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Revlimid Controversy: Real Or Overreaction?

Home/Revlimid Controversy: Real Or Overreaction?

Revlimid Controversy: Real Or Overreaction?

I just returned from a wonderful mid-day trip with my fellow members of the Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges to view manatees in the newly acquired Three Springs sanctuary in Crystal River, Florida.

But before I share pictures of this amazing place and begin getting ready to watch the Super Bowl, I wanted to get you some updated information about the growing controversy surounding the anti-myeloma novel therapy agent, Revlimid.

This story broke big-time late last year at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meetings in Orlando.  First there were rumors.  Then reactionary insider Wall Street/stock sites sent out the alarm:  Long term use of Revlimid causes secondary cancers.

But the story had legs.  Within 24 hours, sites like Reuters and Bloomberg had picked up the story.  The drug’s manufacturer, Celgene, saw it’s stock price drop 30% overnight.

As far as I know, I was the first myeloma writer to break the story from ASH.  Here are links to several of those stories:

http://multiplemyelomablog.blogspot.com/2010/12/funny-how-celgene-didnt-forward-me.html

http://multiplemyelomablog.blogspot.com/2010/12/more-about-new-revlimid-data-showing.html

http://multiplemyelomablog.blogspot.com/2010/12/more-about-secondary-cancer-risk-from.html

http://multiplemyelomablog.blogspot.com/2010/12/celgene-to-raise-price-of-revlimid.html

http://multiplemyelomablog.blogspot.com/2010/12/was-controversy-about-secondary-cancer.html

After speaking with a number of experts in our field, the consensus was this story was a non-event.  The numbers didn’t support secondary cancer fears.  As a matter of fact, I believe most myeloma docs were surprised and caught off guard by the story.

These experts were reading the same data as the business writers.  They just weren’t seeing the same thing.

A couple of points.  First, it is a stock analyst’s job to help protect their companies–and shareholders–from unexpected surprises like this one.  So once a story gets started, it can grow like a snowball moving down a mountain side.

This is just an educated guess, but it wouldn’t surprise me if almost one half of the journalists at these large conferences aren’t writing for or doing research for financial interests.  There is a billion dollar industry built around the financial analysis and big pharma.  Think about it.  If one of these experts can spot the next, big anti-cancer drug, it could earn investors millions and millions of dollars.

I have sat next to a number of these analysts at oral research study presentations.  They tend to be bright and know exactly what they are looking for…  Trends, significant study results burried deep within a seven page abstract.  In other words–an edge.

I respect and often follow these expert’s lead.  I’m not the first one to say:  Follow the money!  But in this case, I sided with myeloma experts like Dr. Rajkumar of Mayo Clinic and Dr. Barlogie from UAMS when they argue there is no long term secondary cancer risk for patients using Revlimid.

Secondly, these studies are following patients (like me in a few more months!) who have used Revlimid for at least four years.  Four years!  That’s a long time–but not unrealistic as maintenance therapy becomes the standard of care.

So I thought this story was dead.  Celgene stock was rebounding, and all was quiet on the Revlimid front.

Fast forward seven weeks to this weekend.  Check-out this story, from Reuters, about how secondary cancer issues in Europe:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/03/us-celgene-stock-idUSTRE7128UL20110203

Or how about this story from yesterday’s Myeloma Beacon:
http://www.myelomabeacon.com/news/2011/02/05/revlimid-lenalidomide-cancer-controversy-flares/

All I can say is:  If the conservative, industry leading Myeloma Beacon is covering the story, it must have legs.  I will keep you updated…