Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Date to watch



Pharmaceuticals of the Day

While Zetia lowers cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent in most patients, no trial has ever shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes — or even that it reduces the growth of the fatty plaques in arteries that can cause heart problems.

This trial was designed to show that Zetia could reduce the growth of those plaques. Instead, the plaques actually grew almost twice as fast in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone.

—Alex Berenson reporting in "Drug Has No Benefit in Trial, Makers Say"

The anticholesterol drugs Zetia (generic name "ezetimibe") and Zocor (simvastatin) were combined into an "enhanced" product Vytorin for a cost to users of about $3 per day. Vytorin is jointly marketed by Merck and Schering-Plough.

The drug study begun in 2004 ended in April 2006, but the results were not released until yesterday, and then only under pressure from the media. "Complexity of the data analysis" was the official explanation. But you are free to conclude otherwise. Schering-Plough depends on Zetia and Vytorin for 70% of its revenues according to business analysts. Merck is still cleaning up the mess from its lethal Vioxx medication.1 Stock in both companies fell immediately. Oh my.

Just think. If we didn't have these obscene drug prices, companies like Merck and Schering-Plough would have no incentive to produce new drugs.

Related post
A ceiling as well as a floor (7/25/04)



1Today is the last day to join the class-action agreement on the payout from Merck, which has kindly set aside $4 billion for heart-attack victims and $850 million for stroke victims.

Here are the rules:

Plaintiffs must prove they actually had a heart attack or stroke, that they took at least 30 Vioxx pills and that they took the medicine within 14 days of their injury. If they pass those three tests, they will enter either the heart attack pool or the stroke fund for further evaluation.

As a compromise by Merck, the settlement doesn't require plaintiffs to show that Vioxx caused their injury. During the trials, the company always contested the issue of causation.

Another plaintiff's lawyer who helped negotiate the deal, Ed Blizzard of Houston, said more than 33,000 people had registered electronically with Brown Greer through yesterday. He said he expects most of the 60,800 eligible to register by tomorrow.

Be sure not to miss today's deadline if you're still alive. [back]

Monday, January 14, 2008


Hatchet Job of the Day

... when journalists take Mr. Paul seriously enough to actually probe his ideas, what they find is pretty strange. —editorial in the Washington Post, "Ron Paul's Appeal"

Last week was "Get Ron Paul" Week in the media. It has become an accepted truth, at least among journalists and pundits, that it's their responsibility to monitor the elections to ensure the election of corporate hacks. The paradigm is first to ignore, then to question, then to smear anyone not serving the "business community."

Our "serious" journalists have passed from Step One, of studiously ignoring Paul, directly to Step Three, actively smearing him, since Step Two requires debate. I wasn't aware of how concerted the effort was until I read the editorial quoted above.

The charge against Paul, as you're no doubt aware by now, is that because a newsletter bearing his name published racist rants some years ago, these are the views of Ron Paul. Whether the majority of the hacks in the media believe this I cannot say, but it is perfectly clear that that is not their motivation.

Now let me add quickly that I have no idea whether Paul is in fact a "racist." It's easier in our time to pick up the "racist" (along with the "anti-semitic") label than to get gum on your shoe. To know whether someone is a racist depends upon (1) having a workable definition of racism and (2) knowing what someone really thinks. What is clear is that Paul has not generally behaved as racists are presumed to behave nor has he voted as such.1

Paul has denied any knowledge of the articles in the newsletter. If the media accept that as true, there is plenty of reason to question Paul's organizational and management skills, which some think might be relevant to performing the job of President—or even the level of his contact with reality. Yet I haven't heard or seen an iota of criticism along that line.

On the other hand if journalists believe he's lying, there's plenty of reason to investigate the charge and expose him. While other candidates may have made careers from lying, Paul represents himself as the one truth-teller of the pack, so exposure would deflate his followers who fervently believe that Paul is no hypocrite.

Without better knowledge of the facts, I tend toward the view that Paul is a bit "out of it."

What is certain is that Paul is an ideologue in the grip of a simplistic religion shared by his followers and shared by many who for various reasons will not vote for him. It's a folk religion that people who've bootstrapped their way up in the world ardently believe in, the more literate among them adopting portions of the sacred economic texts of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. And why not? They've been so busy with "hard work" that they've had little time to notice that the world doesn't work that way for most. And the isolationism they sooner or later pursue is as much local as international, as you should note as you pass by—or drive out from—the gated communities mushrooming about.

But these ideas merit debate. They're far more broadly held than the media wish to acknowledge. And Paul's opposition to the war and to corporate welfarism has made him attractive to some who consider themselves on the left—a reason for the left (such as there is of it) to encourage rather than stifle debate on these topics. But that is precisely what our corporate propagandists, known collectively as the "mainstream media," intend to prevent.

Though the Post editorial I quoted at the beginning was titled "Ron Paul's Appeal," the author neglected to tell us what it was. Just an oversight, I suppose.



1I exclude here his libertarian views and votes that would send a great number of blacks into even greater poverty than the status quo ante. Some people view such actions as inherently "racist." But that is often a convenient way for liberals to avoid discussion of elitism and class. [back]


Crime Statistic of the Day

A new study by two Texas lawyers, Lawrence D. Finder and Ryan D. McConnell, found that the number of so-called deferred-prosecution or nonprosecution agreements between the department and large companies grew to 35 last year from 5 in 2003. —Philip Shennon reporting in "Ashcroft Deal Brings Scrutiny in Justice Department"

Regional attorneys general may recommend former colleagues to "monitor" the criminally accused corporation in return for obscene fees. It appears to be a "golden parachute" plan for ex–Justice Department employees.

Related post
Some DoJ attorneys go where the crime is (5/14/07)


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