1. Big Pharma wants permission to cheat

    Big Pharma wants permission to cheat

    Recently, a battle has been waged in Congress over whether companies should be allowed to keep patents that they've obtained by misrepresentation or flat-out cheating. This issue has bubbled to the surface as legislation that aims to overhaul patent laws makes its way through Capitol Hill. As you may have guessed by now, some of the patents in question are drug formulation patents.

    In the past, when federal judges find what they call "inequitable conduct" on the part of patent holders, they have voided that company's patent. This makes the patent unenforceable by law. In the pharmaceutical realm, this means that a brand-name drug could be produced by any company that wants to produce it - and it would be entirely legal.

    In pharmaceutical terms, "inequitable conduct" (a.k.a. "lying") is when a drug maker knowingly submits false statements, inaccurately described experiments, or conceals information that contradicts the company's claims about a given drug when applying to the patent office.

    Unfortunately, the courts have already caught drug companies doing these very things. One appeals court found that Novo Nordisk conveniently forgot to mention that it hadn't performed an experiment described in its patent application for a human growth hormone. In another instance, the company Pharmacia (a Pfizer subsidiary) was found to have used an "inaccurate and misleading" affadavit in order to patent a glaucoma medication.

    It's not only shocking - but as a doctor, I believe it's dangerous for consumers. Of course, Big Pharma sees detestable behavior as rather small potatoes - and thinks it should result in nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the courts. Recently, the House of Representatives approved a comprehensive patent bill that would make it harder to prove cases of inequitable conduct. No doubt this bill was passed at the "urging" of pharmaceutical companies.

    Bob Armitage, the senior VP and general counsel of Big Pharma giant Eli Lilly and Company said that it would be wrong for the courts to invalidate patents obtained with misleading information. "This is like imposing the death penalty for relatively minor acts of misconduct," Armitage said.

    I suppose that pharmaceutical companies and their leaders have become so used to the preferential treatment that their billions in lobbyist monies have afforded them for so many years, that they can't help but assume that they're somehow above the law. After all, they have been to a certain extent.

    A vice president at Teva Pharmaceuticals, a maker of generic drugs, says that the reduced patent penalties in the bill passed by the House "would make it easier for [Big Pharma companies] to cheat and get away with it, easier for them to defend their patents, and more difficult for us to get generic products on the market in a timely way."

    Naturally, this is all about money. As you know, a brand-name drug sells for significantly more than a generic drug. So if a patent is nullified, then every pharmaceutical company can dive in and start producing its own version of that drug. Suddenly, the drug in question wouldn't be exclusive. And there would be a price war that would favor you and me.

    As I said earlier - you can always count on Big Pharma to fight the bad fight.

  2. New study finds Big Pharma gunk in our water supply

    New study finds Big Pharma gunk in our water supply

    By now I'm sure you've heard the story that inundated the news over the last couple of weeks: an investigation conducted by the Associate Press revealed that an incredible variety of pharmaceuticals - including everything from antidepressants, sex hormones, anti-seizure medications, and ibuprofen - was found in the drinking supply of 41 million Americans. See? I told you not to drink the water. Consider this the nail in the tap water coffin.

    How are these materials ending up in the water in the first place? Well, it's not because of illegal dumping by pharmaceutical companies - it's because we're an overmedicated society. The simple truth is that Americans take a lot of drugs. Not all of those drugs are absorbed into your body. Those that aren't absorbed are expelled through - and forgive me if you've just eaten - urine and feces. The fact is, water purification systems have no way of specifically screening out these elements from the water, so they remain a presence - a trace presence to be sure - but they're there.

    I don't care that the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are so miniscule that they can be measured in parts per billion and even parts per trillion. The point is not that one gulp of this tainted brew will have a negative effect. The real issue is chronic, low-level exposure to these drugs.

    Think about how often you consume water: as ice cubes, as an ingredient in cooking you ingest more water than any other form of "food." And it's at that point - bit by bit, day by day, glass by glass - that those parts per billion and parts per trillion start to become a concern. Especially when it comes to certain classes of drugs.

    Think about getting a low, consistent dose of a chemotherapy drug (which is incredibly toxic), or hormones, or psychotropic drugs for depression or epilepsy, or antibiotics the list goes on. In fact, some experts believe these pharmaceuticals may pose even more of a threat than waterborne contaminates like pesticides, PCBs, and lead that environmental watchdog groups traditionally screen for.

    Zoologist John Sumpter of Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine, and other drugs, said, "These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That's what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out into the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects."

    I agree with Dr. Sumpter. And I'm particularly concerned about the hormone levels above all. I've written before about the estrogen content of soy that has been linked to young girls beginning puberty at shockingly early ages and is resulting in hormonal imbalances that could be causing some boys to turn gay. Yes, you heard me right.

    It doesn't stop there. What about the possible side effects inherent in the drugs? Or how these drugs interact with the drugs you may already be taking and that are in your system? The Age of Overmedication began about 20 years ago, so it's tough to say when or if the potential long-term effects will materialize. But you know good and well that when they do, no one will think to blame the water.

    Leave it to the sensationalist media to sound the alarm - but the wrong alarm. I wish the call could go out to get scientists to work on a system that can screen these tiny contaminates out of our water supply. It would be money that's a lot better spent than on any nonsensical "greening" initiatives to battle global warming.

  3. Anti-depressants can't cure sadness

    According to research out of the University of Hull in the UK, antidepressant medications are only effective on those patients with severe cases of depression.

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