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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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September 7, 2004

Angell's Book

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Posted by Derek

Update: (Much) more on this topic here.

Readers are already asking me if I've read Marcia Angell's new book, "The Truth About the Drug Companies." I think that some of you are trying to do me in, hoping I'll completely throw a piston rod or something. It's a real possibility. Angell's take on my industry profoundly irritates me. Here's Janet Maslin's New York Times review of the book from yesterday. She finds the book to be "tough, persuasive, and troubling" although she says that Angell is "likely to be on the receiving end of some angry rebuttals."

I'm glad to pitch in on that worthy effort, but I'm going to try to do it in a larger (and larger-paying!) forum. The thing is, the drug industry deserves some criticism. I've handed out a bit myself. Maslin's review points out Angell's angry words about Claritin/Clarinex and Prilosec/Nexium - hey, join the flippin' club, Marcia. But in this kind of book, the worthwhile stuff gets buried in all the flying horse manure.

To pick just one road apple, Angell is a great fan of the "All The Drug Companies Do Is Rip Off NIH" line - which, I can tell you, most folks in the drug industry have never heard of. (And you should see the expressions on their faces when they do.) There are people who call for drug companies to immediately give up every penny they've made on any marketed drug that had anything to do with an NIH grant. I've spoken about this before, and I'm sure that I will again, but for now, I have just one question:

Can we get reimbursed for all the ones that didn't work?

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Press Coverage | Why Everyone Loves Us


1. The Novice Chemist on September 7, 2004 10:14 PM writes...

Angell's book has one page (maybe three, if you stretch it) where she explains the chemistry and biology of the drug industry. She couldn't even bring herself to explain the different criteria that a drug compound might have to meet (ADME, anyone?). Like Derek says, she actually argues that in the grand scheme of R&D that the NIH is responsible for all the R and all the drug companies do is the D. Stunning, absolutely stunning.

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2. Anonymous Coward (the orginal) on September 7, 2004 11:33 PM writes...

I have only read Angell in the NYRB.

I believe this forthcoming book -- I'm a third of the way through -- is a much stronger and more stinging critique of the power of big pharma:

Overdosed America

Author: John Abramson, MD

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3. Sebastian Holsclaw on September 8, 2004 12:36 PM writes...

"Angell is a great fan of the "All The Drug Companies Do Is Rip Off NIH" line - which, I can tell you, most folks in the drug industry have never heard of. (And you should see the expressions on their faces when they do.)"

You guys really need to pay attention to that kind of thing. The idea that drug companies rip off the NIH is widely distributed. Letting the idea go unchecked is going to cause huge problems for drug development in the future.

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4. Arnold Kling on September 8, 2004 3:20 PM writes...

More on Angell here:

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5. Anonymous on September 9, 2004 4:35 PM writes...

Hey Derek, loking forward to your pitching in with the angry rebuttals. :)

Might I ask where (and what) this larger paying forum where you're gonna do this is?

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