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Every couple of weeks, I endeavor to add my two cents to issues I see arising in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries—trying to calm over-heated rhetoric or enflaming conversation where I think it's necessary—and many of our readers have been good enough to add their opinions to the mix (see below).
That being said, however, I recognize that mine are not the only eyes watching the industries and given that I only have two (eyes, that is), I am bound to miss important topics or not consider other angles on topics regularly covered. That's where you come in. I am challenging you to tell me what topics you would like to see covered in future Out of Order columns. Maybe the following comments from fellow readers will jog an idea or two.
In response to Patent Pendulum, my take on the IP battle between big pharma and the developing world, John Sommerville of Princeton, N.J. reminded me: "Just an FYI, the $1.2 billion dollar estimate for getting a new drug through the pipeline is not just an industry estimate. Both Tufts University and the government's own GAO have come up with similar estimates. Please also realize that a product does have some production and marketing costs associated with it, not all of the drug's income can go into paying off its development costs."
I seem to have struck a nerve with Look at me, my diatribe about marketing hype disguised as scientific posters. Q-Sense's Michael Robinson wrote: "Once again you have hit on a topic that has annoyed me as much as you. So many posters are a reflection of previously done work, but with some "me" twist. I agree, at the end of the day, the reviewers aren't setting the bar high enough. This steady degradation of research quality in turn dilutes the efforts of the truly innovative."
Dr. Jack Coupal of Unified Healthcare LLC quite disagreed with my questions about off-label prescribing by physicians in Off base with off-label?, writing: "The off-label process is very important to advancement in the medical field. Physicians use personal conversations, e-mail, blogs, letters to the editor, and other informal means to tell fellow practitioners of success or failure with off-label uses of marketed drugs. That avoids the bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies tied to official drug regulation. The FDA acknowledges the benefits of off-label prescribing, as you describe."
Perhaps the biggest response—and readership (1736 views!)—I've had was for Robbing Peter, in which I questioned workforce changes in the pharma industry and who was at fault for the current woes in which the industry finds itself. Sound Pharmaceuticals' Bret MacPherson wrote: "I understand frustrations running high over the ineptitude of Big Pharma Executives and Boards. Jobs are getting cut right and left. Fewer meaningful drugs are being discovered, developed, and approved. If it weren't for smaller, innovative discovery and development companies, this industry would go the way of Madonna's career."
Dr. Barton Kamen of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, meanwhile, added: "While I am a capitalist and altruist and a few other "ists", I find the arena frustrating for additional reasons other than listed in your current editorial. For example I have been studying a "new" old drug with no IP and we have been developing treatments incorporating time-proven, patient-friendly drugs in novel ways. Getting support despite the science and the wealth of clinical data available to increase the pace of the clinical studies has been near impossible."
And finally, in response to Niche work, if you can get it, my take on the "blockbuster" and "niche-buster" concepts, GE Healthcare's Tom Wetteroth wrote: "The blockbuster is what led to the fragmentation of the semiconductor suppliers in the late '90s. With large expectations, many worthwhile products were shelved and productive fabs running non-blockbusters were sold and mothballed. This opened the door for foundries. There seem to be many parallels."
Thanks to everyone for adding your thoughts (pro and con) to my mental meanderings. I look forward to hearing more and to your ideas about new topics going forward.