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« Facts of the Day | Main | ChicagoBoyz Finds »

May 18, 2005

Incompleteness and Drug Development

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Was it circa 1990 when we were all informed that life as we knew was about to change? Designer drugs and genetic engineering were right on the horizon, and nothing would ever be the same again. What became of that excitement? Whatever happened to those miracle treatments? And were all those predictions just ... so much hooey?

Derek Lowe writes a wonderful posting about the heady days. Key passage:

Another drug [from the era] is an glycoprotein IIb/IIIa compound for cardiovascular disease from Genentech. This, I assume, is what eventually turned into sibrafiban. Unfortunately, that whole class of drugs didn't work out too well when compared head-to-head against aspirin, and that was pretty much that ...

Those ... examples show you exactly why we're not awash in those wonderful 90's drugs right now. The most important parts of drug development are not yet amenable to a rational approach. We simply don't know enough.

Hey, life isn't yet amenable to a rational approach. And I'm willing to bet we'll never know enough.



posted by Michael at May 18, 2005


I haven't read that post, so he may have mentioned this, but another problem is that drug companies are also stopping production of older drugs that do work, but no longer bring in a profit.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 19, 2005 10:15 AM

Two funny things:

1. People always seem to think they can make things more "rational and efficient" and that only ever seems to actually work about 15% of the time. Interesting how badly (some) people want things to be "rational and efficient" above all else, regardless of how irrational and inefficient that belief is!

2. It's also amazing to me how valuable aspirin, an apple a day, and a little exercise, continue to matter how many hair replacers and bowflexors and herbal teas come and go!

Posted by: annette on May 19, 2005 10:50 AM

Yahmdallah, which drugs do you mean? There are still plenty of older drugs on the market, things which have been off-patent for years. Generic companies still make 'em, and turn a (lower) profit on them. When an older drug can no longer turn a profit, it's generally because it can't compete with the newer stuff (on side effects, ease of dosing, etc.) We do a pretty good job of beating each other up in this industry, so if there's room to turn a dollar, someone will generally go out and do it. . .

Posted by: Derek Lowe on May 19, 2005 1:14 PM

Sorry, I didn't make note of the drug name each time I've encountered it. I've had asthma since childhood, and I've personally seen about 5 - 7 really useful drugs become unavailable.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 20, 2005 3:47 PM

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