A new drug has been released which is supposed to be helpful in the prophylaxis against HIV infections. This one drug, in my opinion, sums up everything that is both good and bad in the pharmaceutical industry. Unless you were alive and sexually active in the mid-to-late 1980s, it’s hard to imagine how devastating HIV was. Unless you are a homosexual male, it is hard to imagine how devastating HIV continues to be.
First the good. This new drug appears to be highly effective at preventing HIV infections. It is possible to reduce the risk of infection by up to 75%. This is clearly good. This combined with safe sex practices should help reduce HIV infections in at-risk populations.
Now, the not so good. One of the problems that the pharmaceutical industry has is that it spends a lot of time and money repackaging old drugs. This new drug, Truvada, is not a new drug in all. Instead, it is a combination of two old drugs. I’m not saying that this combination is not effective. I’m saying that is not new. Secondly, almost everything that comes out of the pharmaceutical industry these days is also ridiculously expensive. This drug, in order to be effective, must be taken every day. Truvada costs approximately $14,000 a year.
So, in summary, we have a drug that appears to be extremely effective at reducing HIV infections if it is taken every day and if the patient can afford $14,000 per year. The cost and the daily regimen seems to really limit the effectiveness of this drug.
The economic stimulus packagepassed the Senate yesterday by a 61-37 vote, which was no surprise. Lawmakers begin now the difficult task of reconciling the two versions of the bill. Remember that both the House and the Senate will vote on the compromise bill and if it passes both Houses then the bill goes to President Obama.
Overseas — just to prove that the Bush administration did not corner the market on government scandals, Taiwan’s former first lady has admitted to laundering $2.2 million. To make matters worse, her husband is in jail and her son has already pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
An internal Pakistani memo suggests that five of the 10 gunmen who attacked Mumbai, India three months ago were from Pakistan. Tensions between Pakistan and India remain high.
There is a provision in the economic stimulus package, back here in the United States, that has set aside $1.1 billion for research comparing medical treatments/drugs/devices. The pharmaceutical industry and the medical device industry are not interested in such research projects. They are gearing up to pressure lawmakers to take this provision out of the bill while lawmakers from the House and Senate reconcile the two versions. I think this is a small window into what is going to become a much larger fight as president Barack Obama and the Democrats are planning on health-care reform.
Just when you thought you’ve heard the last of Sarah Palin and Trooper-Gate it appears that the state Attorney General is resigning. Oh, by the way, Governor Palin was invited to speak at that big conservative convention (CPAC). Interestingly, she has declined the offer and will instead send a video.
Yesterday, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithnerrolled out what was supposed to be the administration’s plan to fixing our banking system and take care of toxic debt. Unfortunately, it appears that the plan was not all that detailed. I was somewhat disappointed but, more importantly, Wall Street had a hissy fit. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down over 300 points. Remember, is the third major speech that we’ve heard from a Secretary of the Treasury on how they plan to fix our financial crisis. Each time, they have failed to come up with a clear and concise plan. Noble prize-winning economist Paul Krugman was less than impressed. With luck, over the next several days, Secretary Geithner will begin filling in the details.
NBC’s Brian Williams interviews Timothy Geithner. Watch: