Tuesday, December 12, 2006
An interesting take and a challenge from the soon-to-be-unemployed Derek Lowe of In The Pipeline:
I mean, think it through: Pfizer spends hundreds of millions of dollars, only to find that their drug has unexpected toxicity. Not the horrible, chemical-weapon toxicity that the conspiracy mongers talk about, mind you: 11 deaths per thousand versus 6 deaths per thousand. But development stops immediately, as it should, the very day that Pfizer's executives get the news. Two days after trumpeting the compound as the biggest thing in their pipeline, they pull it and walk away from the billions of dollars that could have been.
How, exactly, does this fit the Evil Conspiracy worldview?
(My usual disclosure: I do a small amount of consulting work for pharmaceutical companies in products liability litigation. Pfizer is not presently one of them.)
Update: Blog 702 responds: "Did Pfizer figure out that it would be difficult to yell "junk science" in a potential hailstorm of litigation, given that clinical trials showed a reported 60% increase in deaths among patients taking torcetrapid and Lipitor, over patients taking Lipitor alone?"
Well, maybe, but if you listen to the plaintiffs' experts in any given mass tort litigation (you can take your pick), the data are just as compelling in all of those cases. Rezulin, HRT, diet drugs, Baycol, Vioxx -- in all of them, according to the plaintiffs, the warning signs were just as stark as they appear to be here. But here the development stops. Is it a different standard being applied or were the purported warning signs different in kind in the prior cases?
(Incidentally, given the indication of these drugs, it may well be that the numbers of lives saved by the combination of LDL reduction and HDL increases would exceed the number of fatalities from side effects. (I think it probably wouldn't be, but depending on the treatment population, it's certainly not impossible. Probably still the right thing to stop development, but it's interesting to consider.))