Thursday, January 31, 2008

Money, money, money

How profitable is Pharma?:

Sometimes I wonder if Megan's bizarre capitalization schemes in her titles isn't just another misguided attempt at picking up the jargon of the youth; leet speak. Pharma, Megan, isn't a proper noun. Alternatively, profitable is a long enough word to warrant capitalization in a title. Third alternative; God damn you're a fucking moron, woman elf.

I'm really busy this morning, and probably won't be blogging much, but there's an interesting debate going on in the comments threads about the return on investment in the pharmaceutical industry. You have to be very, very careful with this stuff, because there's enormous survivor bias in stock screens. A pharma that has a long, bad run of no good drugs disappears from the sample through merger or failure. Sadly, this is pretty common, which is why so many pharmaceutical firms have obviously compound names. If you have relatively binary outcomes--companies are either very profitable, or not profitable at all--then if you drop the non-performers from the sample, being in the pharmaceutical business will look like a license to print money. The fact that so many new entrants find it so hard to actually grow to pharma size indicates that it might be a little harder than it looks.
Alright, Megan, you make this statement but provide no proof that it is true. We can either believe people who don't agree with this premise based on nothing, or you based on nothing. I'll be gracious and say that it's somewhere in-between.

As a research scientist, I can relate to this sentiment quite a bit, though. The problem with research is that if you knew what was going to work before you started, it wouldn't be called research. No matter how smart you are you're always shooting at least a little bit blind and there's a damn good chance you're going to miss no matter how good of a mark you are.

That being said, pharma these days is dominated by established companies that can essentially hedge their bets against failed avenues of research by attacking multiple targets, or paths to the same target, simultaneously. The only successful upstart companies of which I've heard are generally based on a single drug for which a company was founded by a professor running government funded research projects. I'm no wonk on this particular subject, though, so I may be wrong about a number of things.

It doesn't matter, though, because Megan continues to fail to address the subject that Brad has brought up numerous times. Profit driven drug research is a fucking horrible thing. The point of drug development is to improve and save lives. The problem, people with a lot of money get to choose in which ways lives are improved are saved. Since most of the diseases which would be profitable to cure are tackled, we're now focusing a ridiculous amount of medical research on how to make ourselves prettier or our cocks bigger or whatever.

The problem is bad enough that there are a large number of government funded researchers dedicated to "orphan diseases", diseases that affect either a too small number of people or a too poor demographic of people for pharma to take a look at them. Malaria is the best example of such a disease as it desperately needs to be controlled, but as it mainly affects third world inhabitants gets little to no attention.

So, since we know the queen of narcissism herself has to read this blog, please, tell us Megan, how in the fuck is it you care more about the ethical treatment of pigs than you do about saving the lives of HUMAN BEINGS. (For the record, I'm on board with both).

Oh sorry, that wasn't funny. I just got invited to a Ron Paul event and my "libertarians are assholes" knee got jerked. I'll be funny in my next post.

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