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Comment Re:Yes, but ... (Score 1) 73

The goal is freedom in these countries, and China has a great deal of economic freedom for its people now, even if speech is curtailed. . . if we want to crush them, we should encourage massive regulation and redistribution of wealth until they are of little consequence on the world stage, like Europe

Interesting comparison, because for the vast majority of Chinese citizens, while their economic freedom (and condition) is infinitely better than under Mao, it's still much less than in Europe unless you're very well-connected with the CCP. True economic freedom also requires the rule of law (including an independent judiciary), respect for private property rights, a lack of unfair competition from state-owned enterprises, minimal corruption, and accountability for public officials, none of which China has. Sure, you could definitely run a factory much cheaper in China, without having to worry about those pesky regulations concerning pollution or occupational health, and the police are always on hand to brutalize labor organizers. But if you're running, say, Facebook or Google, which market do you think is easier to compete in, Europe or China?

Comment Re:Best weapon against malaria: DDT (Score 1) 73

Those are meme attempts to assuage the mass murderous effect of this ban.

The idea that the DDT ban had "mass murderous effects" is itself a meme, and a very recent one, propagated for the specific purpose of discrediting the wider environmental movement and regulations on pollutants. And as the GP made clear, there are very serious practical concerns that are completely ignored by the shills clamoring for widespread DDT use (few of whom had ever expressed concern for the fate of Third World inhabitants until they found a way to blame Rachel Carson).

Comment Re:Queue the misinformation... (Score 4, Insightful) 36

So basically, she found a 2000 year-old book that says the plant heals malaria, extracted the malaria-healing part and got a Nobel for discovering a malaria drug.

Well, it wasn't a malaria drug before she did the actual science necessary to prove that a 2000-year-old book wasn't simply full of shit, and the end result was many lives saved. I certainly don't begrudge her the Nobel, even though it means we'll spend the next few decades listening to the CCP and alternative medicine practitioners crowing about it. (I can't decide which is worse.)

Comment Re:3 Scientists Share Nobel for Discovery (Score 2) 36

the fact that it is explicitly mentioned in the citation for the prize is just anecdotal evidence not data

I can't tell, is this a parody troll or not? Here is the exact citation, from the source:

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 was divided, one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi mura "for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites" and the other half to Youyou Tu "for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria"

How can this be made any clearer? Let me guess, this is going to be another one of those threads where a legion of idiots who don't realize that the Peace Prize is selected and awarded by an entirely different institution using different criteria make irrelevant comments about Obama's prize.

Comment Re: Shop elsewhere if you need this drug (Score 1) 372

Patents on formulations are like any other patent. Again, the issue you're missing is one of testing: a company can claim that it has equivalent packaging, but how do you prove that it really is equivalent? Keep in mind that a large part of FDA approval means "approval to market this drug for specific conditions", or for a generic, "approval to market this formulation as a generic substitute for the previously FDA-approved formulation", and companies get busted (too frequently) when they make claims that aren't FDA-approved. Also, from Wikipedia:

As with new drug substances and dosage forms thereof, novel excipients themselves can be patented; sometimes, however, a particular formulation involving them is kept as a trade secret instead (if not easily reverse-engineered).

And even if the formulation isn't a trade secret, the precise manufacturing processes involved might well be.

Comment Re: Shop elsewhere if you need this drug (Score 1) 372

If the patent has expired why can't they make it exactly the same as the original manufactuer?

Those pills are much more complicated than you think - the basic molecule may be the same, but the packaging can have a huge effect, which is how "extended release" drugs work. It's what makes extremely powerful recreational drugs like opiates and stimulants into milder prescribed pills like Oxycontin and Adderall. (And in both cases, if you crush them and snort the pills, it totally bypasses the packaging that was put there to prevent you getting high as a kite.) It does actually require some trial and error to get it right and occasionally the generics really aren't as good, just because of the way they're absorbed. So the only way to prove that they're the same is to run actual clinical trials.

Comment Re: Shop elsewhere if you need this drug (Score 1) 372

FDA approval is a huge barrier to market, and any generic drug company wanting to get FDA approval to sell their pills in the USA needs to demonstrate that they are "biosimilar", which actually requires a lot of clinical testing. (I don't think this is a uniquely American thing, but I'm not sure what the Europeans or Japanese do.) It's much less expensive than the Phase I-III trials required for new drug approvals, but for drugs like this one that are low-demand, the testing just isn't worth it. That's a big reason why the orphan drug regulations were put in place, to encourage companies to conduct these trials for old drugs that had been repurposed.

(PS. I'm neutral on whether we have too much regulation; on balance I think the FDA is a good idea but will scale poorly in the future. However, I don't think we're being unreasonable asking generics manufacturers to demonstrate that their pills are a valid substitute for the existing FDA-approved drug.)

Comment Re: Shop elsewhere if you need this drug (Score 1) 372

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with your country? They have a nation wide exclusive on a half century old drug with the freedom to set any price they want??? Sanctioned by the Fda?

I forget the exact background, but there was originally a sensible reason for the "orphan drug" regulations - the FDA are trying to ensure a stable supply of relatively rare drugs like this one, which may not be particularly profitable to make, so they offer limited exclusivity (which effectively means "they allow the company to sell the drug at a higher price than would otherwise be the case"). I think there are valid arguments in favor of the overall concept, but like many regulations, it ended up providing perverse incentives for corporate raiders. In this particular case, I think the fact that it's "closed distribution" is what's really indefensible, since it makes generics testing impossible.

Comment Re:Shop elsewhere if you need this drug (Score 5, Interesting) 372

This loophole should be fixed, but given the dysfunctional state of the Congress any bill fixing this will probably be encumbered with a prohibition on abortions and more NSA spying.

Eh, I think this case may be outrageous enough to get them to close this particular loophole, and here's why: it's an indefensible perverse incentive, Big Pharma doesn't need it, and the last thing the lobby wants is for politicians to be talking about drug prices in general. Right now their stock prices are falling because of Clinton's comment, and most people working in biotech or pharma think Shkreli is an asshole* and would happily feed him to the wolves anyway. What they need is a very targeted bill that prevents this particular abuse but doesn't touch any other part of the wider industry's business model. I think they could get broad bipartisan support for this - it's the kind of no-brainer that allows politicians to take credit for something without having to address real-world problems.

(* Most of us have scientific backgrounds, and Shkreli is exactly the kind of humanities-major business-weasel we've despised since college. Actually, worse, because most econ majors don't eventually stalk the families of former employees. No one else will cry when his BMW is repossessed.)

Comment Re:Oh no no no! (Score 1) 103

I think a lot of the problem is that people are very disconnected from agriculture, and tend towards having little knowledge of basic botany. Agriculture has become so successful over the past century (in developed countries anyway) that we've gone from having half the population engaged in farming to less than 2%.

And to the extent they know anything about agriculture, it's entirely anecdote-driven and usually disconnected from the broader reality. I'm a big supporter of local organic family farms (seriously - there's a farmer's market across the street once a week), but I'm also self-aware enough to realize that my upper-middle-class buying habits are not representative of how most of the world is (or will be) fed. (And, just to be clear, I'm also totally comfortable eating GMO food, and would even preferentially buy GMO products to support them - which reminds me, I need to find some of that new fake cheese.)

I have no problem if people want to label things as non-GMO voluntarily, and they are free to do that just like they are free to label things as kosher, halaal, vegan, ect. But I do not agree with forcing it.

I agree that the labeling drive is misleading and unfair, but I'd rather err on the side of more information and more democracy than less, and I'm never comfortable seeing companies buy the laws they want. This is one case where Monsanto actually deserves the slime being flung at them. I also think that not nearly enough information about legally-mandated testing (not just GMOs, but especially pharmaceuticals) is made public, and this is sometimes to the detriment of the public. (This is as much a scientific gripe as a public-interest one: the fact that so much primary data of all types is disorganized or simply unavailable, plus the added insult of the scientific literature being mostly paywalled, is a constant frustration.)

I think this is ultimately a battle that can only be won in the long term, and only by patience and accepting the rules of the game. I'm confident that in the long term (especially as science advances), the environmental and commercial benefits of GMOs will prove so overwhelming - and the supposed health risks non-existent - that the dreaded label will be no more frightening than "may contain traces of wheat products". We're doing far more damage to ourselves and the environment by our continued over-consumption of meat products, which just keeps getting worse as more countries rise out of poverty and chase the dream of bacon cheeseburgers for everyone. Sooner or later we're going to need to find a middle ground: look ahead fifty years, and imagine that you can pay $30 [adjusted for inflation] per pound for lean ground beef, or $3/pound for something that looks and tastes exactly like lean ground beef, but with less cholesterol, made out of GMO'd yeast protein. Which do you think most people are going to buy?

Comment Re:Oh no no no! (Score 1) 103

Well, I happen to be in one of those often accused of being bought out university departments, and damnedest thing, I keep missing those lucrative selling out seminars.

Yeah, I never had any luck with that myself when I was in grad school.

The whole GMO debate just looks completely insane from a practicing scientist's point of view - it's like we were arguing about microscopes, or test tubes. It's quite shocking for people who consider themselves bleeding-heart liberal environmentalists to discover that they're viewed as evil corporate shills for suggestion that GMOs have legitimate uses. The level of fear-mongering, ignorance, outright lies, and sometimes spittle-flecked hatred is so disturbing that it's taken all the fun out of mocking right wing science-deniers. And occasionally it descends to violence, like the assholes who destroyed the Golden Rice (note: not a Monsanto product) plot in the Philippines. I'd almost prefer dealing with creationists, but that isn't my field.

(PS. Of course it absolutely does not help the cause that Congress just made compulsory GMO labeling illegal. That was stupid, corrupt, and counter-productive.)

Comment Re:Actually no (Score 2) 165

For trials where there is no effective treatment, and the new treatment should be highly effective, the cost of trials is quite modest.

The problem is that a lot of the proposed new treatments turn out not to be highly effective, but companies don't find this out until they've already sunk tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into it. So the cost of every new FDA approval needs to be balanced against all of the bets that failed.

This is true even for diseases where there isn't an effective treatment - clinical trials for Alzheimer's drugs (a sure money-maker, if they worked) have been notoriously failure-prone.

Comment Re:There's more to it than developing the drugs. (Score 1) 165

Crowd sourcing years of clinical trials. What could possibly go wrong.

I don't disagree with this point - pharma industry critics tend to be very ignorant of what the process actually looks like, and how much it costs - but one of the points made by the article was that Big Pharma might not waste so much time and money on failing drug candidates if they had access to more complete information*, i.e. if data sharing was the norm rather than the exception. Crowd-sourcing the clinical trials sounds like a recipe for disaster, but crowd-sourcing the early discovery process might have some real benefits. It's not like the entire process could get any less efficient, and even just keeping the number of failed clinical candidates to a minimum would be a huge improvement.

(* Granted, the fact that most academic research is stuck behind publisher paywalls makes their job far more difficult than it should be. I get nauseous every time I think about how much damage our publication practices have done to modern science.)

Comment Re:Open source isn't the exception, it's the norm (Score 1) 10

It seems to me that fewer people may want to contribute to the effort if they think their freely-contributed work could be subsumed by a patent fence that (e.g.) GlaxoSmithKline might decide to slap around a derivative discovery.

In practice, you are almost certainly incorrect. Scientists working in basic research - the ones I've met, anyway - are almost universally thrilled if their research leads to improvements in human health, regardless of whether or not they or someone else profits from it. (In fact, I was unhappy working as a developer on an academic project that was partly funded by charging companies for access to our software - I thought we should just give it away, because I wanted as many people as possible to use my work.) I have no fondness for GSK or any other big pharma company - quite frankly, they're a pain in the ass to deal with - but the extent to which they leech off public discoveries is vastly overstated, and they perform a huge amount of very expensive and very boring work to bring drugs to market. This combination of publicly-funded basic research and privately-funded development is one of the primary justifications for the existence of the NIH and on the whole it works relatively smoothly, although the perverse incentives of the Bayh-Dole act are problematic.

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.