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    • Why The Consensus Environmental Predictions Are Wrong
      So, a little bit ago I noted that with temperatures of 70 degrees in the arctic, we could expect permafrost to melt, and that would release methane. Methane is a lot stronger greenhouse gas than carbon, in the short run, and there is a lot held in arctic permafrost. It was suggested that this was […]
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State of The Confluence and Request for Input

At first I was like…

Yesterday, I locked myself out of my house. Yup, just pure stupidity. I picked up the wrong set of keys as I was leaving and checked them just as the door went *click!* behind me. Getting back in was painful, as in, painful to the money supply. I’m still in job search mode. I HAVE a job, but it is a bad one. That is to say, the money is seriously low, the hours ridiculous and the benefits close to non-existent.

Fortunately, I have some professionals helping me find a new job. Unfortunately, it is taking a lot, LOT longer than I had anticipated, even with my “worst case scenario” pre-planning. I mean, this is so long, drawn out and fruitless that I am beginning to think that I will be trapped in this hellish job forever. My career counselors assure me that this is not the case and I must persevere but even they must be getting worn out.

and then…

Fortunately, I own my own home! Yup, free and clear. All mine, mine, mine! It’s nice and comfy and I had the money when I bought it to make some major repairs. (It was foreclosed for about a year) Unfortunately, I have property taxes, and while they are less than half of what I paid in NJ, they’re still significant and at this moment, I will have to dip into some previously off limit funds to pay for them.

So, locking myself out of the house yesterday was not on my “things to do with my money this month” list. What I had actually planned was replacing my upstairs toilet before the crack in the tank that is being held together with epoxy finally gives on me. Ahhh, the joys of home ownership. Why didn’t I buy a new toilet when I moved in???

Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying that I am contemplating a fundraiser, like just about every other blog in the world. If you have been a long time reader of this blog, chime in and tell me whether you think this would go over like a lead balloon or not. I don’t usually ask for money except for special events, like when I asked for train fare to cover the Occupy Wall Street protests. Also, Katiebird has been nagging me to rewrite the website for the upcoming presidential campaign. I think this would be a good idea and I have some things I would like to add to this here place. A fundraiser would allow me to pay my property taxes as well as invest in some server time, Dreamweaver licenses and other training materials. If you have an opinion on what you would like to see at a new Confluence, put it in the comments below.

Having the money to pay my taxes and train myself to develop a high end web site would give me a great deal of peace of mind as well as some potentially marketable skills. I’ve been using WordPress and can install and maintain CMS’s but I feel the need to work on design skills and coding. Katiebird has been very encouraging in this respect and she says i can do it so I believe her.

What I should have done, or “in emergency, break glass”

Anyway, thanks to all of you for your support over the last seven years. We have had over 12 million comments. Can you believe it? I never thought anything I wrote would get that much attention. And really, attention was not what I was looking for. The purpose of this blog was to be a refuge from the consensus reality that was being manipulated during the 2008 presidential primary and general campaign. I’d like to keep that focus for the upcoming presidential campaign. That is, I’d like to cover topics in a way that is true to the liberal spirit of this blog but remains free of the dogma that plagues so much of the left.

I’ve been considering starting a regular podcast featuring guest interviews. Some topics I would like to cover are the problems of the pharmaceutical industry, employment and labor issues, infrastructure (net neutrality, mass transit), the impact of religion on our current culture, GLBT and feminism issues, and, of course, a discussion of the candidates and their policies. If this sounds interesting to you, or something you could support, let me know in the comments below.

Finally, there is a “Tip Jar” in the upper left hand corner of this blog. It goes to the PayPal account for this blog. I don’t check it very often because we don’t do fund raisers very often. But if you feel so inclined, or just want to help defray the costs of a locksmith, just hit that link. Today’s date is 2/22/15. May I suggest a contribution in the form of a multiple of $2.22.

Thanks!

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#Pharma: Gobstopping Greed

Researchers are mostly a non-ideological lot. I sometimes wonder if we had been a little more ideological whether we would have kept our jobs but that’s for another post, someday down the road.

But some “capitalists” take greed to such an unbelievable level that even we are left almost completely speechless by the sheer audacity and (dare I say it?) evil.

Take the case of Martin Shkreli. I’ll let Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline tell this story:

He went on to form Turing Pharmaceuticals, whose business plan, by contrast, was (at least at first) to find some small-market drugs, buy them from their obscure producers, and raise their prices into geosynchronous orbit. As reported here by Adam Feuerstein, his first target was praziquantel (Biltricide), the antihelmenthic made by Bayer:

Shkreli is negotiating with the German drug giant Bayer to purchase marketing rights to Biltricide, a drug used to treat infections caused by worm-like parasites called liver flukes. A course of treatment with Biltricide typically involves taking six to nine pills in a single day and costs around $100. 

If Shkreli acquires Biltricide from Bayer, he plans to raise the price of the drug to $100,000 for a single-day course of treatment, according to people briefed on Turing’s business plans. No other changes or improvements to the drug will be made by Turing. The extra revenue generated by Biltricide is expected to earn Turing a fast profit for its investors and help defray the cost of developing other, experimental drugs, sources said.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. This is just plain supply and demand economics. The number of small molecule drugs has fallen precipitously since the salad days of the 90’s. That means there are fewer blockbuster drugs to make money on and fewer drugs overall getting approved. Lowe reported a few weeks ago that the number of FDA approvals had gone up in 2014 but that represents work that happened about a decade earlier and now that we’ve been furloughed for the sake of “shareholder value”, that might be a high tide mark. The shift is from small molecule drugs to biologicals. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does turn a whole generation of researchers into the equivalent of steelworkers while vastly reducing the output of small molecule drugs.

The consequence of not discovering new small molecule drugs is that even though they are going off patent and should be cheaper, there are no “new and improved” drugs to replace most of them. So, when they become generic, that’s it. There is no higher end model to compete with. Therefore, the cost of generics has to increase. I mean, where else are you going to go?

Now, in comes someone like Shkreli who sees a vast landscape of obscure generic drugs that could get a new life through retesting or new indications. He scoops up what he can and, without any R&D, he can cash in hugely. He still has to account to the FDA on production and quality standards. This is not insignificant. Think about what happened to the Today Sponge. But in general, this is a pure profit business model on the backs of ordinary people who may need these previously cheap medications. He is the ultimate MBA.

Give that man a bonus.

Believe it or not, researchers are not heartless tools of the pharmaceutical industry. We’re also consumers, and some of us are rather poor now that we’ve been kicked out of the field. R&D is incredibly expensive. Don’t let lefties tell you differently. And companies do have a right to recoup those costs and make a profit- that they can plough back into R&D (note: this was the old business model). But Shkreli’s model is shocking. One of Derek’s commenters summed it up nicely:

I wish people would learn to distinguish two types of capitalism:

1. Social capitalism: Create long-term value for customers with innovation, and then distribute the value created among all contributing stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, distributors, payers & providers, tax payers, and yes, also managers and shareholders.

2. Anti-social / psychopathic capitalism (aka greed): Screw everone and take value from others while destroying it, in order to make a quick profit for management and shareholders.

There is far too much of the latter, and its rapidly destroying society as we know it. And ironically, managers and shareholders will also pay the price, ultimately, as part of the same broken society and economy.

I swear I didn’t write that.

In another sign of the times, I am starting to see some slight indications that the industry is falling out of love with academic research. A couple of postings I’ve seen for drug design support are specifically requesting industrial experience and one went so far as to say that academic modelers are not preferred. (And oh my golly, what a difference industrial experience makes, It really is amazing.) Of course, a PhD is still maniacally important so the wait continues…