Two stories from the weekend and Monday morning point to the complex gambles that drug companies make in the face of competition, which includes time-tested products most everyone knows and offer little profit for brand-name manufacturers.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Abbott Laboratories, which is based in suburban Chicago but has a facility in Princeton, spent $400 million to buy the rights to molecules showing early promise in treating chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The deal was made with privately-held Reata Pharmaceuticals of Irving, Tex.
The deal is the largest ever for molecules that have not yet been tested in humans, according to the Journal, which cited a database of such deals maintained by Elsevier Business Intelligence.
No human testing. Four hundred million dollars.
With aging populations, people will have sore bones and joints and perhaps need a new rheumatoid arthritis treatment, so there might be a big pay off someday. But that someday is probably a long way off. As the Journal noted, Abbott's current best-selling drug, Humira, is a rheumatoid arthritis therapy expected to have $8 billion in sales this year. But the U.S patent expires in 2016 and Pfizer is working on a similar pill.
Meanwhile, the American Hematology Association met in San Diego.
Aspirin has a been around for 112 years for a reason. A study released at the ASH convention suggests that aspirin might prevent recurrences of blood clots in the veins, potentially providing a low-cost therapy after prescribed blood thinners, Bloomberg reported.
"Aspirin's really good at preventing second clots in people with heart attacks and strokes, but it hasn't been thought to be effective on the venous side, " Evan Sadler, a professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and ASH president said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Aspirin has its own side effects, including stomach ulcers. Indeed, a cardiologist once told me it would never be approved by the FDA today because of side effects. But everything is relative and side effects of aspirin are known.
"Aspirin is appealing because it's so cheap, and we know its safety profile," Sadler said, according to Bloomberg.