About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« Merck and Its Competition | Main | Chemical Warfare, Part One: Introduction »

September 9, 2002

Caveat Lector

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Posted by Derek

Mentioning that interview brings something else to mind: the state of most public information about various drug companies, their pipelines, and their prospects. I'm not just talking about how mixed-up many popular press stories get (that's a subject for another day, though.) This is sort of a sequel to the August 26th posting ("Muddying the Waters for Fun and Profit") about how some stock analysts are going over the line to get what they hope is the real story. As the article I discussed makes clear, even lying their way into clinical trials didn't really give them any reliable news.

So what does that say about the rest of the information, the stuff that the companies actually want to make public? I'm not singling anyone out when I say that it's pretty useless. Drugs from all over the industry continue to show up on lists of "stuff that's in development" long after they've died and gone to Clinical Heaven, for example. Presentations at meetings are eagerly awaited by investors and the press, but some of these have so much spin on them that they emit humming noises. I recall one drug candidate a few years ago that was praised to the skies in company PR when its clinical data were unveiled at a meeting, and only later did it come out that the mortality in the treatment group was higher than in the treatment group. You could have looked all day in the Business Wire story for that useful information.

Well, I invest in a number of pharma and biotech companies, too, so I must be another fool like the rest of them. I try to discount for hype and wishful thinking, but it's hard to know how big a correction factor to apply. It's never zero, though. In the same way that you don't usually hear elected officials say exactly what they think about a controversial issue, you don't usually hear how a drug is really doing, or what its commercial prospects really are.

Of course, even if the companies told you their own private figures, it would turn out that they're sometimes full of hype and hoo-hah, too. We're not even immune on the inside!

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