This statement by Bayer CEO sums up everything that is wrong with the multinational pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical companies are singularly focused on profit and so aggressively push for patents and high drug prices. Diseases that don’t promise a profit are neglected, and patients who can’t afford to pay are cut out of the picture. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Read our response:


Pharmacy cabinet, 1400-1850. Over a metre high, cedar wood overlaid with brass, engraved and embossed. The inside is decorated with mother-of-pearl. Middle East.

Islamic medicine saw the opening of the first pharmacies in the 1200s. Islamic pharmacy drew partly on Greek knowledge of herbal medicine and also contributed new information about previously unknown plants and herbs. Via sciencemuseum


The meat industry now consumes four-fifths of all antibiotics
February 8, 2013

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a set of voluntary “guidelines”designed to nudge the meat industry to curb its antibiotics habit. Ever since, the agency has been mulling whether and how to implement the new program. Meanwhile, the meat industry has been merrily gorging away on antibiotics—and churning out meat rife with antibiotic-resistant pathogens—if the latest data from the FDA itself is any indication.

The Pew Charitable Trusts crunched the agency’s numbers on antibiotic use on livestock farms and compared them to data on human use of antibiotics to treat illness, and mashed it all into an infographic, which I’ve excerpted below. Note that that while human antibiotic use has leveled off at below 8 billion pounds annually, livestock farms have been sucking in more and more of the drugs each year—and consumption reached a record nearly 29.9 billion pounds in 2011. To put it another way, the livestock industry is now consuming nearly four-fifths of the antibiotics used in the US, and its appetite for them is growing.

In an email, a Pew spokesperson added that while  the American Meat Institute reported a 0.2 percent increase in total meat and poultry production in 2011 compared to the previous year, the FDA data show that antibiotic consumption jumped 2 percent over the same time period. That suggests that meat production might be getting more antibiotic-intensive.  

Not surprisingly, when you cram animals together by the thousands and dose them daily with antibiotics, the bacteria that live on and in the animals adapt and develop resistance to those bacteria killers. Pew crunched another new set of data, the FDA’s latest release of results from its National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, or NARMS, which buys samples of meat products and subjects them to testing for bacterial pathogens. Again, the results are sobering. Here a a few highlights pointed to by Pew in an email:

• Of the Salmonella on ground turkey, about 78% were resistant to at least one antibiotic and half of the bacteria were resistant to three or more. These figures are up compared to 2010. 

• Nearly three-quarters of the Salmonella found on retail chicken breast were resistant to at least one antibiotic. About 12% of retail chicken breast and ground turkey samples were contaminated with Salmonella.

• Resistance to tetracycline [an antibiotic] is up among Campylobacter on retail chicken. About 95% of chicken products were contaminated with Campylobacter, and nearly half of those bacteria were resistant to tetracyclines. This reflects an increase over last year and 2002.

Takeaway: While the FDA dithers with voluntary approaches to regulation, the meat industry is feasting on antibiotics and sending out product tainted with antibiotic-resistant bugs.


How Drug Company Money is Undermining Science

When Robert Lindsay chose to become a medical researcher in the early 1970s, he did not do it for the money. His field—the effect of hormones on bone—was a backwater. It was also a perfect opportunity for a young researcher to make his mark and, he hoped, help millions of people who suffered from the bone disease osteoporosis. As the body ages, sometimes bones lose the ability to rebuild themselves fast enough to keep pace with the normal process of deterioration, and the skeleton weakens. Neither Lindsay nor anyone else understood much about why this happened, but there was reason to think that hormones might play a role. Some women develop osteoporosis shortly after menopause, when their hormone levels drop sharply, perhaps upsetting that balance between bone creation and destruction. If so, Lindsay reasoned, replacing the hormones with a pill might halt or even reverse the progress of the disease. From a tiny, underfunded clinic in Glasgow, Scotland, he set up one of the first clinical trials of estrogen replacement therapy for bone loss in postmenopausal women. Lindsay’s star was rising.

His next project had big commercial implications and got the attention of the drug industry. Having moved to Helen Hayes Hospital, a rehabilitation center north of New York City, in 1984 he published work that established the minimum effective dosage of an antiosteoporosis estrogen drug called Premarin. Because the findings suggested that fighting osteoporosis was tantamount to encouraging millions of women to use the drug, it made Lindsay an important person in the eyes of the drug’s manufacturer, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories. Indeed, the company gave him a role as an author of its informational video Osteoporosis: A Preventable Tragedy.

By the mid-1990s, when Wyeth got caught in a patent battle over Premarin, Lindsay was a staunch Wyeth ally. He came out against approval of a generic version of the drug that would have cut into sales even though the generic form would have made it easier for osteoporosis patients to receive therapy. His reasoning was that such versions might not be precisely equivalent to the brand-name drug, a fact that can be true with certain drugs but was also a position that happened to echo the company line. “All we’re asking is that we don’t approve something now and regret it” later, he told the Associated Press in 1995. Lindsay’s close relationship with Wyeth and other drug companies carried on for decades, in ways that were sometimes hidden. He started allowing Wyeth to draft research articles and began taking tens of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical interests that stood to gain from his research.

The scandal is not what Lindsay did so much as that his case is typical. In the past few years the pharmaceutical industry has come up with many ways to funnel large sums of money—enough sometimes to put a child through college—into the pockets of independent medical researchers who are doing work that bears, directly or indirectly, on the drugs these firms are making and marketing. The problem is not just with the drug companies and the researchers but with the whole system—the granting institutions, the research labs, the journals, the professional societies, and so forth. No one is providing the checks and balances necessary to avoid conflicts. Instead organizations seem to shift responsibility from one to the other, leaving gaps in enforcement that researchers and drug companies navigate with ease, and then shroud their deliberations in secrecy.

“There isn’t a single sector of academic medicine, academic research or medical education in which industry relationships are not a ubiquitous factor,” says sociologist Eric Campbell, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Those relationships are not all bad. After all, without the help of the pharmaceutical industry, medical researchers would not be able to turn their ideas into new drugs. Yet at the same time, Campbell argues, some of these liaisons co-opt scientists into helping sell pharmaceuticals rather than generating new knowledge.

Continue to Full Article


As negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement move to Malaysia this week, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges negotiating countries to remove terms that could block people from accessing affordable medicines, choke off production of generic medicines, and constrain the ability of governments to pass laws in the interest of public health. Read more -

Medicinal Indian cannabis, 1920s. Manufactured by Parke, Davis and Co of Detroit, USA. Wellcome Images. Via guardian

In the late 19th century cannabis drugs were prescribed for loss of appetite, inability to sleep, migraine headache, pain, involuntary twitching, excessive coughing, and treatment of withdrawal symptoms from morphine and alcohol addiction. By 1896 several useful new resin derivatives were developed. In a venture, Eli Lilly and Parke Davis developed this very potent domesticated indica strain called Cannabis Americana. More to read: herbmuseum