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February 5, 2009
Sir James Black Vents, Therapeutically
Today I can recommend this interview with Sir James Black, discoverer of propranolol, cimetidine, and more. He's 83 and has a lot to say about the current state of the drug industry:
He becomes agitated when discussing a Harvard Business Review article from 2008 by Jean-Pierre Garnier, the former chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, on the future of drug development. He agrees with the prognosis, but is fundamentally at odds over the prescription for change. . . He has no time for classic industry clichés such as "blockbuster" medicines; no truck with the modern approach to peer review; and no patience with any re-writing of history to suggest a more complex contemporary era of drug discovery has replaced one of "lowhanging fruit" in the past. . .He raises his eyes skywards when he discusses last week's $68bn (£48bn) takeover by Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical group, of Wyeth, and says the restructuring to come will sap both teams. "Will they never learn? They will completely exhaust each others' energies for two years."
A lot of people sent that Gautier article along to me, and I meant to blog about it all last fall, but I just couldn't put myself into its worldview enough to do it. And all the talk about Sanofi-Aventis looking to get bigger, Merck saying that they can't rule anything out (Merck! Doing a big merger? Say it isn't true. . .) Well, let's just say that this doesn't look like the kind of future I really want to experience.
So Sir James's viewpoint is refereshing, in a way. He goes on to talk about the general uselessness of marketing forecasts, why you shouldn't let yourself be pulled out of R&D into bureaucratic shuffling, and many other useful things. Read the whole thing, as the blogging phrase goes. . .
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