Rumors and conspiracy theories involving cancer drug companies like Celgene, makers of Thalomid, Revlimd and Actimid (pomalidomide, originally labeled CC-4047), are not uncommon among multiple myeloma patients–especially when you add the “wild, wild west” of the “anything goes” Internet to the mix.
Sorry–I just don’t buy into the big cancer related conspiracy theories. You know, the ones which accuse the government or drug companies of intentionally burying the cure for cancer. Like other major conspiracy theories–that we didn’t really go to the moon, or 9/11 was really a government plot–I think it is too hard to keep these things secret over the years. Someone, somewhere will have a touch of conscious or need money and sell the story to a tabloid. Drug company conspiracies are the same way. Burying a cure for cancer? Wouldn’t someone step forward? I think so.
That doesn’t mean there can’t be some related, or unrelated truth behind some of these theories.
The biggest and most likely of those is the flaw in our profit-based system. Sure, if drug company money is used for innovation and to produce new drugs, it saves tax payers plenty–as in billions with a “B” each year. But what about the downside?
For months I have been receiving “conspiracy style” e-mails, questioning Celgene’s motivation to push their new and apparently improved Thalomid/Revlimid cousin, Actimid (pomalidomide) along toward FDA approval. I even responded to one of these e-mails in an article I wrote Friday, July 2, 2010 – Battle Of The New Multiple Myeloma Novel Therapy Agents: Why I Expect Carfilzomib To Gain FDA Fast Track Approval Sooner Than Pomalidomide. Here is an excerpt from that article with my response to a reader’s concern that Celgene wasn’t motivated enough to push for pomalidomide’s immediate approval:
I can’t say I disagree! I don’t want to seem cynical, but there is little doubt in my mind carfilzomib will gain FDA approval long before pomalidomide—even though pomalidomide’s numbers are at least as good or better than those for carfilzomib. The answer: Onyx is racing to get carfilzomib to market, because the existing proteasome inhibitor, Velcade, is manufactured by a different competing company, Millennium.
Pomalidomide is manufactured by Celgene, which also produces both Thalomid and Revlimid. Where is the motivation to rush pomalidomide to market?
I know, I know—how could I even think such a thing? I understand Mayo docs have been working day and night to help prove pomalidomide is a better, safer drug than either Thalomid or Revlimid—and from the data I viewed at ASCO they are succeeding! But where is the urgency? Onyx execs are pushing, pushing, pushing for fast track approval. I just don’t see/sense the same drive from Celgene.
Yes, I too have wondered about the slow, deliberate pace Celgene uses to gain FDA approval–expecially compared to Onyx, makers of carfilzomib, which seems to be geared-up and running on all cylinders, pushing hard to get FDA fast track approval for their new anti-myeloma drug.
Why isn’t Celgene pushing just as hard–or harder–to get Actimid to market?
I alerted officials at Celgene that I was going to be running this series of articles about their chemotherapy drugs. I requested they monitor the series and respond if and when they felt a response or explanation or justification was warranted. So far, nothing–no response.
I do want to make it clear I’m not accusing Celgene of anything other than maybe being big and slow to respond and acting like any large, “money is the most important thing” international corporation (Not that there is anything wrong with that, my pro business readers!)
What I am doing is questioning their timing and commitment. Is Celgene doing everything it can to get pomalidomide to multiple myeloma patients in need? I can’t answer that. I’m sure most at the company would argue yes.
But this is an example of a conspiracy I can imagine to be true–a conspiracy of pace and timing.
You know what? I was going to wrap this series up today. But there is too much to cover. Like how Celgene has been able to maintain exclusive control over Thalomid (thalidomide) for all of these years–despite expiring patents and attempts to take the drug generic. And then there is the “elephant in the living room” issue of the pros and cons of our profit motivated research program for bringing new drugs to market.
Let’s take a break for the weekend and resume this investigation on Monday. That will give me a chance to pass along some unrelated multiple myeloma news which has been piling up on my desk this week. It will also give Celgene officials more time to respond to my articles and your comments–they have been eerily quiet and have not responded to my inquiries so far.
Feel good and keep smiling!