Profile of James Love, "Big Pharma's worst nightmare"

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Jamie Love is one of the founders of Knowledge Ecology International (formerly the Consumer Project on Technology), a super-effective activist NGO that helped to establish low-cost, global access to HIV/AIDS drugs. Read the rest

Martin Shkreli is right: fraud charges only arose because of pharma scumbaggery

Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli is led to a waiting police car by federal agents following his arrest in the Manhattan borough of New York December 17, 2015.     REUTERS/Nate Raymond

Martin Shkreli, the notorious, most-hated-man-on-the-Internet pharma douchebro who was arrested last week for securities fraud, told the FBI that the only reason they bothered busting him for financial corruption is that he had made a spectacle out of himself with his pharma shenanigans. Read the rest

Experts baffled to learn that 2 years olds are being prescribed psychiatric drugs

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In 2014, US doctors wrote ~20,000 prescriptions for risperidone, quetiapine and other antipsychotics for children under the age of two; a cohort on whom these drugs have never been tested and for whom there is no on-label usage. Read the rest

Pharma-hedge-douche: I should've charged more for AIDS/cancer drug

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Martin Shkreli, the most hated man on the Internet, regrets that he jacked up the price of the off-patent drug Daraprim, taken mainly by people with AIDS and cancer, by a mere 5,000%. Read the rest

AIDS-drug-gouging hedge-douche reneges on promise to cut prices for Daraprim

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Martin Shkreli, the hedge-fund douche-bro who hiked the price of an off-patent drug used by AIDS and cancer patients from $13.50 to $750, then promised to lower the prices after becoming the Most Hated Man on the Internet did no such thing, because he is a liar. Read the rest

Pharma company offers $1/dose version of hedge-fund douchenozzle's drug

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Former hedge-fund manager Martin Shkreli became a poster child for greed and sleaze when he bought the only company that was tooled up to make an off-patent drug called Daraprim that people with HIV used to control parasitic toxoplasmosis infections and jacked the price from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet. Read the rest

When scientists hoard data, no one can tell what works

Peer review and replication are critical to the scientific method, but in medical trials, a combination of pharma company intransigence and scientists' fear of being pilloried for human error means that the raw data that we base life-or-death decisions upon is routinely withheld, meaning that the errors lurk undetected in the data for years -- and sometimes forever. Read the rest

Spectacular, weird horror movie as pharma infomercial

Adult Swim's Unedited Footage of a Bear trumps Too Many Cooks for intensity, virtuosity and genuine terror. Read the rest

Brian Krebs's "Spam Nation"

In Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door, Brian Krebs offers a fascinating look at the mass-scale cybercrime that underpins the spam in your inbox and provides an inside peek at a violent fight among its principle players. Cory Doctorow reviews.

Canada's anti-counterfeiting bill stalled by US demand for removal of humanitarian safeguards

Michael Geist writes, "Last year, the Canadian government trumpeted anti-counterfeiting legislation as a key priority. The bill raced through the legislative process in the winter and following some minor modifications after committee hearings, seemed set to pass through the House of Commons. Yet after committee approval, the bill suddenly stalled with little movement throughout the spring. Why did a legislative priority with all-party approval seemingly grind to a halt?" Read the rest

Back pain: Acetaminophen no better than placebos

A large-scale, rigorous study published in the Lancet found that the go-to, front-line treatment for back pain was no better than a placebo. Read the rest

As kids' accidental ODs rise, FDA still won't mandate flow restrictors in medicine bottles

In America, more under-6 kids go to the emergency room from accidental overdose than from car-accidents -- they get hold of medicine and drink the whole bottle. Since 2007, epidemiologist Dr Daniel Budnitz has campaigned for the use of flow-restrictors in children's medicine bottles, which dramatically reduce the likelihood of an OD; manufacturers started adding restrictors to acetaminophen in 2011, but stopped there.

Flow restrictors have not been added to bottles of antihistamines, ibuprofen, and cough and cold preparations -- even where they contain the same concentration of acetaminophen as plain acetaminophen tinctures. These other medicines account for about half of all overdoses by small children.

In a long, investigative piece, Pro Publica and Consumer Reports exhaustively document the effectiveness of restrictors, the intransigence of bottom-line-focused pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the real risks of children's medicine overdoses.

An FDA mandate would solve the problem of liquid overdose at the stroke of a pen, but the FDA refuses, preferring a voluntary approach that is demonstrably not working -- and putting kids at risk. The incidence of overdose in small children is not only widespread -- it's rising. Flow-restrictors are cheap, effective low-hanging fruit. Restrictors were invented to improve dosing and reduce spills in adult medicine, and are thus of benefit to everyone, not just parents. Read the rest

Retinol is a magical skin potion

Anyone who tries to google skincare products hits a brick wall of fake reviews, SEO spam and hysterical pseudoscientific terror. Vogue's Christina Mueller writes that the blind-studied, peer-reviewed answer to your question is probably "Retinol":

Imagine for a moment that a revolutionary skin-care ingredient was discovered. It visibly smoothed out wrinkles and obliterated breakouts; it improved skin texture and tightened pores into tiny little nothings. ... Such an ingredient does exist, and chances are some form of it is currently languishing in a corner of your medicine cabinet. It’s retinol. It isn’t sexy. It definitely isn’t new. In fact, it was discovered 81 years ago, making it a veritable dowager compared with all the fresh new super-ingredients that have since come onto the anti-aging scene. For the past few decades, it has been hiding in plain sight—but with a few new developments, it is stepping back into the limelight.
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Public interest groups fly to Auckland, NZ to meet with TPP negotiators, are only allowed in the building to give a 15-minute joint presentation

Having been promised a chance to meet with the delegates at the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership treaty meeting in New Zealand, a representatives from nonprofit public interest groups around the world flew to Auckland. Once they arrived, the TPP announced that they would be granted 15 minutes, total, for all of the groups to make a statement.

TPP is a sweeping copyright treaty, a kind of ACTA on steroids, being conducted without any public scrutiny or input -- only governments and giant corporations are welcome in the negotiating room. It has profound implications for the future of medicine, Internet regulation, and privacy and surveillance.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is one of the groups that sent a representative to Auckland. They've published an open letter signed by the public interest coalition protesting their shabby treatment at the hands of TPP's administrators.

Academics, experts, consumer groups, Internet freedom organizations, libraries, educational institutions, patients and access to medicines groups have flown a long way from around the world to Auckland, New Zealand, to engage with delegates in the 15th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

For the first time, however, we have been locked out of the entire venue, except for a single day out of the 10 days of negotiations. This not only alienates us as members of public interest groups, but also the hundreds of thousands of innovators, educators, patients, students, and Internet users who have sent messages to government representatives expressing their concerns with the TPP. All of us oppose the complete unjustifiable secrecy around the negotiations, but more importantly, the IP provisions that could potentially threaten our rights, and innovation.

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Beyond the public debt: making a wider case for openness

My latest Guardian column is "Why all pharmaceutical research should be made open access," and it makes the wider case for open access, beyond the obvious truth that publicly funded work should be available to the public:

One of the strongest arguments for public access in scholarly and scientific publication is the "public debt" argument: if the public pays you to do research, the research should belong to the public. That's a good argument, but it's not the whole story. For one thing, it's vulnerable to the "public-private partnership" counterargument, which goes, "Ah, yes, but why not ensure that the public gets a maximum dividend on its spending by charging lots of money for access to publicly funded research and returning the profit to the research sector?" I think this argument is rubbish, as do most economists who have studied the question.

The public good of freely accessible, unencumbered research generates more economic value for the public than the quick-hit sugar-rush you get from charging the public on the way in and again on the way out. This has held true in many sectors, though the canonical example is the massive public return from the US Geological Survey's freely usable maps, which have generated a fortune that makes the ransoms collected by the Ordnance Survey on its maps of the UK look like a pittance.

That's why Goldacre's work is important to this discussion. The reason pharma companies should be required to publish their results isn't that they've received a public subsidy for the research.

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Canadian Supreme Court puts Viagra in the public domain because Pfizer wouldn't disclose enough of its workings

Michael Geist sez,

The Supreme Court of Canada this morning shocked the pharmaceutical industry by voiding Pfizer's patent in Canada for Viagra. The unanimous decision provides a strong reaffirmation of the policy behind patent law, namely that patents represent a quid pro quo bargain of public disclosure of inventions in return for a time limited monopoly in the invention. The Supreme Court describes it in this way:

"The patent system is based on a "bargain", or quid pro quo: the inventor is granted exclusive rights in a new and useful invention for a limited period in exchange for disclosure of the invention so that society can benefit from this knowledge. This is the basic policy rationale underlying the Act. The patent bargain encourages innovation and advances science and technology."

Canadian Supreme Court Voids Viagra Patent as Insufficient Disclosure Means It Fails the "Patent Bargain" (Thanks, Michael!) Read the rest

Bad Pharma: account of pharmaceutical industry scientific fraud is readable and rigorous

Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre's new book Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients ships today, and Ben has posted the foreword, including this helpful paragraph, which explains the book's entire thesis in one handy blob:

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in its life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies – often undisclosed – and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are even owned outright by one drug company.

Read the rest

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