The shakedown begins with a quarter of a billion dollars

So, the results are starting to roll in for Merck, and they are not pretty. A quarter of a billion dollars. With a capital B. (Yeah, it’ll be reduced. But wow. Just wow.)

Responses are predictable, from “that’ll show ’em” to “if it’s gonna be like this, drug research will grind to a halt.”


Of course, what’ll probably happen is somewhere in between. I believe that a shakedown in the pharma industry is imminent (less than 10 years away), and that drug development will go where cancer research is going. Maybe a couple of more blockbuster drugs will be out there, but after that drugs will be much more targeted and expensive.

We’ll have to change our attitudes about drugs and medicine and general. It’ll be painful, but maybe there’ll be some good in it.


3 Responses

  1. John-
    Like the new site. Found this quotation from the site you linked to be very interesting:

    “There’s a widespread myth at work here: that there’s a disease called cancer. Cancer is actually the end result of what are probably hundreds (thousands?) of different diseases. We have confused ourselves by giving them the same category name – it’s like the old-style classification of infections as various “fevers.”

    Great stuff. What does this condition portend for cancer research?

  2. Thank you.

    Cancer research is like the common cold. The common cold isn’t one infection, but millions of different types of infections with similar viruses and similar symptoms. (The “common cold” has the further advantage that one infection can morph into another type very quickly, or even into a type never seen before.)

    So, the way cancer treatments are going now, the drugs are very “targeted.” Some drugs, such as Gleevec, work very well for a small percentage of patients, but don’t do jack against the rest. I think Erbitux is the same way, plus the survival advantage stinks (about three months). Some drugs are getting approved on survival advantages of weeks, but they seem to affect a larger percentage of the population.

    Essentially, the state of the art in cancer research is hard, difficult, highly specialized, and fraught with risk. If you read the inclusion criteria for Phase III trials in cancer, they’ll probably be so specific that very few people qualify. They have to check to see whether this or that protein is being expressed, or whatever.

    And you really can’t overestimate the risk. Many a biotech has been sunk on a failing cancer drug, even in late phase. And I suspect that will be the condition for a time to come.

    The one advantage: the “pie” just got a lot larger, and there’s a lot of the “pie” left to claim. If you’re a gambler, find a cancer biotech and go for it.

  3. The new site looks great, john…

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