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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.

***************************************************************************************

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

***************************************************************************************

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):

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13 Responses

  1. I loved the eulogy for Jobs given by his sister. His last words…kind of reinforces my belief in life after life. I had heard about the way he treated a good friend when Apple first went big and they were all becoming millionaires but this one guy was not high enough on the executive ladder. He went to Jobs in tears, they had worked together and lived together since college. It was left up to Steve Wasniak and others to step in and give away some of their shares to make things right.
    That makes Steve Jobs exactly the kind of brilliant Assh*le I have known so many of and have not been charmed by. They leave me cold. And yet, I can appreciate them and what they do and what they mean to other people.
    I guess I would have liked him more at the end of his life after suffering brought some wisdom. Regardless I am going to buy his biography. His and Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat” “Look I made a Hate”.

    As to Obama’s BS “If Congress won’t act then I will” campaign slogan. It is about as meaningful as hope and change. The initiatives do not really do much of anything. It’s more smoke than fire. This is typical Obama and his M.O.. He has been campaigning for months he should stop making the tax payers fund his reelection.

    • There was more to that story about Jobs’ friend Daniel Kottke that unfortunately doesn’t make Jobs sound less like an asshole. Kottke was living with Jobs and his former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan when Brennan got pregnant. They used to sleep in separate rooms and weren’t really seeing each other anymore but there were a couple of nights when they must have gotten bored. Brennan was a bit of a flake and Jobs refused to admit paternity. He didn’t want to be a father. She moved out an had to go on welfare. This went on for three years. Finally, Chrisann took him to court. Jobs hired a lawyer and wanted Kottke to sign an affadavit swearing that Jobs and Chrisann weren’t intimate and that there were other guys in the apartment. Kottke wouldn’t do it. He said Steve should just help her out. Steve was finally forced by the court to take a paternity test, a *new* one featuring DNA. I think he had to pay for it and it was quite expensive. Anyway, sure enough, he was the father. He had to do some massive out of court settlement with Chrisann. The whole thing was all sewn up a few months before Apple went public. Kottke got left out of the IPO even though he was one of apple’s first employees and put together the first bunch of apple I’s in Jobs’ parents’ garage. It doesn’t say why Jobs excluded him but it sounds like the thing with Chrisann had something to do with it.
      It came out ok for Kottke in the end. Steve Wozniak shared some of his own shares with several employees that were overlooked and Kottke was one of them. I don’t think Kottke got to be a millionaire but he got rewarded. Wozniak is a really decent guy and just doesn’t care that much about money.
      So, yeah, that was Steve at about age 25. He was a jerk. And insulting. And disloyal. And sometimes cruel. But he grew up, well. mostly.
      About Chrisann, there is are later suggestions about why he might not have wanted to be tied to her. She was very much into spiritual gurus. And when the money finally started to roll in, he bought her and their little girl Lisa a house to live in. He spent $700,000 on that house and that was in early 1980’s money. But he made the title of the house over to Lisa. At some point, Chrisann pressured Lisa to write the title to the house over to her. Then Chrisann spent the money on a spiritual journey with one of her gurus and living in Paris. When the money was gone, the returned to San Francisco and became a new age artist but then started bugging Steve for money. By that time, Lisa had been living with her father for awhjle. I don’t know whether Chrisann pressured Lisa to fork over the cash before or after she was 18. It might have been before because Steve was a control freak and when Lisa pissed him off he wouldn’t talk with her. One time, she was afraid he wasn’t going to pay for her Harvard tuition so she asked a family friend to loan her the money. Presumably, she wouldn’t have had to do that if she still had possession of the house. (It turns out that Steve reimbursed his friend for the tuition the very next day. It was just a misunderstanding between him and Lisa) But still, I get a sense that maybe Chrisann was not such a nice person. Even in her own words she sounds a little psycho.

      • money can make people crazy. sounds like he learned that later in life. Also, no one is perfect. Seems like he was a beloved brother and husband. Seems like he valued his adoptive parents.
        Life is a journey, that is for sure.

  2. I should never have read this while eating my morning cereal….when I got to this line, I almost chocked to death:

    “The president’s order is a modest effort that, while possibly helpful, is unlikely to resolve the problem soon or entirely.”

    This one-term (hopefully) president will be remembered as “Spineless”.

    • spineless would be kind. He is evil IMO. He consistently chooses doing the least for people who need the most but does the most for people who need the least. Oh, and he is doing it on the backs of the people who are barely making it. Evil.

    • It’s worse than that when you analyze the words. I think most of this article was written by Obama’s communication team working on the election. We have a “on the one hand, on the other hand” statement.
      On the one hand, for the Repulblicans and independents in the audience he says government assistance in the drug industry is doable but philosophically wrong:

      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

      On the other hand, for the Democrats, he says government has to do something even if it’s minimal and ineffective:

      Still, Mr. Obama’s order and others he has issued recently reflect his belief in the power of government to improve people’s lives.

      In general, he seems to want to keep government out of the problem to appease his donors but as a result is making government assistance look as ineffective and poorly run as the Republicans say it is.
      On the whole, I’d say he’s more of a Republican than we thought he is. The Obama contingent should just stop making excuses for him. He’s not going to come to their rescue before next year’s election because he doesn’t really believe in helping.

  3. Happy Halloween!

  4. John Robb has posted an interesting link at Global Guerillas, to make of what we will. He titles the link: “Oakland PD may have posed as protesters. Same in NYC”. The linked item itself is titled ” PROOF that Oakland PD infiltrated # OWS”. I can’t watch the video because this breakroom computer is video barely-capable. But here it is if anyone wants to watch and comment.http://markcrispinmiller.com/2011/10/proof-that-oakland-pd-infiltrated-ows/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+NewsFromUnderground+%28News+From+Underground%29

    • I would suggest that any and every “violent anarchist” be regarded and treated as a police provocateur. I have no good advice as to what that treatment would be , but some kind of treatment designed to abort the police-provocation before it can get fully underway.

      I remember reading that when a police-provocatuer started throwing stones at a protest in Quebec, he was near-immediately surrounded by a group of people pointing and chanting: “you’re a cop. you’re a cop.” The “anarchist” ran to and behind police lines. So perhaps every”violent anarchist” should be surrounded by a group chanting “you’re a cop. you’re a cop”. Get the whole thing on video.
      Such cop-fingering chanters are sure to be right some of the time.

      • Wisdom of the ’60s radicals: “The first guy to suggest violence is always the undercover cop.” :mrgreen:

        • This modern age of cell phone video digi-connectivity should make it possible to cell-video every such “first violence suggester’s” face and upload all these faces to a rogue’s gallery database of possible police provocateur faces.

          It’s too bad the Normal Majority doesn’t believe in defensive violence. If they did, they would rip the masks off of every Blac Bloc or other so-called “anarchists” and cell-video their faces and upload them for all to see.

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