Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Carlyle Reads the Signs

What would an enterprising private equity firm do given President Bush's proposed FDA rule relaxation allowing pharmaceutical companies to market off label uses of their drugs as long as articles on the topic have been printed in a trade magazine? Why, it would purchase a company publishing trade magazines!

The Times Online reported The Carlyle Group is interested in Reed Elsevier's trade magazines division. Elsevier Health Sciences group is a global leader in healthcare and medical publishing.

For a clue as to how this might work, a pharmaceutical company could fund a bogus study. The FDA rule relaxation doesn't require the drug maker to promise to test the drug for the new off label use. However, most doctors like a little data, so some slanted study could be done quickly and cheaply.

The next challenge is getting it into a peer reviewed clinical magazine. That's where Reed Elsevier and their 800 medical journals/yearbooks come in. I'm sure pharmaceutical companies would pay big bucks to get articles in journals that allow them to expand their marketing of off label uses for existing drugs.

For the skeptical reader, consider the case of the cancer study funded by cigarette companies. The New York Times reported on the Foundation for Lung Cancer: Early Detection, Prevention & Treatment.

A review of tax records by The NYT shows that the foundation was underwritten almost entirely by $3.6 million in grants from the parent company of the Liggett Group, maker of Liggett Select, Eve, Grand Prix, Quest and Pyramid cigarette brands.

The outcome of the company funded study was "80 percent of lung cancer deaths could be prevented through widespread use of CT scans." The New England Journal of Medicine had no clue it published a study funded by cigarette companies. But here's where it gets devilish.

In New York, a bill would create a $10 million fund “to carry out lung cancer early detection research using computer tomography (CT) scanning” at a place “that was established by the multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research program that began at 22 sites in the state in the year 1991,” a description that could only fit Dr. Henschke’s (the author of the study) group.

Sooooo wheeeee! Someone brought home the bacon, just like Carlyle will if they buy the parent company of The Lancet. Unfortunately, something else needs to be lanced. It's the infection of our democracy by the government industrial monstrosity. All hail President George W. Bush, The Carlyle Group and their staphs. Should the FDA rule change not materialize, Carlyle could still make out like bandits from Reed Elsevier's weapons fairs, currently under protest from Lancet physicians.