You Are Being Big Pharma’dFriday, December 25, 2009
More Big Pharma antics over at Pharmaceutical Daily – otherwise called the Wall Street Journal. First, there’s a story about Merck & Co’s cholesterol drugs, Vytorin and Zetia, which are, like all of these potent prescription drugs, making people sicker and/or killing them. The FDA had reviewed clinical trials that showed an increased risk of cancer and deaths from cancer in patients taking Vytorin, and came to this conclusion:
“Based on the currently available information, FDA believes it is unlikely that Vytorin or Zetia increase the risk of cancer or cancer-related death, but at this time an association cannot be definitively ruled out,” the agency said in a posting on its Web site Tuesday.
Vytorin is a single-tablet combination of the drugs simvastatin and Zetia, which are both touted as cholesterol lowering drugs. Of course, these drugs are always claimed to lower “bad cholesterol,” which should be a pretty hilarious claim to anyone with a drop of common sense. These powerful drugs lower total cholesterol, which is why so many people who stay on them suffer bizarre and serious consequences in the long term. Side effects of Vytorin are inflammation, joint pain, muscle pain, memory loss and depression (thanks to the lowering of cholesterol), headaches, weakness, and liver problems. ***
The second story of note is Pharmaceutical Daily‘s brief story on Cephalon, an international biopharmaceutical company. Cephalon has applied for approval for its new drug Nuvigil, which it claims reduces the effects of jet lag. Yes, jet lag. That irreversible, painful, and sometimes deadly disease that needs an immediate cure, otherwise we will all live nasty, brutish, and short lives. Indeed, jet lag can be very counter-productive and unpleasant, but it’s not the end of the world, and in fact there is much you can do to minimize its effects without submitting to another phony wonder drug that works against all of your body’s natural instincts. Once again, I will follow the money. From the story:
Nuvigil and another Cephalon drug, Provigil, are both approved to “improve wakefulness” in people with certain sleep problems. The drugs work in a similar way, though Nuvigil has longer-lasting effects. Cephalon has been raising the price of Provigil — which could face generic competition in 2012 — in what looks like an effort to get people to switch to Nuvigil, which has patent protection through 2023.
So Cephalon is pulling a fast one. The game is to get people using its most profitable drugs – those which are under patent protection and thus can be overpriced and bring forth huge revenues and substantial margins.
*** On a related note, you may want to read Duane Graveline’s book Lipitor: Thief of Memory – Duane is an MD and a former USAF flight surgeon and NASA astronaut who has offered great contributions to the statin debate and links to some fantastic material from members of the medical community who belong to the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics.