Pharmaceutical Corruption News Stories
Excerpts of Key Pharmaceutical Corruption News Stories in Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important pharmaceutical corruption news stories reported in the major media that suggest a major cover-up.
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The Best-Selling Drugs In America
Posted: 2012-05-15 15:51:55
Why is a me-too drug for which there are much cheaper alternatives the second-best selling medicine in the United States? Today, IMS Health released its annual look at the sales of prescription drugs in America. It is the first year in which all of the top ten medicines in America are generics. This year, cancer drugs passed antipsychotic medicines as the top revenue generators. The biggest surprise ... is in the second-place spot: Nexium, ... from AstraZeneca, which generated $6.3 billion in sales. Abilify, from Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb, passed Seroquel from Astra as the top-selling antipsychotic drug for disease like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Crestor, AstraZeneca’s cholesterol drug, has delivered a pretty stunning 5-year sales increase of 190%, apparently grabbing patients for whom Lipitor, from Pfizer, is not powerful enough. Sales do not equal popularity. Only three of these drugs (Lipitor, Plavix, and Singulair) rank among the top 25 most popular medicines. Price is often as big a component in making money as volume.
Analysts See Merck Victory in Vioxx Settlement
2007-11-10, New York Times
Posted: 2012-05-15 15:48:05
Three years after withdrawing its pain medication Vioxx from the market, Merck has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits by people who claim they or their family members suffered injury or died after taking the drug. The settlement, one of the largest ever in civil litigation, comes after nearly 20 Vioxx civil trials over the last two years from New Jersey to California. After losing a $253 million verdict in the first case, Merck has won most of the rest of the cases that reached juries, giving plaintiffs little choice but to settle. Based on the fact that the 27,000 suits cover about 47,000 sets of plaintiffs, the average plaintiff will receive just over $100,000 before legal fees and expenses, which usually swallow between 30 and 50 percent of payments to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs who do not want to accept the settlement can pursue their own claims, but with so many of the top trial lawyers in the United States agreeing to the deal, they may have difficulty doing so. The settlement does not end the government investigations that Merck faces, which include both civil and criminal inquires from several states and the Justice Department. But for Merck, which has already spent more than $1.2 billion on Vioxx-related legal fees, the settlement will put to rest any fears that Vioxx lawsuits might bankrupt the company, or even have a significant financial impact.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, click here.
Swine flu vaccine 'linked to' sleeping disorder
2012-03-29, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-05-08 12:52:40
A study in Finland has found that children vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu virus with Pandemrix were more likely to develop the sleep disorder narcolepsy. The condition causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sufferers can fall asleep suddenly and unintentionally. The researchers found that between 2002 and 2009, before the swine flu pandemic struck, the rate of narcolepsy in children under the age of 17 was 0.31 per 100,000. In 2010 this was about 17 times higher at 5.3 per 100,000 while the narcolepsy rate remained the same in adults. Markku Partinen of the Helsinki Sleep Clinic and Hanna Nohynek of the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland, also collected vaccination and childhood narcolepsy data for children born between January 1991 and December 2005. They found that in those who were vaccinated the rate of narcolepsy was nine per 100,000 compared to 0.7 per 100,000 unvaccinated children, or 13 times lower. Pandemrix was the main vaccine used in Britain against the swine flu epidemic in which six million people were vaccinated. It was formulated specifically for the swine flu pandemic virus and is no longer in use.
Note: The WHO stated "more than 12 countries reported cases of narcolepsy in children and adolescents using GlaxoSmithKline's swine flu vaccine." For powerful media reports suggesting that both the Avian Flu and Swine Flu were incredibly manipulated to promote fear and boost pharmaceutical sales, click here. For many news articles showing that vaccines are not tested adequately for safety and are at times politically and financially motivated, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on pharmaceutical corruption, click here.
No magic bullet on the flu
2012-01-15, Los Angeles Times
Posted: 2012-05-08 12:50:59
In 2006 ... the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the World Health Organization in Geneva warned of the imminent onset of an avian flu "pandemic" of lethal proportions. The pandemic never occurred. After reviewing studies of Tamiflu during the avian flu scare, Dr. Tom Jefferson ... had concluded in a 2006 report that the drug was effective. "But," said the article, "several years later, another physician challenged that conclusion because 8 of 10 studies in a meta-analysis — a review of studies — that Jefferson relied on had never been published." That prompted Jefferson to seek the raw data. "He was stymied when several authors and the manufacturer gave one excuse after another for why it couldn't supply the actual data. Jefferson's concern turned to outrage when two employees of a communications company … [revealed] they had been paid to ghostwrite some of the Tamiflu studies [and] had been given explicit instructions to ensure that a key message was embedded in the articles: Flu is a threat, and Tamiflu is the answer. "After reanalyzing the raw data finally made available (they still don't have it all), Jefferson and his colleagues published their review [in December 2009], saying that once the unpublished studies were excluded, there was no proof that Tamiflu reduced serious flu complications like pneumonia or death." In short, it appears the pharmaceutical companies had been as cunning in conning the public on matters of health as Wall Street had been on matters of wealth.
Note: For powerful media reports suggesting that both the Avian Flu and Swine Flu were incredibly manipulated to promote fear and boost pharmaceutical sales, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on pharmaceutical corruption, click here.
Novartis takes legal action in UK to make hospitals use $1,000 eye drug over $97 alternative
2012-04-24, Washington Post/Associated Press
Posted: 2012-05-01 09:04:38
Drug maker Novartis is taking legal action in Britain to make state-run hospitals use an eye drug that costs about 700 pounds ($1,130) per shot instead of a cheaper one that costs 60 pounds ($97). In a statement, Novartis said it was calling for a judicial review “as a last resort” because it believed patient safety was being potentially compromised. According to the U.K.’s health watchdog, Novartis’ Lucentis is the only drug recommended to treat the eye problem macular degeneration in the country’s state-run National Health Service hospitals. However, several NHS hospitals have been prescribing the much cheaper Avastin, a cancer drug made by Genentech Inc., a subsidiary of Roche, for the same problem even though it has not been officially approved. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year showed Avastin worked just as well as Lucentis for treating the eye disorder. Lucentis and Avastin act on the same biological protein in the body to spur blood vessel growth. In the U.S., eye doctors have often used tiny amounts of Avastin and billed the government for the cost, rather than buying Lucentis. Patient groups called for an independent analysis to determine which drug should be used.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on corporate corruption, click here.
A Drumbeat on Profit Takers
2012-03-20, New York Times
Posted: 2012-03-27 08:55:00
Dr. Arnold S. Relman [is] 88; Dr. Marcia Angell, 72. But their voices are as strong as ever. Colleagues for decades, late-life romantic partners, the pair has occasionally, wistfully, been called American medicine’s royal couple. In fact, controversy and some considerably less complimentary labels have dogged them as well. From 1977 to 2000, one or both of them filled top editorial slots at The New England Journal of Medicine as it grew into perhaps the most influential medical publication in the world, with a voice echoing to Wall Street, Washington and beyond. Many of the urgent questions in the accelerating turmoil surrounding health care today were first articulated during their tenure. Or, as Dr. Relman summarized one recent afternoon ..., Dr. Angell nodding in agreement by his side: “I told you so.” Their joint crusade ... is against for-profit medicine, especially its ancillary profit centers of commercial insurance and drug manufacture — in Dr. Relman’s words, “the people who are making a zillion bucks out of the commercial exploitation of medicine.” Some have dismissed the pair as medical Don Quixotes, comically deluded figures tilting at benign features of the landscape. Others consider them first responders in what has become a battle for the soul of American medicine.
Note: For a powerful summary of Dr. Marcia Angell's critique of corruption in the medical industry, click here.
J&J Said to Agree to Pay $1 Billion in Risperdal Marketing Probe
Posted: 2012-02-14 15:43:53
Johnson & Johnson will pay more than $1 billion to the U.S. and most states to resolve a civil investigation into marketing of the antipsychotic Risperdal. Negotiations over a possible criminal plea are still under way. The U.S. government has been investigating Risperdal sales practices since 2004, including allegations the company marketed the drug for unapproved uses. J&J, the world’s largest health products company ... disclosed in August that it reached an agreement to settle a misdemeanor criminal charge related to Risperdal marketing. The company is discussing paying about $400 million more to settle that portion of the investigation. Risperdal, once J&J’s best-selling drug, generated worldwide sales of $24.2 billion from 2003 to 2010, reaching $4.5 billion in 2007. After that, J&J lost patent protection and sales declined. The settlement represents ... about 5.6 percent of the drug’s cumulative sales since 2003. The Food and Drug Administration approved Risperdal in 1993 for psychotic disorders including schizophrenia. That market is limited, and J&J’s Janssen unit sought to sell Risperdal for bipolar disorder, dementia, mood and anxiety disorders and other unapproved uses.
Note: For highly-illuminating reports from reliable sources on the corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, click here.
F.D.A. Finds Short Supply of Attention Deficit Drugs
2012-01-01, New York Times
Posted: 2012-01-10 12:59:35
Medicines to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are in such short supply that hundreds of patients complain daily to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they are unable to find a pharmacy with enough pills to fill their prescriptions. The shortages are a result of a troubled partnership between drug manufacturers and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with companies trying to maximize their profits and drug-enforcement agents trying to minimize abuse by people. Shortages, particularly of cheaper generics, have become so endemic that some patients say they worry almost constantly about availability. The DEA sets manufacturing quotas that are designed to control supplies and thwart abuse. Every year, the DEA ... allots portions of the expected demand to various companies. How each manufacturer divides its quota among its own ADHD medicines — preparing some as high-priced brands and others as cheaper generics — is left up to the company. Officials at the FDA say the shortages are a result of overly strict quotas set by the DEA, which, for its part, questions whether there really are shortages or whether manufacturers are simply choosing to make more of the expensive pills than the generics, creating supply and demand imbalances.
Note: This curious story reveals an astonishing level of government manipulation of the manufacturing and availability of medications, and corporations appear to go along with it because it keeps profits high. For lots more on government and corportate corruption from reliable sources, click here and here.
Insurance profits soar after health care overhaul
2012-01-06, San Francisco Chronicle/Bloomberg News
Posted: 2012-01-10 12:54:46
Insurance companies spent millions of dollars trying to defeat the U.S. health care overhaul, saying it would raise costs and disrupt coverage. Instead, profit margins at the companies widened to levels not seen since before the recession, a Bloomberg Government study shows. Insurers led by WellPoint ... recorded their highest combined quarterly net income of the past decade after the law was signed in 2010, said Peter Gosselin, the study author. "The industry that was the loudest, most persistent critic of this law, the industry whose analysts and executives predicted it would suffer immensely because of the law, has thrived," Gosselin said. Health insurers contributed $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose the law after Obama administration officials criticized the [corporations'] plans for enriching themselves by raising customer premiums. Companies are changing their business focus to gain from provisions in the law that will expand the size of Medicaid, the $401 billion government health plan for the poor.
Note: Is it surprising that health insurance companies are raking in big profits from the new health care legislation?
How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?
2008-07-25, CBS News
Posted: 2011-12-27 10:58:03
They're some of the most trusted voices in the defense of vaccine safety: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit. But CBS News has found these three have something more in common - strong financial ties to the industry whose products they promote and defend. The vaccine industry gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters. The totals are kept secret, but public documents reveal bits and pieces. A $342,000 payment from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine - which makes $2 billion a year in sales. A $433,000 contribution from Merck, the same year the academy endorsed Merck's HPV vaccine - which made $1.5 billion a year in sales. Every Child By Two, a group that promotes early immunization for all children, admits the group takes money from the vaccine industry, too - but wouldn't tell us how much. Then there's Paul Offit, perhaps the most widely-quoted defender of vaccine safety. He's gone so far as to say babies can tolerate "10,000 vaccines at once." In fact, he's a vaccine industry insider. Offit holds in a $1.5 million dollar research chair at Children's Hospital, funded by Merck. He holds the patent on an anti-diarrhea vaccine he developed with Merck. And future royalties for the vaccine were just sold for $182 million cash.
Note: For an excellent report endorsed by dozens of respected doctors and nurses on the serious risks and dangers of vaccines, click here. For powerful evidence presented in major media articles that some vaccines are much more dangerous than the health industry will acknowledge, click here.
$3 billion settlement expected in GlaxoSmithKline drug-marketing probe
2011-11-03, Washington Post
Posted: 2011-12-06 11:41:47
The British drugmaker Glaxo-SmithKline has tentatively agreed to pay the U.S. government $3 billion to settle multiple civil and criminal investigations, the largest settlement in the federal government’s recent crackdown on the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing practices. If the deal is finalized, it will mark the latest success in the federal government’s push to rein in drug companies’ promotional efforts. Of the 165 settlements reached between pharmaceutical companies and federal and state governments in the past two decades, about three-quarters took place between 2006 and 2010, according to a report by Public Citizen. Before the Glaxo agreement, the largest federal settlements took place in 2009: Pfizer paid $2.3 billion to settle federal investigations tied to the promotion of the anti-inflammatory drug Bextra and other drugs, and Eli Lilly & Co. paid $1.4 billion related to the marketing of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa. Still, consumer advocates said the penalties are not enough. “The size of the penalties, although large, are not as large as the money [the drug companies] make and so they keep doing it over again,” said Sidney M. Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s health research group. “The only way this is going to stop, or get reversed, is to greatly increase the size of the penalties or to start sending some of the executives to jail.”
Note: For insight into corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, click here.
Needless Medical Tests Costly
2006-05-19, CBS News
Posted: 2011-11-22 09:59:13
During your next routine medical checkup you have at least a 43 percent chance of undergoing an unnecessary medical test, a new study shows. It's not like you're getting something for nothing. If you're not having symptoms, and your doctor has no reason to suspect you have a problem, U.S. guidelines advise against giving you a routine urinalysis, electrocardiogram, or X-ray. "This has more harm than benefit," says Dan Merenstein, M.D., director of research in family medicine at Georgetown University. "The problem is, there are so many false-positive results from these tests. They lead to other things, like biopsies." The tests are meant to help doctors explore specific symptoms that are troubling patients or raise suspicion of a problem. If you're a healthy person who's just getting a routine checkup, there's only a tiny chance the tests will find disease. But Merenstein points out there's a good chance the tests will get a slightly abnormal finding. That means further costly tests — maybe even a painful biopsy — to show that you were, indeed, perfectly healthy to begin with. Aside from the costs in time and the potential for unnecessary suffering, these procedures add up to big money. Merenstein's modest estimate of the cost of just these three simple tests is $47 million to $194 million a year. And that doesn't include the cost of follow-up tests.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
Drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in U.S., data show
2011-09-01, Los Angeles Times
Posted: 2011-11-01 10:44:57
Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Times analysis of government data has found. Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety. Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation's growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979. Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
Mistakes in Scientific Studies Surge
2011-08-10, Wall Street Journal
Posted: 2011-10-18 17:12:26
It was the kind of study that made doctors around the world sit up and take notice: Two popular high-blood-pressure drugs were found to be much better in combination than either alone. Unfortunately, it wasn't true. Six and a half years later, the prestigious medical journal the Lancet retracted the paper, citing "serious concerns" about the findings. The damage was done. Doctors by then had given the drug combination to well over 100,000 patients. Instead of protecting them from kidney problems, as the study said the drug combo could do, it left them more vulnerable to potentially life-threatening side effects, later studies showed. Today, "tens of thousands" of patients are still on the dual therapy, according to research firm SDI. When a study is retracted, "it can be hard to make its effects go away," says Sheldon Tobe, a kidney-disease specialist at the University of Toronto. And that's more important today than ever because retractions of scientific studies are surging. Since 2001, while the number of papers published in research journals has risen 44%, the number retracted has leapt more than 15-fold, data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by Thomson Reuters reveal. Just 22 retraction notices appeared in 2001, but 139 in 2006 and 339 last year
Note: To learn lots more of how the medical industry puts profit above public health, click here.
The danger of drugs … and data
2009-05-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2011-09-13 09:19:02
A fascinating court case in Australia has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug, Vioxx. This medication turned out to increase the risk of heart attacks in people taking it, although that finding was arguably buried in their research, and Merck has paid out more than £2bn to 44,000 people in America. The first ... thing to emerge in the Australian case is email documentation showing staff at Merck made a "hit list" of doctors who were critical of the company, or of the drug. This list contained words such as "neutralise", "neutralised" and "discredit" next to the names of various doctors. "We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," said one email, from a Merck employee. Staff are also alleged to have used other tactics, such as trying to interfere with academic appointments, and dropping hints about how funding to institutions might dry up. Worse still, is the revelation that Merck paid the publisher Elsevier to produce a publication. This time Elsevier Australia went the whole hog, giving Merck an entire publication which resembled an academic journal, although in fact it only contained reprinted articles, or summaries, of other articles.
Note: For a superb overview of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry by a leading MD and former medical journal editor, click here.
Public 'misled' by drug trial claims
2010-10-13, BBC News
Posted: 2011-08-30 10:55:36
Doctors and patients are being misled about the effectiveness of some drugs because negative trial results are not published, experts have warned. Writing in the British Medical Journal, they say that pharmaceutical companies should be forced to publish all data, not just positive findings. The German team give the example of the antidepressant reboxetine, saying publications have failed to show the drug in a true light. Reboxetine (Edronax), made by Pfizer, is used in many European countries, including the UK. But its rejection by US drug regulators raised doubts about its effectiveness, and led some to hunt for missing data. This is not the first time a large drug company has come under fire about its published drug trial data. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was criticised for failing to raise the alarm on the risk of suicidal behaviour associated with its antidepressant Seroxat. GSK has also been forced to defend itself over allegations about hiding negative data regarding another of its drugs, Avandia, which is used to treat diabetes. "Our findings underline the urgent need for mandatory publication of trial data," [the researchers] say in the BMJ. They warn that the lack of all information means policy makers are unable to make informed decisions.
In the US, it is already a requirement that all data - both positive and negative - is published.
Note: For a powerful summary of government/corporate corruption in the pharmaceutical industry by a respected former editor of a major medical journal, click here.
Anger at deadly Nigerian drug trials
2007-06-29, BBC News
Posted: 2011-08-30 10:52:05
In school, Anas Mohammadu's mates call him "horror" and make fun of him. But Anas is lucky to be alive. Other children who were used in the controversial 1996 drug trial by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer died. Anas, then only three years old, was the first child to be given the experimental antibiotic Trovan at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Kano, during the drug trial. Pfizer tested the then unregistered drug in Nigeria's north-western Kano State during an outbreak of meningitis which had affected thousands of children. Officials in Kano say more than 50 children died in the experiment, while many others developed mental and physical deformities. But Pfizer says only 11 of the 200 children used in the drug trial died. Following pressure from rights groups and families affected by the trial, the Nigerian government set up an expert medical panel to review the drug trial. The experiment was "an illegal trial of an unregistered drug", the Nigerian panel concluded, and a "clear case of exploitation of the ignorant". After more than a decade of silence, the Nigerian government has decided to sue Pfizer, seeking $7bn (£3.5bn) in damages for the families of children who allegedly died or suffered side-effects in the experiment. Kano State government has also filed separate charges against Pfizer.
Note: Pfizer settled the case out of court, as reported by BBC at this link.
Ghostwritten medical articles called fraud
2011-08-02, CBC News
Posted: 2011-08-10 09:45:00
It's fraudulent for academics to give their names to medical articles ghostwritten by pharmaceutical industry writers, say two Canadian law professors who call for potential legal sanctions. Studies suggest that industry-driven drug trials and industry-sponsored publications are more likely to downplay a drug's harms and exaggerate a drug's virtues, said Trudo Lemmens, a law professor at the University of Toronto. The integrity of medical research is also harmed by ghostwritten articles, he said. Ghostwriting is part of marketing that can distort the evidence on a drug, Lemmens said. Industry authors are concealed to insert marketing messages and academic experts are recruited as "guest" authors to lend credibility despite not fulfilling criteria for authorship, such as participating in the design of the study, gathering data, analyzing the results and writing up of the findings. Lemmens and his colleague Prof. Simon Stern argue that legal remedies are needed for medical ghostwriting since medical journals, academic institutions and professional disciplinary bodies haven't succeeded in enforcing sanctions against the practice. Ghostwritten publications are used in court to support a manufacturer's arguments about a drug's safety and effectiveness, and academic experts who appear as witnesses for pharmaceutical and medical device companies also boost their credibility with the publications on their CV, Lemmens said.
Note: For a respected doctor's powerful analysis of fraud in the pharmaceutical industry, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on key health issues, click here.
Many Medicines Are Potent Years Past Expiration Dates
2000-03-28, Wall Street Journal
Posted: 2011-08-10 09:36:23
Do drugs really stop working after the date stamped on the bottle? Fifteen years ago, the U.S. military decided to find out. Sitting on a $1 billion stockpile of drugs and facing the daunting process of destroying and replacing its supply every two to three years, the military began a testing program to see if it could extend the life of its inventory. The testing, conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ultimately covered more than 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results ... show that about 90% of them were safe and effective far past their original expiration date, at least one for 15 years past it. The program's returns have been huge. The military from 1993 through 1998 spent about $3.9 million on testing and saved $263.4 million on drug expense. In light of these results, a former director of the testing program, Francis Flaherty, says he has concluded that expiration dates put on by manufacturers typically have no bearing on whether a drug is usable for longer. "Manufacturers put expiration dates on for marketing, rather than scientific, reasons," says Mr. Flaherty, a pharmacist at the FDA until his retirement last year. "They want turnover." Joel Davis, a former FDA expiration-date compliance chief, says that with a handful of exceptions - notably nitroglycerin, insulin and some liquid antibiotics - most drugs are probably as durable as those the agency has tested for the military. "Most drugs degrade very slowly," he says. "In all likelihood, you can take a product you have at home and keep it for many years." Drug-industry officials ... acknowledge that expiration dates have a commercial dimension.
Note: As the Wall Street Journal charges to view this article at the above link, you can view it free here. For lots more on how the pharmaceutical industry cares more about profits than your health, click here.
The costly war on cancer
2011-05-26, The Economist Magazine
Posted: 2011-06-28 11:55:51
Cancer is not one disease. It is many. Yet oncologists have long used the same blunt weapons to fight different types of cancer: cut the tumour out, zap it with radiation or blast it with chemotherapy that kills good cells as well as bad ones. New cancer drugs are changing this. Scientists are now attacking specific mutations that drive specific forms of cancer. A breakthrough came more than a decade ago when Genentech, a Californian biotech firm, launched a drug that attacks breast-cancer cells with too much of a certain protein, HER2. In 2001 Novartis, a Swiss drugmaker, won approval for Gleevec, which treats chronic myeloid leukaemia by attacking another abnormal protein. Other drugs take different tacks. Avastin, introduced in America in 2004 by Genentech, starves tumours by striking the blood vessels that feed them. These new drugs sell well. Last year Gleevec grossed $4.3 billion. Roche’s Herceptin (the HER2 drug) and Avastin did even better: $6 billion and $7.4 billion respectively. The snag, from society’s point of view, is that all these drugs are horribly expensive. Last year biotech drugs accounted for 70% of the increase in pharmaceutical costs in America, according to Medco, a drug-plan manager. Cancer plays a huge role in raising costs.
Note: To see what happens when inexpensive potential cures for cancer are discovered, click here. For key reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
Explore our full index
to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.