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June 16, 2006

Filthy, Greedy Bastards Corporations, Globalization

You know all those stories where a guy invents an engine that runs on water and the oil companies bury the invention? Or somebody comes up with a dirt cheap cure for cancer and the drug companies buy her out? That kind of stuff doesn't happen in real life, though. Right? Prepare to be outraged. Guardian:

A major drug company is blocking access to a medicine that is cheaply and effectively saving thousands of people from going blind because it wants to launch a more expensive product on the market.

Ophthalmologists around the world, on their own initiative, are injecting tiny quantities of a colon cancer drug called Avastin into the eyes of patients with wet macular degeneration, a common condition of older age that can lead to severely impaired eyesight and blindness. They report remarkable success at very low cost because one phial can be split and used for dozens of patients.

But Genentech, the company that invented Avastin, does not want it used in this way. Instead it is applying to license a fragment of Avastin, called Lucentis, which is packaged in the tiny quantities suitable for eyes at a higher cost. Speculation in the US suggests it could cost £1,000 per dose instead of less than £10. The company says Lucentis is specifically designed for eyes, with modifications over Avastin, and has been through 10 years of testing to prove it is safe.

Unless Avastin is approved in the UK by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) it will not be universally available within the NHS. But because Genentech declines to apply for a licence for this use of Avastin, Nice cannot consider it. In spite of the growing drugs bill of the NHS, it will appraise, and probably approve, Lucentis next year. [...]

New drugs for the condition are badly needed: those we have now only slow the progression to blindness. With Avastin, many patients get their sight back with just one or two injections. [...]

Avastin was first used on human eyes by Philip Rosenfeld, an ophthalmologist in the US, who was aware of animal studies carried out by Genentech that showed potential in eye conditions. This unlicensed use of Avastin has spread across continents entirely by word of mouth from one doctor to another. It has now been injected into 7,000 eyes, with considerable success.

Professor Rosenfeld has published his results and a website has been launched in the US to collate the experiences of doctors from around the world. But although the evidence is good, regulators require randomised controlled trials before they grant licences, which generally only the drug companies can afford to carry out.

Prof Rosenfeld said the real issue was drug company profits. "This truly is a wonder drug," he said. "This shows both how good they [the drug companies] are and on the flip side, how greedy they are." He would like to see governments fund clinical trials of drugs such as Avastin in the public interest. [...]

About 20,000 people are diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration in the UK each year. "From the patient's point of view, if they have an eye condition that deteriorates very quickly, there is no question of waiting," said Professor Wong. "We're talking about days and weeks, rather than months. The question is should we do nothing and say there is no randomised controlled trial to prove Avastin is of value?" He called for primary care trusts to agree to pay for the planned phasing-in of new drugs for the condition.

Pharmaceutical firms say they need to launch drugs at high prices because of the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on developing them. Critics point out that the company's calculations also include the marketing budget. [Emphasis added]

How do these people sleep at night? Really. How? This isn't just numbers on a spreadsheet. This is real people going blind unnecessarily.

If the drug company won't pay for clinical trials, somebody else should. Bill Gates, you listening?

[Thanks, Maurice]

Posted by Jonathan at June 16, 2006 10:36 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


As desperate as your sleep question sounds, I'm sure it's rhetorical. Maybe somebody who works in a corporate environment and as a result is emotionally dysfunctional is listening, and will hopefully hear.

Here's a chapter on greed from "A Quest for Personal Power" by Phil Nuernberger, PH.D.

"Satisfying all our desires, even if it were possible, is not the answer. It doesn't take long before we realize that sometimes satisfying a desire leads to even greater difficulty. For example, greed, another negative emotion, arises when we already possess the objects of our desire. But the possession only feeds the desire further. Instead of just one piece, now we want the entire pie. Many of us never have enough no matter how much we get. Life becomes a rat race, a futile attempt to get enough to make us happy. THIS IS THE HIDDEN TRAP OF MATERIALISM. We always want something a little bit better. We always strive to raise our standard of living. We must have a little more than last year or we think we are not doing well. WE LOSE ANY SENSE OF SUFFICIENCY as we become driven to have more and more and more."

Greed in a corporate environment is two-fold. A corporation itself is greedy by nature. This is easily rationalized by the people who work in a corporation by calling it something else - financial success – always increasing the bottom line. Financial success is not only socially acceptable, it's revered; therefore there is no guilt or shame in working for a corporation.

People who work in corporations are doing so in an environment that fosters and encourages greedy behavior. Everything people do in a corporation is done to satisfy the corporation's stated purpose. This allows people to emotionally disconnect from the outcome of their decisions because they're simply doing their job. The corporation 'entity' receives the backlash of bad decisions, not the people who actually make the decisions. There's no guilt or shame in doing one's job. In fact, the better you are at satisfying the corporations stated purpose, the more you are respected, revered and compensated.

Respect and reverence make people feel good, and because the corporation is receiving the brunt of any negativity, it frees people of any guilt and shame, thereby making sleep possible.

When life is about money and materialism it becomes a cyclical disease in the mind that, among other things, dilutes and buries the conscious. Most corporate environments amplify this effect because the people who work there are surrounded by others who cheer them on.

To any people climbing the corporate ladder, have you ever woken early in the morning, shortly before your alarm clock goes off feeling calm, serene, peaceful, completely still? Then, in an instant – a flash – you have a realization about something you recently did and it shakes you to your core. Your heart bounds hard. You immediately shake it off because it’s so intense. Then you simply go about your day hardly giving it a second thought. If so, you’re suffering from a buried conscious, guilt and shame. You just don’t know it.

Posted by: Jeff at June 18, 2006 02:32 PM

I normally agree with most everything that is posted here, but you really don't have a full knowledge of how it is to be a drug company. I understand that stories like these make them look like greedy bastards, and they often are, but you must also see this from their perspective. The instant that one of these patients dies or becomes worse due to the unapproved use of the drug and sues the company for millions, could be the end of the company altogether. And also there is a reason that such rigorous testing is required of drugs, not to make it a small members only club, but because if they don't do the thorough testing they'll miss potential problems that could injure or kill millions. You need look no further than Merck to see how unnoticed problems in ONE DRUG can cut almost all the profits, stock price and public confidence in a company and put it on the brink of bankruptcy, and who does that serve? Drug co's wouldn't just be irresponsible if they said "sure, go ahead and use it whereever it works even if we haven't tested it or have FDA approval for that" they'd get sued and shut down by the FDA. I understand the cost difference in the drugs here is substantial, but until the gov't decides to front the bill for the 10 years+ of testing, they have to make it back somehow, and the FDA won't approve the drug for multiple uses w/o thorough testing and trials. It costs 100s of millions of dollars to take ONE DRUG from the research bench to the consumer, and the odds of failure at any of those steps is huge (~99%). If the gov't wants to offer ways to make that less expensive, maybe by centralized clinical trial services, then drug co's wouldn't need to charge so much. It's unfortunately a necessary evil, the few successful drugs finance the research and clinical trials for all the rest, many of which fail. Yes, drug companies are greedy bastards, but they truly are on the brink of bankruptcy at any moment since nearly all their income can come from a handful of drugs, and if anything is found (or manufactured) about these cash cow drugs they could lose everything.

Posted by: JW at June 19, 2006 07:45 AM