Medical Progress Today
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Volume 2, Number 38
October 20, 2005


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In the Spotlight

Bare-Knuckle Politics Leads to Bad Public Policy

Peter J. Pitts, Medical Progress Today, 10-20-05

What does "D.C." stand for? District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams has signed legislation passed by the D.C. Council that makes it illegal for pharmaceutical companies to sell prescription drugs at an "excessive price" in our nation's capital. If companies don't comply, civil penalties may be applied. Medically speaking, the council members may need to have their heads examined. They certainly didn't get their heads around a central issue: What aspects of drug pricing do pharmaceutical companies control? Pfizer doesn't own a chain of pharmacies. Eli Lilly doesn't have a stake in CVS. And, in case you didn't know, there is no such thing as a manufacturer's suggested retail price for prescription medicines.
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News

Links with pharma groups blossom
Financial Times, 10-19-05

Editor’s Notes:

This article focuses on the increasing market clout and profitability of the biotech industry, both in the U.S. and abroad. It also underscores the growing number of medical innovations flowing from biotech pipelines, and the impact that the biotech industry is having on so-called “Big Pharma” companies. Ironically, as biotech companies flex their market muscle, the dividing lines between biotech and pharma companies are blurring through mergers, licensing deals, and shared technology.
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Hurdles ahead for makers of gene-based medicine
The San Francisco Chronicle, 10-19-05

Editor’s Notes:

While the long-term outlook for personalized medicine technologies is bright, this article reminds readers that there are still some significant technical, regulatory, and social hurdles that will have to be managed before personalized medicine reaches its full promise.
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Bayer Offers New Antibiotic with Promise in Fight on TB
The New York Times, 10-18-05

Editor’s Notes:

There are legitimate market-failures in developing nations that slow the deployment of new medicines. But observing that there are market failures—poor countries may not have the infrastructure or funding to pay for even low-cost treatments—shouldn’t lead us to attack intellectual property or multi-national corporations whose first obligation is to protect their share-holders and business models.
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Commentary

Roche Feels the Highs and Lows of Feverish Demand for Tamiflu
Alan Murray, Wall Street Journal, 10-19-05

Murray points out that politics and medicine don’t mix well, especially during a (real or perceived) crisis. Roche, for instance, has come under enormous pressure to license-out its anti-flu drug Tamiflu to help countries stockpile their medicine in the event that avian flu becomes a deadly global pandemic. Some governments and policymakers have already threatened to break the Tamiflu’s patent, while some generic companies are already moving to copy the drug.
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First, Do No Harm
Joseph Calfee, Ph.D., New York Sun, 10-18-05

On the topic of avian flu, Calfee sounds a welcome note of moderation. He advises policymakers not to panic, but to prepare.
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Drugs companies are not on the same level as arms dealers
Andrew Jack, Financial Times, 10-15-05

Andrew Jack points out that the public perception of the pharmaceutical industry, especially in films like The Constant Gardner, has passed the point of fair criticism and gone straight into unhelpful caricature.
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Idealistic, It’s Not: Consumers Union wrong to tout Prop.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, 10-14-05

The Tribune takes Consumers Union to task for promoting Proposition 79, an California special election initiative, backed by unions for reasons entirely unrelated to public health.
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In this week's issue:

SPOTLIGHT

Bare-Knuckle Politics Leads to Bad Public Policy

NEWS

Links with pharma groups blossom
Hurdles ahead for makers of gene-based medicine
Bayer Offers New Antibiotic with Promise in Fight on TB

COMMENTARY

Roche Feels the Highs and Lows of Feverish Demand for Tamiflu
First, Do No Harm
Drugs companies are not on the same level as arms dealers
Idealistic, It’s Not: Consumers Union wrong to tout Prop.
Center for Medical Progress 
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