Laws used againts the Mafia are also useful to bring other criminal organizations to justice

Finally, a conviction of a corporation under RICO.  Should give some other big corporations a little pause, but of course now that they can can use their money without limit to bribe public officials, the RICO statues will probably either be overturned, or (more likely) corporations will be declared exempt from RICO:

Pfizer Hit With $141 Million RICO Penalty Over Neurontin Promotion
Plaintiffs argued that Pfizer’s own research showed Neurontin was ineffective for certain unapproved uses, but it suppressed that evidence and misrepresented its findings
Tresa Baldas

The National Law Journal

March 29, 2010

Pfizer Inc. has been socked with an eye-popping $141 million penalty for unlawfully promoting its epilepsy drug Neurontin for unapproved uses for which, the plaintiffs said, it didn’t even work.

A federal jury in Boston on Thursday concluded that the pharmaceutical giant had violated federal racketeering laws in promoting the drug for so-called off-label uses that were ineffective. The jury’s verdict was actually $47 million, but the penalty was automatically tripled under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The plaintiffs, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, argued that Pfizer duped them into believing that Neurontin could effectively treat conditions such as migraines and bipolar disorder. Neurontin was approved to treat epilepsy in 1993 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“What was at stake here was evidence-based medicine versus marketing-based medicine,” said Thomas Greene of Boston’s Greene LLP, one of several lawyers who represented the plaintiffs. During trial, Greene argued that Pfizer’s own research showed that Neurontin was not effective for certain unapproved uses, but it suppressed that evidence and misrepresented its findings.

At closing arguments, Linda Nussbaum of New York’s Kaplan Fox, Kaiser’s lead counsel, compared the case to the Bernie Madoff scandal.

“This was really about greed,” Nussbaum said in an interview. “To the defendants here, this was simply a product that they marketed to make as much money as they possibly could.”

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Laws used againts the Mafia are also useful to bring other criminal organizations to justice

H1N1 exaggerated by BigPharma?

Interesting to see what follow through there is on this story:

Doubts cast on H1N1 scare

The severity of the H1N1 outbreak was deliberately exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies that stood to make billions of dollars from a worldwide scare, a leading European health expert has claimed.

Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, has accused the makers of vaccines for the virus of influencing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) decision to declare a pandemic.

The council, a Strasbourg-based body responsible for the European Court of Human Rights, has decided to investigate Wodarg’s claims in an emergency debate on the issue to be held later this month.

H1N1 exaggerated by BigPharma?

Shot-gun patents

As a follow-up to the post of March 2007, The System IS the Sickness here’s an interesting report by the Sunshine Project which sums up some of the issues concerning patents for the H5N1 avian influenza virus, otherwise known as “Bird Flu.” It seems that some companies are patenting whole sequences of any Bird Flu virus sample that WHO or the CDC sends them, hoping by a kind of shot-gun strategy, to come out with a winning ticket in the patent lottery. They haven’t analyzed any of these sequences at all, they are just patenting them as the sequence them.  Indonesia, as I had noted last March, is unsure why it should contribute information that WHO hands over to the CDC who in turn hands that sample over to an American Pharma Company, who will extract royalties from whoever ends up producing the vaccine. There is no offer on the table to share royalties based on the information Indonesia provided with Indonesia, or to release that information into the public domain, so any company could use it. Indonesia could end up being unable to afford the treatments that their samples were instrumental in creating.

The report is a good summary and is especially interesting when it discusses how the science interacts with the legal/patent framework.

Continue reading “Shot-gun patents”

Shot-gun patents

What you can do about antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Here’s some of links to articles about the growth of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Quite a lot of interest in this given the recent paper by Dr. Monina Klevens et al at the CDC which concluded:

“Based on 8,987 observed cases of MRSA and 1,598 in-hospital deaths among patients with MRSA, we estimate that 94,360 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the United States in 2005; these infections were associated with death in 18,650 cases..”

And remember, this was in 2005–today the number is probably much higher.

Not any coverage of one of the most important causes of this phenomena, though. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have arisen so quickly largely because of the widespread use of antibiotics for veterinary uses, chiefly in the giant food factory farms. In these farms, animals are crowded together in disease-promoting conditions, so the only way to keep the animals from getting sick is to constantly feed them antibiotics. The bacteria that these animals are exposed to then become resistant to antibiotics, and through the process of horizontal genetic transfer, the germs that infect humans get the genes that they need to protect them against antibiotics. (See my previous post on this issue)

So, the AMA warned before against the use of the newer generation of antibiotics in animals, and is, along with 12 other health organizations, warning about this again, now that the pharmaceutical industry has asked the government for permission to use the very newest class of antibiotics on animals. These are our last-ditch antibiotics, and if bacteria become resistant to these, the number of fatal infections will increase, warns the AMA.

So the government is going to look out for the interests of its citizens and NOT approve the request by the pharma industry to make these last ditch antibiotics available to the cattle industry, right? Think again:

Continue reading “What you can do about antibiotic-resistant bacteria”

What you can do about antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Did Roger Bate write the memo that Amy Kazmin and Tim Wilson didn’t get?

As a follow up to my two pieces about the strange attraction between discussion of the Thai government’s origins in a military coup and any mention of that government’s attempts to negotiate prices with large western pharma giants, I would suggest reading this post that dissects some of the dis-information campaign re: the Thai compulsory licensing program over at the blog Pheripheries.

Did Roger Bate write the memo that Amy Kazmin and Tim Wilson didn’t get?

Did Tim Wilson get the same memo as Amy Kazmin?

Well it appears that the Financial Times is not alone in mentioning that the Thai government is not a democracy every time they discuss the mandatory licensing issue. It seems as if there might be a co-ordinated talking point memo out there somewhere, no?

Tariffs the real barrier to HIV treatment

By Tim Wilson

The close of the International Aids Society Conference in Sydney ended the publicity train of posturing activists and non-government organisations. In the conference’s wake, it is time to refocus on ensuring access to HIV/AIDS medicines for the world’s poor through real solutions, not political catchphrases.

Two groups particularly active last week in Sydney have provided poignant examples of how discussion about serious science and public policy can be outshined by ideological PR campaigns.

The executive director, Andrew Hewett, argued in ABC News Online that Thailand provides a “model” for dealing with treatment of HIV/AIDS.

What exactly is that model? The military junta which seized control of Thailand earlier this year [emphasis added by EF] has nationalised the patents of a series of vital drugs.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation is to be applauded in one respect though: this piece is clearly marked as an opinion piece, whereas in the Financial Times, similar text was run as part of a news story.
Continue reading “Did Tim Wilson get the same memo as Amy Kazmin?”

Did Tim Wilson get the same memo as Amy Kazmin?

Brazil Moves Forward

Well, as expected, another country has joined Thailand in threatening to “break the patent” for Merck’s Efavirenz. Bloomberg has some reporting of the dispute, and it’s filled with sideways adjectives describing the dispute in a quite stilted way. But this is to be expected, after all someone is trying to buck the patent system which is part of TRIPS. Regarding Thailand’s initial efforts to negotiate a better price for Efavirenz, I had observed earlier that Dr. Mongkol Na Songkhla is amazingly stupid or, in the unthinkable alternative, the Financial Times is biased and it is clear that the unthinkable alternative is the one that is aligned with reality. So here we go again.

But the real bias in this reporting comes mainly from what is omitted, rather than what is said. For example, from this reporting it seems that Brazil just pulled the price of 65 cents a pill out of thin air when they were just asking for the exactly the same price Thailand is getting. You can think what you want about what Brazil is doing, but it is crystal clear that Bloomberg is withholding relevant information. There’s also some basic background missing, which I’ll supply from another source below the fold.
Continue reading “Brazil Moves Forward”

Brazil Moves Forward