Botox, Big Business and Research

Jun 16 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

A lengthy article in the NYTimes about the business of Botox sorta buried the most important part of the story. Allergan, the company that makes Botox is under attack from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a company described as "a serial acquirer of specialty drug makers. Tht is, let's fine good companies, making lots of money, buy them and milk out even more profit. Valaent wants to acquire Botox, because they could make more money moving it (legal address) to Canada, with lower corporate taxes. I'm not so interested in the tax stuff, as the last line of this paragraph: " It also plans to cut jobs and Allergan’s research budget."

Allergan isn't an angel (if you believe in such things) either. They've got a doctor incentive program (sell/prescribe more and get more). They are all about "marketing" drugs.  Their research is about opening new markets for Botox.  Botox for cosmetic uses has all sorts of issues with toxin spreading, balancing need (such as it is) with safety. Allergan has pleaded guilty to misdemeanors of "misbranding" and has had trouble with federal prosecutors over "improper marketing".

But the NYT says it best:

Yet if Valeant took over Allergan, it would cut research spending.

“We do believe we could probably spend a little bit less and still get the same indications,” J. Michael Pearson, Valeant’s chief executive, said of Allergan in a recent meeting with investors.

A little bit less? Please.

I do not think all research is good. I do not think that Allergan's research is necessarily going to discover anything new and wonderful, except more "marketable" uses for existing drugs. But they are nevertheless finding out how their drugs work. I do not think all profit is bad, either. If drug companies didn't make money, they would be developing new drugs. [I do know the various arguments about drug companies making their profits on the back of NIH basic research, but let that one go for now]. The trouble with this situation is that predatory behavior is being rewarded far more than the behavior that generates new drugs, new techniques, new devices.

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