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    • Politics Series: Power
      (Previous: Economy) (Introduction and Table of Contents) We have seen that who gets how much of what is a political decision: that the economy and economics is downstream from politics. Power is the ability to make people do what you want, or not do what you don’t want. Ideology determines what the good life is and power determines who lives it. All politica […]
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A Pleasure in Work

The late John Huston once said, “Choose your career as you would choose your spouse- for love and money.”

The money part has been dogging us for a couple of decades.  We’re so worried all of the time over whether we can pay the bills that we tend to forget about the love of work.  Your job is a place where you spend 1/3 or more of your day.  You should enjoy it, look forward to going to work in the morning, be excited about solving new problems, deliver service to your customers to make their lives a little better, put quality into craftsmanship.

I consider myself very lucky to have a job I love.  Recently, it has gotten much more interesting and I look forward to going to work each day to collaborate.  This is a serendipitous revelation for me and makes me realize that learning new things can keep your mind flexible and young. For people like me who have wanted to do science since they were children, to have a place to go to discover the wonder and delight of nature is a thing divinely to be thankful for.

So, I was deeply saddened to see the following labor statistics:

Pharma Layoffs per Month, 2010

Month Layoffs
January 8,170
February 17,687
March 308
April 1,049
May 6,943
June 830
July 2,023
August 255
September 6,069
TOTAL 43,334

Even more disturbing is what the layoff picture in R&D looks like over the past two years:

Industry 2010 2009
Government/Non-Profit 123,469 109,433
Pharmaceutical 43,334 52,683
Retail 31,246 88,352
Computer 22,609 61,578
Telecommunications 22,609 53,145

Source: Challenger, Gray and Christmas

Regardless of how you may feel about Big Pharma, the loss of almost 100,000 jobs in the past year should set off alarm bells.  Although a number of the layoffs have been related to reduction in pharmaceutical sales staff, an increasing number have been to scientific staff, specifically medicinal chemists, whose jobs are going to China and India, possibly permanently.   Other layoffs in R&D are a consequence of mergers and acquisitions where salaries of scientists, frequently located in very high cost of living states, are considered a drag on the bottom line at a time when patents are expiring and new drugs can’t be approved by the FDA.

That’s thousands of well trained, dedicated scientists whose knowledge base is gone from the American workplace landscape.  It is destruction of American scientific infrastructure on an unprecedented scale.  But more than that, it is the loss of eager minds with almost childlike enthusiasm for science that will doom us as the greatest nation on earth.  In order to keep discovering new breakthroughs in physics, biology, chemistry and medicine, we need a place to go and the means to keep a roof over our heads.  Even scientists have base level caloric requirements and families and children.

I hope that lawmakers  and businessmen wake up before it’s too late.  There’s more to life than making obscene gobs of money.

To close out this post, here’s a video of crystallographers from the University of Michigan riding tricycles around the Advance Photon Source Syncrotron at the Argonne National Labs.  May we all stay forever young, as learners, employees and American citizens.

40 Responses

  1. It’s a gorgeous day in NJ. Is everybody out playing?

  2. You’re lucky to have a job you love, RD. Unemployment down here in Florida is at 14%. Yikes!

  3. It’s pretty bad considering that American Pharma has been the engine for new product development.

  4. Thanks for posting this, RD. As one who works in this industry as well, I can tell everyone that we are getting beat up pretty bad. Our company went through three RIFs in 2009, and 2010 isn’t shaping up to be any better. At least we haven’t had any layoffs, but I worry about 2011.

    • It’s amazing how the devastation in R&D has flown under the radar. There aren’t that many of us to begin with. The job losses have been staggering. Almost every one of the people I worked with at a different company is out of work right now.
      Yes, the layoffs are not over. We will never be able to relax. Under the current conditions, research is almost impossible.

      • And since we’re downstream of you, less research means less discovery, means less work for my company.

        • yep, it affects companies up and down the food chain, including equipment, intermediate and biological specialty item manufacturers. Then there are the people who do maintenance of equipment. Everyone’s budgets are being cut. Pretty soon we will be doing everything with nothing. Or, there will be one guy left running everything.

          • Glancing at the “related stories” at your link, all I see many of our key accounts laying off more and more people. What the hell?

          • Why does this surprise you? Wall Street rules everything. Now, even research is on a quarterly schedule.
            What exactly do they expect?

          • I didn’t mean to imply that it surprises me. And yes, that “quarterly earnings” mentality is killing us.

  5. RD – this is for you (granted, you’re not in academia…).

  6. As the stats above show, the computer industry has had a similarly rough time. Lots of companies have outsourced to Chindia and have discovered after it’s too late that there are some quality and creativity gaps. Serious gaps.

    The exciting thing, and exhausting thing about my field is that it changes practically every day. As in revolutionary changes. So like you said, it’s thrilling every day. And the up side of even down turns is that if you wait a little while, what’s needed is something so new that Chindia has no idea what to do. Though that means you’re reading volumes and keeping up every day.

    Now let me go check on my secret nano factory experiment. Bwahahaha.

  7. Hopes it will be okay for you RD.

    Mergers & Acquisitions. Pretty horrifying to go through. I remember. Actually what field hasn’t had that in the last 20 years in America?

    I can’t think of even one. Dominos. Politicians should have been aware of this ages ago. But maybe they were?

    ps: over at my place I have First Ladies from Jackie O forward if you feel like watching movies. I end on Stepford Wives circa 1975. It’s as inspiring now as it was back then.

    Best to you.

  8. RD, am I correct in undersanding that many of the generic drugs are now being manufactured in China or India?

    • Generics are being manufactured all over the world. And who can complain about cheaper drugs? I think everyone should be able to afford the cost of their medication.
      The thing is, companies that make generic drugs do not have to spend money on research and development. And it has become increasingly more expensive to do R&D and recoup that investment. So, while more drugs will become less expensive over time, there will not be new drugs in the pipeline in the near future. The public will be stuck with an older generation of drugs with more side effects and less efficacy instead of more effective drugs with fewer side effects.
      If that’s what the consumer wants…
      BTW, I am not speaking for my industry. I am simply making general observations.

  9. What can be said about an industry model that spends many millions on TV ads for drugs that seem to have more side effects than benefits ….and are then the subjects of lawsuits a few years later….and this loop has repeated itself for many years now…I’d love to see that money spent on the lab instead.

    But we have seen over and over and in many fields, the bean counters are in charge. It never seems to dawn on them that counting beans isn’t making beans and being in charge of labs where new drugs are sought is particularly unsuited for their ” talents” , such as they, because one must envision the new in such places and bean counters only understand the known . Bean counters are important…but they were never meant to run everything….because they will run most endeavors into the ground. imo

    • Re side effects: There is no such thing as a perfect drug with zero side effects. That’s just the way the body works. Of course, no one sets out to make a dangerous drug. Everything is tested as thoroughly as possible before a drug is approved. But every individual is unique with a unique body chemistry. Side effects will happen.
      Again, just a general observation.

      • Dr. Mark Crislip likes to note that any drug that has “zero” side-effects will also likely have “zero” therapeutic effect.

      • I didn’t say zero side effects. I said where the side effects out way the benefits. Such as the sleeping aid I see promoted on TV that we are told may ” lead to thoughts of suicide” … give me trouble sleeping over that. I think it’s reasonable to believe the drug business offices are pressuring the testing end….the number of drugs sent out, promoted on TV and then withdrawn in a flurry of law suits over the last 15 years or so indicate that to me.

        • I don’t think it’s reasonable to think that. The FDA runs the show and companies must comply with all requests for data of safety and efficacy.
          In this day and age, aspirin and Tylenol would never get approved. They are too dangerous. But they are also efficacious. But if you saw an ad listing the side effects of Tylenol (“may cause irreparable liver damage at moderately high doses”) or aspirin (“side effect include dangerous blood thinning, digestive tract bleeding and Reyes Syndrome, which may prove fatal in children with viral infections”), you’d probably never touch the stuff.
          Every drug comes with risk.

          • I agree every drug comes with a risk, but what is happening from my outsider POV is that $$ that would be better spent on R&D is going to advertising and we are being bombarded with dopey advertising and these ads run with a standard disclaimer rushing through the side effects at the end of a 30 second or whatever spot and leave the consumer with whiplash.

          • Yep, pretty much. As a consumer, I don’t like it either.

          • I like Colbert’s “Preston Pharmaceuticals” side effects. 🙂

          • Honk.

            I’m getting to really dislike those drug safety info printouts that patients get with their meds. When I prescribe a med, I talk about the benefits and the risks and why I think the patient will benefit. But often all the info about benefits is out of their heads by the time they fill the Rx. The info sheets talk in great detail about risks — which patients should know — but proportionately short-change info about benefits.

            A lot of problems with meds might be prevented by following the patients more closely. When I write a new Rx I want to see the patient back soon to see how it’s working, and if there are any reactions.

            The only drugs without side effects are the ones that don’t work.

        • BTW, lawyers are very good at making you think that every drug is dangerous and every drug manufacturer dangerously negligent. This is one of the reasons I don’t support people like Ralph Nader. There’s no discretion and restraint. It has made a lot of people very rich and puts sone patients at risk.

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