September 21, 2002



My rather lengthy post from Bill Quick's comments section, reproduced here so I can find it later if I need it. Yon Bill had rushed to the defence of Big Pharma against all those nasty AIDS activists demanding that fewer people be left to die because their drugs cost too much:

A couple uncomfortable facts about "big pharma," an industry whose representatives, in my professional dealings with them, have almost always come across as extremely objectionable, even venal individuals:

"Only one-third of the drugs launched in the United States in the 1990s were genuinely new, according to a report issued last May by the U.S. National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation."

"[Big Pharma] spent $7.2 billion (U.S.) last year to employ 80,000 sales people, or 'detail men'"... double the number in 1996.

"Bristol-Myers Squibb Co... has spent $16.5 billion (U.S.) on R&D during the past dozen years without developing a single new major drug."

Big pharma R&D costs have tripled since 1994, but the number of new drugs approved by the FDA remains under 30 per year. Many of those breakthroughs were developed by small, non-American companies (ie, the first genetic test for HIV drug resistance, approved by the FDA last September, developed by Toronto-based Visible Genetics Inc.). Industry analysts say the real payoff for all that R&D investment has been the increased number of "knock-off" drugs created, often to avoid patent protection expiry. (If you reformulate a pill so that it can be taken once a day instead of twice daily, or modify it for use by children as well as adults, your patent is extended six months automatically: see NIHCM Foundation study, above.)

And Bill, you're wrong about public drug R&D: a Boston Globe study found 45 of the top 50 best-selling drugs approved by the FDA between 1993 and 1998 had been partially or wholly publicly funded. Another 1997 study funded by the National Science Foundation found that 50 per cent of papers cited in medical patents were from public institutions, 33 per cent from non-American sources, and 17 per cent from the American private drug industry. (CHI Research, "The Increasing Linkage Between U.S. Technology and Public Science," (abstract; full text unavailable online))

I'm one of those people who believe that the dot-commers were partially to blame, too, for being inefficient businessmen... big pharma is another bubble of massive inefficiency that, were it not for the extensive government protection encouraged by the industry's massive campaign donations, would likely have burst long ago, too. I wouldn't hold such a candle for them, Bill.

NB: I actually meant Andy Freeman in that second-last paragraph, who had come to Bill's defence earlier.

Posted by BruceR at 11:39 PM



Finally gave up on Bearshare this week. Just couldn't connect to Gnutella with the latest version... at all. So, screw it... trying out Shareaza now, and I'm reasonably satisfied. My cursory research would indicate it's the current co-leader for P2P file sharing in terms of ease of use and functionality, and absence of parasite-wear, about tied with the open-source Gnucleus... (looked for Xolox, but I couldn't even find a reliable download location for the program). For no obvious reason, my first downloads were Shakira's "Objection (Tango)", Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline", and Tom Jones' cover of "Burning Down the House" with the Cardigans... that probably tells you more about me than anything I've written all year, now that I think about it... No harder finding them than Bearshare USED to be... still miss Napster, though.

Posted by BruceR at 10:44 PM