Something amazing happened Tuesday.
A small Philadelphia-area pharmaceutical company actually got its first drug approved.
This so rarely happens here that I can’t let it pass without notice.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Entereg, a treatment for constipation following bowel surgery, giving Adolor Corp. its first product to sell after 15 years of struggle.
This is not a Fortune 500 company. Exton-based Adolor had little more than 100 employees at the end of 2007. It’s never been profitable.

But Entereg’s promise led GlaxoSmithKline, which is a top name in the drug business, to become Adolor’s partner more than six years ago. That’s standard practice in drug development, because Big Pharma has the capital - human and otherwise - that can bring a compound through the FDA approval process onto pharmacy shelves.

In April 2007, things looked bleak when Adolor and GlaxoSmithKline halted a study involving Entereg after noting serious side effects in patients who used the drug for six to 12 months.
So many times, I’ve seen partnerships break up after a setback like that. But Adolor and GlaxoSmithKline persisted and presented Entereg to an FDA advisory panel in January which narrowly approved it for short-term use while patients are in the hospital.
Limiting Entereg strictly to in-hospital use will lower its sales potential. Still a win is a win, no matter how ugly.
Today, Adolor CEO Michael Dougherty and his employees can say they did it, they got a drug approved.
Many Philadelphia-area life-science start-ups can’t make the same claim.
Merck Settles
Tuesday’s $58 million settlement that Merck & Co. Inc. reached with 29 states and the District of Columbia may sound like another blow for the drug company.
After all, doesn’t the fallout from Vioxx ever end?

Well, yes, it will. The settlement - and last week’s appeals court ruling that overturned a $32 million judgment in Texas - are signs that Merck is working its way through the legal tornado it created when it cranked up the hype machine to sell its Vioxx pain reliever.

Of course, $58 million is a drop in the bucket compared with the $4.85 billion Merck offered last November to settle with those who contend Vioxx caused their heart attacks or strokes.
That settlement looks to be on track, even though Merck has extended the deadline for enrollment by some 47,000 plaintiffs twice. The key date now is June 30.

While Merck may be scoring points and limiting monetary damages with its legal strategy, the company hasn’t fared nearly as well in the court of public opinion.

Congress took aim earlier this month at its integrity over the marketing of Vytorin, a cholesterol-lowering drug it promotes with Schering-Plough Corp.

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) used words like “deceptive,” “misleading” and “manipulative” in scolding Merck and other drug industry executives for their direct-to-consumer advertising.
I only wish I had a trust-enhancing pill that I could prescribe.