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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Amylins Fire Burns Out

Amylin Pharmaceuticals was a superstar biotech in San Diego. By the time Bristol Meyer Squibb acquired them they had over 1200 employees. The decision to set most of them free is a typical end to such an acquisition of a biotechnology company. The few that actually produce a product usually get acquired.  Those at the top get rich and the workers who contributed to the success get their walking papers. 

In the case of Amylin we have an interesting product. According to Consumer News:
If you take Byetta or Januvia to control your blood sugar levels, you might have a small, but increased risk for a condition marked by stomach pain and nausea. Not only are the drugs more expensive and no more effective than our Best Buy Drug picks for diabetes, they're associated with an increased risk for pancreatitis, or an inflamed pancreas, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. We recommend asking your doctor if you shouldn't be taking another drug in the first place.
There is, of course, a difference of opinion among the executives of BMS and Amylin. BMS paid billions for Amylin because Exendin was a sexy new alternative to the usual type II diabetes drugs. The disease itself can be easily reversed by a change in diet and proper exercise. The pharmaceutical industry has long been making bets that sick Americans would prefer a pill, and its side effects, to changing what they eat and how much exercise the get. Even if the pill doesn't offer improved results from cheaper drugs, they still have a sales force and lazy greedy doctors to offset the shortcomings.

Amylin certainly had its experts in the area of type II diabetes drug development. Imagine a court of law where there is a case known as Type II diabetes drugs vs Diet and Exercise. The case would demonstrate that pharmaceutical experts do not actually study the disease. They study the disease endpoints that they set out to alter for a more tolerable existence for those who choose to remain ill. The diet and exercise experts would offer their evidence that the disease state is caused by bad decisions. After an individual makes poor diet decisions  and get themself into the disease state, the pharmaceutical industry keeps them there. They also provide new problems. The pharmaceutical experts have also been caught hiding data from the FDA about hearts risks from Byetta and stalling the agency's efforts to learn more about the risk.

The hundreds of people who will be laid off as a result of BMS's decision to shut down the San Diego operation are mostly tribesmen. They did their job, looked to the sky and lo and behold something appeared. It needed help coming across as cargo but the leaders convinced the government that it was cargo. Once the cargo was given the official seal of approval, the cargo cult was made legitimate. It was sold, the cargo was secured, and the tribesmen are free to go find new cults.

“It’s not companies that matter, it’s people that matter,” said Walshok, associate vice chancellor for public programs and dean of UCSD Extension. “San Diego’s strength is in the talent that is resident here.”
If only BMS felt the same. The people who matter will spend a lot of time on unemployment. Some will switch careers. The expertise in type II diabetes research? Did it ever exist?


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