Big Pharma Has A Rare Week

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

The sound you hear is Pharma swinging from the rafters. Two news stories this week may reinfuse revenue streams in an industry whose blockbuster pill “bubble” has burst.  As Lipitor, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Singulair, Concerta and several other drugs have lost patent protection, Pharma is shedding both employees and ad campaigns. WebMD, the voice of Pharma on the Web, announced it would cut 250 positions in December and medical journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and New England Journal of Medicine are noticeably thinner without the Pharma ads that have leavened them for years.

Vitamin D and calcium will not protect older women from fractures, a government task force reported this week, in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force “recommends against daily supplementation with 400 IU or less of vitamin D3 and 1000 mg or less of calcium for the primary prevention of fractures” and  also recommends that older women, and younger ones with risk factors, be screened for osteoporosis.

While the report does not recommend expensive drugs or seem to be penned by Pharma consultants, its message is still good news for Pharma whose anti-osteoporosis drugs carried it through the 2000s.  “Don’t rely on just Vitamin D and calcium” and “get a bone scan!” were the marketing messages of the bone drugs Boniva, Fosamax and Actonel.

According to published reports, Merck, who launched the bone drug category with its Fosamax, single handedly initiated the “bone scan” craze foisted on middle aged and older women, including setting up a bone “institute” to secure Medicare reimbursement for the scans which were driving Fosamax sales.

Pharma even created the term “osteopenia”–at risk of osteoporosis–to sell the now discredited bone drugs, which are linked to esophageal cancer, osteonecrosis of the jaw, irregular heart beat, pain and actually causing fractures. Subsequent medical reports found the heavily marketed bone scans only benefit 10 percent of women who get them.

In more good news for Pharma this week, Genentech’s drug for allergic asthma, Xolair, co-marketed with Novartis, was trumpeted as having a new possible indication of treating patients with chronic hives or chronic idiopathic urticaria, reported the New York Times. If approved for the new indication, chronic idiopathic urticaria will likely became a major U.S. health problem to be advertised on TV like restless legs syndrome. Ka-ching.

Genetically engineered drugs like Xolair (called monoclonal antibodies) cost as much as $20,000 a year and cause TB, cancers and super infections according to their labels because they suppress the immune system. Xolair was investigated by the FDA for links to heart attack and stroke and 77 people who took Xolair had life-threatening allergic responses in a year and a half, according to FDA reports.

Some of the clinical tests to determine Xolair’s safety were conducted at Vivra which was investigated twice by the FDA for procedural irregularities. Trials of Xolair and at least seven other drugs were corrupted by protocol violations and outright falsifications, according to a former clinical research subinvestigator who worked at the facility. San Mateo, Calif.-based Vivra Asthma & Allergy was the nation’s largest respiratory disease physician practices until a merger with Lakewood, Colo.-based Gambro in 1997 and with El Segundo, Calif.-based DaVita in 2005.

There is even a genetically engineered monoclonal antibody drug called Prolia to treat osteoporosis that costs $1,650 a year now that we know Vitamin D and calcium don’t work.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz