Neal Parker on AbbVie’s Mission to Discover New Patients

September, 18, 2013 | 4 Comments


  1. On the topic of finding new patients I commented in BMJ Rapid Responses

    last year about the population screening projects of the US/UK charity Autism Speaks/Autistic while collaborating in a “pre-competitive consortium” with five of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical manufacturers (Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Roche, Novartis and Jannsen) led by a recent former senior director of Pfizer, Robert H Ring (sic), who finally took over as Autism Speaks scientific director in May this year.

    In a Time Magazine report in 2011 (in the very week that Ring left Pfizer to join the non-profit as director of translational research) Autism Speaks excitedly announced the results of its pilot screening project in the South Korean city of Goyang which detected an autism rate of 1 in 38 school children (a huge potential market).

    The lead author told Time:

    “Kim stresses that the results of her study shouldn’t alarm parents into thinking that autism has suddenly exploded in schools. “It doesn’t mean there is an increase in new cases,” she says. “We just didn’t know how to find them and diagnose them. Now we know there are kids with social problems who are not being treated, and we know how to help them.””

    Time also reported:

    “The researchers say they would expect to see similarly high rates of autism emerge in the U.S. and elsewhere if the same data collection strategy were used. “The kids picked up in Korea, many had never been recognized in medical records as having autism,” says Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks. “That’s what needs to be done, that kind of broad screening.””

    One thing they did not mention was incredible drop out rate from the study:

    “For the 1,214 sampled screen-positive students, 869 parents (72%) consented to participate in the full assessment. Of these, 286 (33%) completed full assessments. Of those who completed the assessment, 201 (70%) were confirmed to have ASDs (autistic disorder, N=101; other ASDs, N=100), yielding a crude prevalence for any ASD of 0.36% (autistic disorder, 0.18%; other ASDs, 0.18%).”

  2. These days it is only science fiction that helps me understand the “healthcare marketplace.” The story I keep coming back to lately is from The Star Diaries, the exploits of the great cosmonaut Ivon Tichy as told to Stanislaw Lem. Tichy lands on a planet whose rulers are gradually submerging it in water. As the water levels rise higher, they tell the inhabitants that their glorious destiny is to evolve into fish people. With enough effort and the right attitude they’ll all grow gills. Rulers and subjects alike are all contorted with rheumatism from the damp, and everyone pretends not to see everyone else secretly bobbing up for air. Tichy lands in a re-education camp alongside a newspaper editor whose only crime was to write that “water is wet.”

    It turns out the rulers are descended from an Irrigation Dept. that long ago saved the planet from a bad drought. When the drought was finally over, they just had to hang on to power. So they pushed what they had to offer, which was water, and forced everyone to consume it. For their own good, of course. It’s a great satire of the Soviet bureaucracy that Lem chafed under in Poland, of course, but it works even better for capitalist corporations – especially the healthcare corporations that claim they exist only to serve us. If AbbVie had water to sell, they’d waste no time signing up some leading doctors to proclaim Mankind’s March towards Fishification … and anyone whose patients were having a bit of trouble growing gills would just have to shut up.

    As it is, we can expect an ever more aggressive hunt to “discover new patients” who need their immune systems suppressed. “Inflammation” will be the root of all human illness, if that’s what’s needed to boost next quarter’s earnings. And if we don’t watch out, the “trade secrets” will include a growing number of bodies.


    When I wrote to the MHRA way back years about Seroxat and violence, aggression and suicide, I expected to receive a civilised, factual, reply, which might have contained information about how many ‘yellow’ cards were received about Seroxat and how it was being dealt with by the MHRA.

    Instead, I got a half-digested, half-baked, letter written by someone, probably in the accounts department, which was a propaganda letter about the MHRA and the final sentence suggested, send in a ‘yellow’ card.

    The New, bright and shiny, Chief Executive, September,2013, Dr. Ian Hudson, formerly, GSK Executive, has taken over.

    Blow me down with a feather.
    Am I not expected to receive impartial advice from MY MHRA.

    The first bungling attempts at ineptitude from the MHRA were bad enough.
    Now the GlaxoSmithKline have planted an insider into the realm of UK Drugs Regulatory Agency.

    Well, no chance, now, then, is there, with Dr. Ian Hudson deflecting all complaints about GlaxoSmithKline’s notorious products and seedy history of fraud.

    And talking of ‘yellow’ takes me along to Neal Parker and his ‘yellow stuff and yellow circles’.

    How curious that yellow is such a popular colour………….

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