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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Does the NYT Allow Its Reporters to Talk About Drug Patents?

Does the NYT Allow Its Reporters to Talk About Drug Patents?

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Saturday, 18 September 2010 22:26

Readers of an article on clinical trials for a new melanoma drug might think that the NYT prohibits such discussion. The gist of the NYT article is that some people may end up dying because they were selected for the control group rather than the treatment group for an effective drug.

A more serious article would have explored the comment buried in the middle of the article:

"The surest way to get the F.D.A.’s endorsement for a broader market was a controlled trial. And with its competitors rushing to get similar drugs to market, the findings of such a trial might give Roche an advantage in marketing its version as the only one proven to prolong survival."

This is an incredible statement that largely negates the point of the article. Is the purpose of the clinical test to get Roche more profit or is to find out more information about the effectiveness of a drug? Readers do not know.

Suppose that all drug test results were fully public and the patents were placed in the public domain. Would the same issues still exist?

Readers of this article have no idea as to whether the clinical test in question is being done for purely competitive reasons or whether it is necessary to determine the effectiveness of a specific treatment. A serious piece would make this issue clear. Unfortunately, this piece seeks to exploit the tragedy of a young man's death for no obvious purpose whatsoever.

Comments (10)Add Comment
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
Let them eat (tainted) cake.
written by diesel, September 19, 2010 12:01
iz iz up to hiz old tricks again, mizleading uz by involutely juxtapozing hiz izms.
Iz that troll back again?
written by Joe, September 19, 2010 5:44
How does he have so much time time to visit this blog from the little fantasy land of perfect markets that he alone lives in?
"It all depends what your definition of iz iz."
written by diesel, September 19, 2010 7:59
Iz iz not a person so much as a state of mind. Any predicate attributed to iz iz encapsulating, and so falls short of hiz izness (which, by definition, eludes definition). What can be said of iz iz that when you have run out of categories and your mind has hit the wall, the moment when you doubt your doubting moments, iz precisely that moment when iz's izness iz most itself. Embrace the absurd and all will become clear. You have but an instant to intuit the izness of the present iz and just the merest blade of a chance to entrain its rhythm and become One with its izness. Don't stop trying to give up and don't give up trying to stop giving up iz what iz iz all about. Izn't it?
From Roche's point of view the answer is: Both
written by Mark, September 19, 2010 11:43
Mr. Baker,

As someone with some knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry it is possible I am filling in gaps in the story but it seems to me that the article explicitly addresses the question you ask about the purpose of the trial, at least from Roche's point of view.

In the quote you highlight the key word is "broader". In the discussion of the Lazarus Effect the writer indicates a trial focusing on the Lazarus Effect could get approval more quickly but Roche refuses to take that approach. Why? Because "company officials feared that might lead to approval for only a narrow group of the sickest patients."

From Roche's point of view the purpose of the clinical trial is to get the information necessary to prove effectiveness in such a way as to to maximize profit. The long term maximization of profits is also behind Roche's refusal to participate in the usual practice of compassionate use.

Rather than the patent discussion that you propose I would have liked to have seen a discussion of the FDA's role in this. Can or should the FDA require the faster, narrower study design? Can or should the FDA be able to require compassionate use?
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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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