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Afternoon entertainment

I lived in upstate New York when I was a young teen and spent my hard earned babysitting money primarily on my little brother and the New York City Ballet Summer Season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Festival.  Matinees were about $2 bucks a pop.  Sometimes, I was forced to bring my little sister with me but I’m the only one in my family that turned out to be a ballet nut.  I saw every Ballanchine ballet Stravinsky ever scored and thought the Jerome Robbins’ ballets were quirky and fun.  (Afternoon of a Faun?  The Cage? Too good.)

I saw a ballet *like* this one back then.  My memory says it was called The Rehearsal and featured a corps dancer who had had a bit too much to drink.  This opening dance is from The Concert (or The Perils of Everybody).  You know, when the group has an off night?  Anyone who’s had to interact seemlessly with other people in a group has had this happen at some time or another.

Enjoy!  This is an open thread.

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Resolving drug shortages shouldn’t be a political “opportunity”

The cancer hourglass runs fast

Barack Obama is finally starting to notice that there is a shortage in the production of some older prescription drugs and is offering some carrots and sticks to resolve the problem:

WASHINGTON — President Obama will issue an executive order on Monday that the administration hopes will help resolve a growing number of critical shortages of vital medicines used to treat life-threatening illnesses, among them several forms of cancer and bacterial infections.

The order offers drug manufacturers and wholesalers both a helping hand and a gloved fist in efforts to prevent or resolve shortages that have worsened greatly in recent years, endangering thousands of lives.

It instructs the F.D.A. to do three things: broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs; speed reviews of applications to begin or alter production of these drugs; and provide more information to the Justice Department about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.

Such efforts are included in proposed legislation that has been pending in Congress since February despite bipartisan support for its provisions.

The order, the first since 1985 by a president to affect the functions of the Food and Drug Administration, is part of a series of recent executive orders involving such disparate issues as mortgage relief and jobs for veterans. They are intended to show that the president, plagued by low approval ratings, is working to resolve the nation’s problems despite a Congress largely paralyzed by partisan disagreements.

Yes, by all means, let’s wait until there is a chance to shore up low approval ratings before we do anything.  After all, that colon cancer isn’t going anywhere.

Do you ever get the feeling that the president is playing “whack-a-mole”?  “Drug problem?  Didn’t we go after medical marijuana and that Mexican drug cartel?  What do you mean people can’t get their chemo?  WTF??  I’ve got three, no, two wars to deal with and these bankers breathing down my neck and those pain-in-the-ass occupiers who ruined my fund-raising dinner in the Bay area last week.  How am I supposed to keep up with all of this?  Wait!  How many months are there until the election?”

Um, yes, Barry, there are people who aren’t getting their chemo.  The FDA has been a disfunctional agency for years.  Politicized?  You betcha!  We can’t decide whether to make a spectacle of Plan B and regulation when we’ve got a bunch of looney Republicans in charge or to grandstand about drug safety to scare the hysterical consumers to hyperbolic levels in order to demonize Big Pharma (which hasn’t done itself any favors lately in the PR department).

Let me tell you, Barry, my dad died of cancer 15 years ago, that mother works fast when there is nothing to keep it in check.  Patients do not have the luxury of months.  And this stuff just pisses me off:

The president’s order is a modest effort that, while possibly helpful, is unlikely to resolve the problem soon or entirely. Administration officials characterized it as one step in a long and complicated effort. Indeed, Mr. Obama eschewed more ambitious proposals — like government drug stockpiling or manufacturing — that would have injected the government more directly into the nation’s drug market and cost more but that might have been more effective. [yes, by all means, let’s do as little as possible]

Still, Mr. Obama’s order and others he has issued recently reflect his belief in the power of government to improve people’s lives.  [which campaign operative dictated *that* line?] By contrast, top Republican legislators and presidential candidates have almost uniformly argued that resolving the nation’s economic and other problems depends mostly on scaling back or ending government regulations to allow the free market to function more effectively. No regulatory agency touches people’s lives more thoroughly than the F.D.A., which regulates 25 cents of every dollar spent by consumers.

I don’t need a political operative to tell me that Republicans are criminal.  No, really, they are.  The drug industry needs regulation.  It would be helpful if those regulations were updated to reflect changes in technology and the FDA is way past due for a modern overhaul of its data systems in general.  But if any Republican is out there beating a drum against regulations for pharma, they really should be in jail.  It’s not that the industry is deliberately bad or negligent, despite what the class action lawyer contingent would have you believe.  It’s not.  And I’d like to keep it that way.  Better to be safe than sorry.  But let’s get the damn agency working efficiently please.

But wait, there’s more!  I’ll bet that Obama isn’t even paying any attention on the thousands of R&D professionals that lost their jobs only last week.  Merck, Schering-Plough, Amgen and Novartis are only the lastest pharmas to toss their researchers to the curb adding to the hundreds of thousands of us already out there.  That means that there won’t be very many new drugs coming on the market in the forseeable future.  With Big Pharma falling off the “patent cliff” this year and next, the executives are throwing the labrats overboard at Wall Street’s behest in order to serve the shareholders and protect their compensation packages.  China and India are not ready to take on hardcore pharmamceutical research and many Asian companies are content to just make me-too drugs.  Expect a lost decade while we cool our geeky jets and seriously consider finding other professions instead of finding new cures.

Of course, it didn’t have to be this way.  Barry was so over his head when he came into office that looking out for the researchers was probably the last thing on his mind. Besides, who listens to the labrats?  They don’t make huge contributions to your campaign.  They never get invited to the White House to tell you exactly what’s going on.  No, why should the president listen to a bunch of disgruntled R&D workers who will only tell him how catastrophically their industry has been managed by the guys who hobnob over some “shrimp, cod and lentil soup” and creme pie with chocolate truffle shavings?   We just become part of clueless Jeffrey Immelt’s plan to outsource absolutely everything.  After all, if we had opinions and concerns what were important, we wouldn’t be laid off losers, would we?

And the patients and scientists pay the price.

So, what is Obama going to do to enforce his executive order?  He’s sending some sternly worded letters to make  sure manufacurers voluntarily comply.  {{rolling eyes}} Way to go, Barry.

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Damn, even in death, Steve Jobs never stopped inventing.  Best final words ever.

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On the Occupation front, Occupy Oakland is calling for a General Strike on November 2, 2011.  I think I will join this strike and urge the rest of my fellow recetnly unemployed researcher contingent to wear your labcoats on Wednesday in solidarity.  We’ve been screwed over by Wall Street too.

Love the solidarity orange.

Here’s a video of the California longshoreman’s union occupier throwing his support behind the strike (Copied shamelessly from Atrios’ page):