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Changes in pharma

January 31, 2008

Re "Pharma's queasy feeling," Opinion, Jan. 27

Melody Petersen distorts and interprets facts to prove an illogical position. One example is her use of Zantac to prove her point. Zantac took over the market because it was an improvement over the market leader, Tagamet. Zantac could be taken twice a day, versus four times a day for Tagamet. This improved patient compliance and thus showed greater efficacy. Zantac could be prescribed more easily for cardiac patients who received anticoagulant therapy. Cost per pill did increase, but only two pills were needed a day.

It is true that companies did more research in fields that had a greater potential for sales. But the profits from "blockbuster" drugs helped pay for research into small markets.

Petersen does a disservice, through bias, ignorance or her profit motive, to an industry that is heavily regulated. If she had her way, healthcare professionals would be spending their weekends digging herbs.

Angelo P. Calfo

Thousand Oaks

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The article never comes to any conclusion. It just generally maintains that new drugs do not help patients more than sugar pills; that they kill patients unnecessarily; and it rejoices that companies will soon have their patents expire. Of course, the few remaining years of patent protection means that companies have little time to recover their investment and thus must heavily market drugs. Those who want to destroy the ability of pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs usually begin by denying 50 years of progress. They should feel free to refuse any drugs developed in that time.

The implied point can be only that research funded by private investors should be eliminated and replaced with government research, which has the advantage of never having to get results. Is it better to let people remain ill and die than to tolerate someone profiting from making them better? Such is the compassion of socialism.

Richard E. Ralston

Newport Beach

The writer is executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

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