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I *really* try not to get drawn into discussions like this... as the man said, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry...
However, a friend posted this:
[Image by the Skeptical Meme Society, shared by Dr. Mehmet Oz on Facebook.]
...and immediately ended up with people saying that there *were* conspiracies, and all it took was a few people at the top of the company, or a few peer reviewers, or sprinkling around some of the billions in profits...
So, I got a bit heated. Here is my response:
most pharma companies have minimal laboratory facilities for advanced
drug testing. If it takes animal research these days, it's
largely done via Material Transfer Agreement and a Research Services
contract to a university lab. In the long run, it is cheaper to contract
out the work on a fee-for-service basis than to invest in the
infrastructure and personnel to maintain all of the possible labs that
are needed in the course of testing.
there's no secret underground lair in the heart of an extinct volcano
where the demon Big Pharma threatens investigative journalists with the
piranha tank in order to keep the deep dark secret cures away from the
public! To believe otherwise is really a condemnation of one's own
rationale thought processes and education.
same universities have a research publication policy - if you've ever
heard of "publish or perish" it applies to the research contracts, too.
No university would agree to contract terms that prevent a scientist
from publishing *any* results they obtain - it doesn't matter if they
are positive or negative. I was once in a contract negotiation where the
funding company wanted a 36-month embargo on publication to protect
their process trade secrets - the university would not agree to the
terms, and we did not get the contract. You see, agreement to the terms
would have jeopardized the tax-exempt/non-profit status of the
no, there's no big conspiracy to keep cures away from the public.
...And no, it's not possible for only the people at the top to know
about a cure and keep that secret - frankly, the people at the very top
don't know that much - they are upper level managers. The scientists
that do all of the development work are in middle management, with lab
techs under them (who know of the results) and bosses above them (who
also know the results).
for Big Pharma profits - someone in the facebook thread read a profit-loss statement and
commented on billions in profits - they do not go into some huge Scrooge
McDuck giant vault where the CEO can sleep on a bed of gold coins at
night! Profits go back into the company - they pay dividends to
shareholders, they pay bonuses - yes, to the CEO - but also to most
everyone who works for the company.
John Ringo's The Last Centurion, I gave him a number (in 2007) of
$2,000,000,000 to bring a new drug to market. Today, that's more like
$10,000,000,000 (that's ten *billion* dollars, just for one new drug).
That money has to come from someone-somewhere.
It doesn't come from the president's magic pocket where he keeps "his"
money to pay for all of those special programs like the so-called "Obama
phones" (actually, he keeps those in his *other* pocket). No, that
money comes from the sales of other products by the company - and that
means the prior profits. Those profits are what exists after taxes, and
thus reported on annual financial reports. Capital investment in the
company is *also* post-taxes, so you have to really dig down to find out
how that profit is distributed and re-invested in the next stage of the
and by the way, the shareholders are not money-grubbing elites eating
up all the wealth stolen off the backs of the laborers - A company has a
stock issue when they want to do something that requires investment -
build a new lab, hire more people, try a new market - and they don't
have the cash *now* to do it. So, they sell stock to people who *do*
have the cash *now*. That way they raise way more cash than they could
get with a bank loan. Later, once the investment pays off, they pay out
to the investors - with interest, because that's what you do when people
loan you money. However, in the public sector - when someone loans you
money, they need some form of collateral to hold until the loan is paid
off. In the case of stock, that is a small ownership share in the
company. Stockholders are not merely investors, they are *owners* (and
in many cases, they are also employees) and so they *do* deserve a cut
of the profits (and frankly, it's a pretty small cut per stock).
also not obvious in the profit-and-loss statements is the cost of doing
business in the global community - see, governments like to minimize
prescription costs when *they* are paying - foreign aid, nationalized
medicine, Congressional perks - any time a lower-than-cost price is
negotiated. When a drug is new, the cost is high to recoup that $10
billion investment. Once patents expire and the drug goes generic, or
*competitive drugs are released, all chance of recouping costs are over -
so it makes sense to recoup those costs early. But international
agreements often limit drug costs - plus Pharma companies are often
"encouraged" (or blackmailed) into provide free or steeply discounted
drugs for humanitarian reasons. China, frankly, steals the formula and
copies it - and they aren't the only ones. Even our dear friends north
of the border (i.e. the government of C-eh?-N-eh?-D-eh?) are on record
as having told several U.S. pharmaceutical companies that they *would*
provide drugs at the price the Canadian governemnt demanded - or else
they government would allow Canadian generics manufacturers to violate
the International Patent and produce cheap (in more ways than one)
yeah, drug companies make profits, and still Americans pay higher
prices for drugs than Canada, Mexico, China, Japan - but that's largely
because our legal system limits the extent to which the government and
healthcare can criminally extort those same companies.
those "magic" cures out there - I fight this all the time with medical
marijuana claims. Let me state right out, that there are many positive
medicinal benefits that the Medical Field can develop using components
derived from Cannabis sativa.
Smoking pot is of limited use - and really only medicinally sound in
cases where the euphoria induced by smoking pot is one of the desired
effects - for all other uses, synthetics and extracts are much more
scientifically and medicinally sound - mainly because of control of
dosing and route of administration. Ingestion is a *lousy* route of
administration - and burning, baking and boiling alters the chemical
Oil is NOT a cure-all - half of the things it is claimed to do (the
half that actually refers to scientific publications) is a result of
using pure extracts or synthetics! - not street pot! I once had someone
cite several papers at me concerning medical marijuana effects on cancer
cells - one of those reported on the cancer that took my
Father-in-Law's life - at a time when I was actively researching
cannabinoid effects on brain cells. I pointed out that in each
publication, the cannabinoid used was a *synthetic* - not occurring in
nature, and considerably altered from the 63 different cannabinoid
compounds found in marijuana smoke. Hemp Oil, Charlotte's Web*, and
"pick-your-favorite-bud-at-the-medical-pot-shoppe" are the modern day
equivalent of snake oil - yes, some people will see positive effects,
but in the end, it's due to many more factors than just the medMJ.
Another such example is the recent craze for claiming medical marijuana treats (or cures) autism. I was recently asked about the actual published research on the topic. A Google search shows hundreds of search results on marijuana and autism, with sources such as "Natural News" touting the beneficial effects - but they are *all* anecdotal, and not based on scientific research. It
turns out that in 2013, there was an article in the scientific journal
Neuron (volume 78, Issue 8, pages 498-509) that showed that one of the
mutations (Fragile-X) caused a change in brain cell-to-brain cell
signalling that involved the brain's normal neurotransmitter that acts
at the same location as marijuana (known as the endocannabinoid 1, or
CB1 receptor). These receiving sites for signals can operate in two
modes - always on, or in pulses. It turns out that the autism-related
condition does not have an always-on mode, only the pulse mode. The
assumption from this study is that it is not the receptor that is
faulty, but the cells producing the endogenous marijuana-like chemical
normally present in brain. Thus, people surmise that replacing this
chemical with medical marijuana would restore normal function. The
truth is very likely that no, it won't, but that doesn't stop "Natural
News" and other sources as claiming that Big Pharma is withholding
evidence that marijuana cures autism. The authors never said this - and
in fact, the endogenous cannabinoid signalling and receptors in the
brain are tied into almost every brain function - such that if it really
were the "root cause" of autism, or the cure, then the autistic brain
wouldn't function at all (and we know that is not the case, it just
article from 2013 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
(Vol. 43, Issue 11, pages 2686-2695) found that there is an excess of a
different type of endogenous cannabinoid receptor in the blood of
autistic patients. This "CB2" receptor occurs in high quantities than
it normally does. In many cases, this pattern called "receptor
upregulation" means that the receptors are being under-stimulated (hence
too little of the triggering endogenous marijuana-like chemicals).
this was latched onto by medMJ proponents as something that could be
"treated" with medMJ. Two problems with that - (A) CB2 doesn't really
react to THC - the main active ingredient in marijuana, and (B) CB2 and
the cells in which the receptor is present are involved in immunity, not
There is a tendency for the medMJ crowd - or frankly any group touting the latest miracle cure - to shout back at scientists
urging restraint that "just because it isn't scientifically proven
doesn't mean its not true."
Well, it's not scientifically proven,
there's no support for their claims, and in fact, it's probably *not* true. As I wrote last year (http://www.baen.com/Why_Science_is_Never_Settled.asp and http://www.baen.com/Why_Science_is_Never_Settled-Part2.asp) what is difficult in science is proving something to be *true* - proving it to be false is actually quite easy - and many such claims are proven to be false. In the case of many "quack" cures, there's even a fair amount
of evidence that they could be harmful.
people need to learn to read scientific papers - it's not hard to learn
how to do, but it would require people to *work*, to *think* and to
*read* more than 140 characters on their phone screen!
Web is a strain bred for high levels of cannabidiol, to enable use as a
treatment for juvenile epilepsy and other disorders sensitive to CBD.
It is a step in the right direction - selecting for the desired
chemicals. However, *any* tetrahydrocannabinol content in the compounds
shown to be *effective* against epilepsy negates the beneficial effect.
Thus Epidiolex - the drug developed by medicinal cannabinoid research -
is a pure extract, which known, controlled dosing and preparation.
Charlotte's Web does NOT meet this standard. Epidiolex is in an
oil-based spray absorbed through the mucus membranes in the mouth;
however, it is *not* burned, smoked, baked, boiled, or digested. Any and
all of those alter the drug - leading to much less certainty in
See, I *told* you that you wouldn't like me when I was angry!