Saturday, January 23, 2010

Profiting from Cancer

We are going to stay with pharmaceuticals because an article I read on the Motley Fool website really highlights the issue that I regret always making. Drug companies want to make a profit. The Motley Fool is a really cool financial resource that aims to educate average people on stocks, investments, their money and the like. I respect THEM a lot.

Yesterday, a man named Brian Orelli spoke about a drug from Pfizer that has been found to be effective in the treatment of a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Ok. Stop right there. Pancreatic cancer has more than one form? Yes, several. Overall, only 3% of the cancers that affect Americans are pancreatic, where as prostate and breast occur at 25 and 27 percent. The biggest cancer killer however, is lung cancer. It kills 30% of men and 27% of women who have any type of cancer. Pancreatic cancer is responsible for 6% of the deaths related to cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is not our most common cancer, but it does finish out our top ten. Several high profile people have or have died from this cancer and the person with the RARE form that Pfizer's drug seems to affect, is Steve Jobs. Now here is the thing about drugs and drug trials.

A drug trial or study, from phase I-III, costs a lot of money. Trials are stopped early in a few circumstances. The drug is showing no effect whatsoever, people taking the drug are dieing, or the drug works so well that people with the illness need it and not a placebo ( as it would be cruel and unethical to deprive them of a treatment that may save their lives).

So Dr. Orelli tells about this new finding on Sutent. It dramatically slows the growth of tumors in this particular type of pancreatic cancer. Interesting thing, the drug was originally formulated to treat another cancer. In fact, the FDA approved treatments for Sutent are kidney cancer and a form of gastrointestinal cancer. The treatment of this neuroendocrine type of pancreatic cancer is not yet approved. Remember a company benefits most when a drug can be used to treat a multitude of cancers or diseases.

The Motley Fool article points out that this spectacular finding on Sutent won't really get Pfizer a pay day because only two to four million people get this illness. Even though they have the market on this disease the drug competes with two other drugs for the treatment of kidney cancer and doesn't work significantly better than the competition. And so far, it hasn't been able to impact lung cancer at all, which would be the jackpot. If Pfizer shareholders were really going to celebrate, Sutent would enter that fray with about five other drugs. HMMM... maybe that is why Pfizer has Chantix. Lung cancer is caused by smoking 78% of the time so if people stop smoking maybe they won't get lung cancer and those other drug companies will lose money.

my info on cancer sites and rates is from the ACS

************************foot note from yesterday
Apparently a counterfeit version of the over the counter weight loss product Ali, which is the one that blocks fat and causes incredible gastrointestinal complications, you know, leaky stools, flatulence and the like - has been found in the USA. This counterfeit version does NOT have the orlistat ingredient but instead has sibutramine... YES, what I told you about last night -the active ingredient of Meridia, which can cause cardiovascular problems even death. So this is disconcerting, so would knowing that any of you were using it... but here is the FDA alert so you know what to do if you are.....and of course, I like you just the same!

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