a patent had been applied to it remains in place for 20 years, but really only applies for around 7-10 years, protecting the investment a drug company has made into developing the drug. This difference is mainly due to the fact that it takes several years, sometimes even as high as 10 years to get the drug to market, after testing and FDA approval in the USA.

Even though the amount invested is usually a large amount of money (say a number in the millions of dollars), the actual amount of profit reaped from the sale of that drug is huge compared to the investment made. Most pharmaceutical companies spend around 10 percent of revenue, on average, on research and development.

Many of the drug companies are lobbying hard against generic drug development. Obviously the development of generic drugs cuts their profit margins and as such they believe that should generics be open to copy the market name drugs freely then investment into drug development would dry up.

I believe this is a big pile of crap. The calls that drug development would disappear are pure scare mongering by the big pharmaceuticals themselves employing puppet market analysis to suit their own means. There is no doubt that the drug companies would spend less of drug development, bu not as a percentage of revenue. Consumers would just see that prices would drop and their would be more competition in the market place. All of the big name players would continue to develop new drugs, because that is what they do, but they would need to market their drugs more effectively than the generics.

Many pharmaceuticals specialists would probably like to argue about this until the cows coem home, but I will give you a rather nice example of a big name brand called Benadryl which acts against allegries through the blocking of histamine production int he body. It uses an active ingredient called cetirizine dihydrochloride, which is now produced by generics. I suffer from hayfever (I’ll get on to this in a moment), and yesterday needed to buy some anti-histamine tablets to control the continued sneezing and puffy eyes, which has been driving me mad for the last few days. Since I was in Somerfield, I looked to see if they sold any. To my surprise they only sold Benadryl, and the price was a staggering £4.45 for 7, one-a-day, tablets. I was astounded to see such a high price.

I took a walk into the town to Boots and had a look there. Benadryl was still quite highly priced at £3.69, or 53 pence a tablet. Unbelievable! The competition included Clarityn (active ingredient Loratadine), which no longer works for me I might add, priced at 50 pence a tablet, then comes Boots own brand Loratadine at 43 pence a tablet. I went for Galpharm’s cetirizine dihydrochloride tablets, priced at 99 pence for 7 tablets, or 14 pence a tablet. Boots also had a three for two offer so I saved even more.

The point here I guess is that Benadryl and Claratyn, as brand name products (no patent anymore thank god), are strong enough in their name to be able to get away with charging triple the price for the same thing. If people didn’t buy it, and sensibly went for the generic like I did then products like Benadryl would be cheaper. Since they have such a high price, it proves that the marketing done by those companies for these brands is good enough to allow them to charge such a price and get away with it. Any drug company that says it would stop developing drugs should be pointed to this page and the example given. They will not stop developing drugs, and will continue to make large profits, regardless of the needless protectionism given to them currently.

More on Hayfever

As a note on hayfever I have found it interesting that when I travel abroad to certain places I do not suffer from hayfever when I would normally expect to. Allergen specialists studying the causes of increased allergic rhinitis since the end of the second world war have hypothesised various causes for the vast increase of hayfever suffering, which in the UK is thought to be around 20% of the population. There is no doubt that this number is increasing in the western world but why? Researchers target several possible causes but none are proved. These include, and are not exhaustive:

  • Increased hygiene, has prevented us from getting used to common parasites and pathogens because our houses are cleaner.
  • Houses are more likely to have the ait locked in, and people spent more time indoors watching television of playing on computers.
  • Linked to the abuse of anti-biotics and vaccinations, although nobody would argue at present against vaccination of children against dangerous diseases (except maybe MMR but that’s a different story).
  • In 2004 a strong link was made by Swedish researchers linking hayfever to phthalates, commonly used in PVC, paint pigments and adhesives.
  • There have been links made between hayfever and margarine.

I’m sure if I looked more into it, various other possibly reasons would immerge, but essentially nobody really knows why hayfever is increasing. What I find interesting is that during my trip around South America, I did not suffer. I have always suffered worst in places that are the most polluted. My worst attack, which combined hayfever and allergic asthsma, occurred whilst driving through Milan on a particularly hot and still day. Milan is notoriously polluted. London and the South East have also caused me to have bad attacks.

My feeling is that increased pollution is directly related to increased hayfever suffering. I believe that it could be possible that plants over react to pollution in the air, or have been mutated in some way in response to that pollution. I also believe that the pollution itself from vehicle exhaust fumes is what many of us are allergic to anyway. I have not seen many studys on this possible link. Hopfully someone might look into it one day.It is surely better to fix the problem, rather than try to cure the symptoms.

The essence is that hayfever is really quite badly named as a common phrase used in the mainstream to describe allergic rhinitis. I mean, how much hay is there in the centre of a big city like London? Maybe if we called it Pollution Fever, that 20% of the UK population might think a little harder about green issues and the over use of their cars.

I propose that we start a campaign to get Hayfever renamed to Pollution Fever. Who’s with me?

Just a thought!