DRUG 'MAJORS' TIGHTEN HOLD
From The Cancer Chronicles #14
© Feb. 1993 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
The big pharmaceutical companies, or so-called 'majors,' continue to
gobble up their once-independent biotechnology rivals. The failure of
Centocor, Inc. to get FDA approval for its new antibiotic, Centoxin, after
a $450 million investment, sent shock waves throughout the industry.
"Centocor reminded people of the chokehold the FDA has on the industry,
how difÞcult it is to go it alone," a biotech official told the Washington
In recent months:
- Immunex Corp., a Seattle biotech specializing in cancer drugs, traded
marketing rights with Bristol-Myers Squibb, the cancer industry leader.
- Genetic Therapy, Inc., formed a strategic alliance with the Swiss
pharmaceutical giant Sandoz Pharma Ltd., which, last November, made
a $10 million investment in Genetic Therapy.
- Farma Biagini, SpA, the Italian pharmaceutical company, bought $3.5
million of Univax.
- Crop Genetics International Corp. , Hanover, MD formed an alliance
with Du Pont Co.
"The problem is not all of these strategic alliances work out, and if
you ever want to get out of these alliances, it¹s difÞcult to get rid
of the board members," one executive told the Washington Post.
But resistance grows: on October 26, Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR) assailed
Bristol-Myers Squibb for planning to charge too much for the new drug
taxol. The company wants to sell the PaciÞc yew-derived cytotoxic drug
for $680 per month, 3 to 6 times more than it should cost, the Congressman
said in a letter to the head of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Bristol-Myers Squibb said it was premature to discuss pricing. But Wyden
claims documents show that the company and NCI have decided the price
should mirror Cisplatin, selling for $680 per month.
Last year, NCI gave Bristol-Myers semi-exclusive rights to use taxol
experimentally. The deal requires B-M to pay only for the cost of managing
the yew harvests. In return, they got a near-monopoly over this natural
but toxic product.
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