Who caught this bit in Newsweek earlier this month:
"During the time Andrew S. Grove spent at Intel, the computer chip company he co-founded, the number of transistors on a chip went from about 1,000 to almost 10 billion. Over that same period, the standard treatment for Parkinson's disease went from L-dopa to . . . L-dopa."
"Grove (who beat prostate cancer 12 years ago and now suffers from Parkinson's) thinks there is something deeply wrong with this picture, and he is letting the pharmaceutical industry, the National Institutes of Health and academic biomedicine have it. Like an increasing number of critics who are fed up with biomedical research that lets paralyzed rats (but not people) walk again, that cures mouse (but not human) cancer and that lifts the fog of the rodent version of Alzheimer's but not people's, he is taking aim at what more and more critics see as a broken system..."
Bravo, Andy! I've often wondered why progress in the Pharma industry seems so plodding, compared to other R&D-heavy industries. Obviously, patient safety is a huge issue. But industry observers are calling Pharma a "dry, dry desert" in terms of innovation.
A number of bloggers ask: Is the FDA standing in the way, by raising the safety bar and approving fewer drugs to avoid a repeat of the Vioxx (rofecoxib) and Avandia (rosiglitazone) safety scares? Or does the relative lack of approvals this year reflect the Pharma sector's failure to devise innovative new products?
On the what's-wrong-with-this-picture front, I also read recently in the Economist that "big drugs firms spend less than a fifth of their revenues in America on R&D, but over a third peddling pills." They spend more than $12 Billion a year on marketing, to be exact. Wow!
As a person living with a chronic illness, I can't help feeling that the large sums of money flowing in and around pharma innovation are justified. The problem is, most of that promotional dough goes to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising that "glamorizes and normalizes the use of prescription medication." In other words, selling a bunch of expensive pills to people who don't really need them. When they could be spending money on more effective treatments (and possibly cures?) for our diabetes and Mr. Grove's prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease, for example. Aaaarrrgh!
One more item on the what's-wrong-with-this-picture agenda, btw. What is wrong with THIS picture?
You tell me. (Or click the image for a link.) Geezus.