Speaking of Dinosaurs …

I’ve long thought that Big Pharma was in deep doggy doo-doo. (Long before Vioxx-Bextra-Nexium.) Their inability to find blockbusters, for whatever reasons and despite gargantuan R&D appetites, has been near the top of my watch-worry list. On the other hand, I’ve long defended their profitability as the necessary price of drug discovery. Until now.

Or, rather, until I dove into Dr Marcia Angell’s The Truth About the Drug Companies. (It is an exposé, but she’s no Michael Moore. Dr Angell was longtime Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, and one of Time‘s 25 “most influential people in America.) I will not précis the book here, but simply point out one troublesome passage on industry innovativeness which body-slammed me: “In the five years 1998 through 2002, 415 new drugs were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), of which only 14 percent were truly innovative. A further 9 percent were old drugs that had been changed in some way that made them, in the FDA’s view, significant improvements. And the remaining 77 percent? Incredibly, they were all me-too drugs—classified by the agency as being no better than drugs already on the market to treat the same condition. Some of these had different chemical compositions from the originals; most did not. But none were considered improvements.” Whoops!