Thursday, March 24, 2011

People Who Disagree with Me Tend to End Up Being Investigated by the Federal Government

I don’t think this qualifies yet as a trend, but two disturbing announcements came right back to back last week:

First: As you’ve probably heard, KV Pharmaceutical caused quite a stir when they announced the pricing for their old-yet-new drug Makena. In response, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sent a letter to the FTC demanding they “initiate a formal investigation into any potential anticompetitive conduct” by KV. In explaining his call for the investigation, Brown notes:

Since KV Pharmaceuticals announced the intended price hike, I called on KV Pharmaceuticals to immediately reconsider their decision, but to this date the company continues to defend this astronomical price increase.

Second: One week after an FDA Advisory Committee voted 13 to 4 to recommend approving Novartis’s COPD drug indacaterol, Public Citizen wrote a letter to the US Office of Human Research Protections requesting the Novartis be investigated for conducting the very trials that supplied the evidence for that vote. The reason? Despite the fact that the FDA requested the trials be placebo controlled, Public Citizen feels that Novartis should not have allowed patients to be on placebo. The letter shows no apparent consideration for the idea that a large number of thoughtful, well-informed people considered the design of these trials and came to the conclusion that they were ethical (not only the FDA, but the independent Institutional Review Boards and Ethics Committees that oversaw each trial). Instead, Public Citizen blithely “look[s] forward to OHRP’s thorough and careful investigation of our allegations.”

The upshot of these two announcements seems to be: “we don’t like what you’re doing, and since we can’t get you to stop, we’ll try to initiate a federal investigation.” Even if neither of these efforts succeed they will still cause the companies involved to spend a significant amount of time and money defending themselves. In fact, maybe that’s the point: neither effort seems like a serious claim that actual laws were broken, but rather just an attempt at intimidation.

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