Sunday, August 31, 2008
The other night, the Rev. James Dobson's ministry asked all believers to pray for a storm on Thursday night so that the Obama acceptance speech outdoors in Denver would have to be cancelled.
I see that You have answered Rev. Dobson's prayers -- except the storm You have sent to earth is not over Denver, but on its way to New Orleans! In fact, You have scheduled it to hit Louisiana at exactly the moment that George W. Bush is to deliver his speech at the Republican National Convention.
Now, heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster AND right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don't blame You, I know You're angry that the Republicans tried to blame YOU for Katrina by calling it an "Act of God" -- when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over a thousand people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You.
Some of us tried to help after Katrina hit, while Bush ate cake with McCain and twiddled his thumbs. I closed my office in New York and sent my entire staff down to New Orleans to help. I asked people on my website to contribute to the relief effort I organized -- and I ended up sending over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies (collected from thousands of fans) to New Orleans while Bush's FEMA ice trucks were still driving around Maine three weeks later.
But this past Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the Republicans had begun making plans to possibly postpone the convention. The AP had reported that there were no shelters set up in New Orleans for this storm, and that the levee repairs have not been adequate. In other words, as the great Ronald Reagan would say, "There you go again!"
So the last thing John McCain and the Republicans needed was to have a split-screen on TVs across America: one side with Bush and McCain partying in St. Paul, and on the other side of the screen, live footage of their Republican administration screwing up once again while New Orleans drowns.
So, yes, You have scared the Jesus, Mary and Joseph out of them, and more than a few million of your followers tip their hats to You.
But now it appears that You haven't been having just a little fun with Bush & Co. It appears that Hurricane Gustav is truly heading to New Orleans and the Gulf coast. We hear You, O Lord, loud and clear, just as we did when Rev. Falwell said You made 9/11 happen because of all those gays and abortions. We beseech You, O Merciful One, not to punish us again as Pat Robertson said You did by giving us Katrina because of America's "wholesale slaughter of unborn children." His sentiments were echoed by other Republicans in 2005.
So this is my plea to you: Don't do this to Louisiana again. The Republicans got your message. They are scrambling and doing the best they can to get planes, trains and buses to New Orleans so that everyone can get out. They haven't sent the entire Louisiana National Guard to Iraq this time -- they are already patrolling the city streets. And, in a nod to I don't know what, Bush's head of FEMA has named a man to help manage the federal government's response. His name is W. Michael Moore. I kid you not, heavenly Father. They have sent a man with both my name AND W's to help save the Gulf Coast.
So please God, let the storm die out at sea. It's done enough damage already. If you do this one favor for me, I promise not to invoke your name again. I'll leave that to the followers of Rev. Dobson and to those gathering this week in St. Paul.
Your faithful servant and former seminarian,
P.S. To all of God's fellow children who are reading this, the city New Orleans has not yet recovered from Katrina. Please click here for a list of things you can do to help our brothers and sisters on the Gulf Coast. And, if you do live along the Gulf Coast, please take all necessary safety precautions immediately.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Well, I've got tell to you, I'm not happy this morning.
And it's for purely selfish reasons.
It's all over the news, of course. And it's bellowing out of the TV right now here in my den, the cheering and gushing rhetoric, the flapping flag noises, and the 70's rock and roll that was crappy then and is even more crappy now. It wasn't any secret, even before McCain made the official announcement.
John McCain has picked Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin, as his VP running mate.
This just ticks me off.
Don't get me wrong here, I like Sarah Palin. I do. A lot. Her house is less than ten miles from my own. She grew up right here in the MatSu Valley, just down the road from Stonekettle Station. I've met her. My wife has met her - and we've got the pictures to prove it. She's tough, and smart, and very Alaskan. She's been good to the military here in Alaska, and unlike a lot of Republican Neocons these days she has a son in uniform who is serving in Iraq right now. She stood up to her own party and went after corruption with a vengeance. She slapped Big Oil upside the head, something that is completely unheard of for an Alaskan politician. She not only bit the hand that fed her corpulent predecessors, she dammed near gnawed it off - which is something that fills me as an Alaskan with more than a touch of glee. I don't agree with everything she stands for, especially her stance on core Republican agenda planks, but I do very much admire Sarah Palin and respect her.
I voted for her - after I swore I would not vote another goddamned Republican into Alaskan office. And I fully intend to vote for her again when and if she runs for reelection as Alaska's Governor.
I think her exceptional common sense, tough frontier mentality, and tenacious no-nonsense attitude is a good compliment to John McCain. I think Sarah Palin will make a dandy VP, and an even better President a few years down the line.
I also happen to think that she's the best thing that has happened to Alaskan politics in a long, long while.
So what the hell is my problem?
Well, I happen to think she's the best thing that's happened to Alaskan politics in a long, long while.
And I want to keep her. Here. In Alaska.
I'm just greedy that way.
Alaska became a state in 1959. 1959 wasn't all that long ago. For the first fifteen years or so nobody gave a crap. Three electoral votes and the frozen ass end of nowhere - unless you were a fanatical fly fisherman or a member of the military, you probably didn't even know where Alaska was other then somewhere vaguely north of the actual United States, somewhere up there in frosty Canada or something. The American educational system being what it is, most people visualized Eskimos and log cabins and igloos, polar bears and sled dogs and The Call of the Wild. Alaska was too far from anything that mattered, both geographically and politically. It made the news, there for a while following the Good Friday Earthquake in Anchorage. But by and large, most Americans neither knew nor cared about the state - which was perfectly fine with Alaskans. I remember a Michigan elementary teacher, back in the 60's, telling us kids that while Alaska was the largest state geographically, Texas was the largest real state in the Union.
Industry? Investment? Not so much, Alaska was just too dammed far away to make it economically viable. It was a poor remote land, rich in inaccessible resources and beautiful scenery and not much else. The Alaskan State Government could have been a bunch of buckskin clad, bearded guys in fur hats, and often was. They slugged it out in Juneau, making deals and greasing the wheels of state government the old fashioned, frontier way, through fisticuffs, bribery, chicanery, and nepotism. Nobody cared, least of all Alaskans. We keep our government isolated, far away from the rest of the state, reachable only by boat or plane - and for a long time if you didn't like what was being decided there, well, you either got on a float plane and went down there and punched somebody in the nose, or more likely you just ignored it. Alaska is a vast land, if you moved far enough into the bush even the government couldn't bother you in those days.
You know what happened, of course. The 70's. OPEC and the oil embargo. And suddenly Alaska was a big dammed deal indeed. And the money flooded in, oozing from every crack in the energy industry like oil from a ruptured Exxon tanker. And suddenly the state government was awash in dough. Giant piles of cash. So much money, in point of fact, that the politicians decided to give some of it away to the citizens in the form of the Permanent Dividend Fund. Politicians giving money away to people - now that's a lot of money. And the politicians were all lined up at the trough, side by side, squealing and grunting like suckling piglets latched onto the belly of that big pork barrel sow. Deals were made - not on the floor of the State House, but in dark, smoky hotel bars in Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. Roads got built and ships started arriving, followed by mining and exploration that was almost as lucrative as oil. And then the Pipeline was completed and when they opened the tap, money just started falling out like an eight hundred mile long goose crapping golden eggs. Then came the tourists, up the ALCAN in their RV's, and then came whorehouses and strip clubs and hippies, dippies, big box stores and retail outlets and fast food joints and various and sundry others, seeking adventure and opportunity and big, big money.
A more perfect recipe for corruption there never was, toss in a Middle Eastern dictator or South American despot or two and we would have probably seceded from the Union and gone off to become our own third world Oil Empire. Over the last thirty years, blatant corruption in Alaskan politics has been not only business as usual, it is the usual business. The same old bastards, or their kids, have been running things for the last thirty years - everything from the local school boards all the way up to the Governor's Office - and as long as the state benefited too, well most Alaskans just didn't give a steaming pile of moose nuggets if Uncle Teddy got a nice new Girdwood McMansion and a hot tub out of it or that Exxon and Veco were making all of the real decisions in Juneau.
But the good old days are gone now. The Alaskan Frontier that we all speak so fondly of around here is being pushed back by Super Wal-Marts and a brew of Starbucks - seriously, when you are no more than five minutes in any direction from a latte and a Big Mac, you aren't living on the frontier any more. And it's past time that Alaska grows up and joins the rest of the Twenty First Century. Sad? In a way, but it's progress or slow stagnation and that's just the way it is - and most Alaskans understand that, and they've grown tied of the stench wafting up from that big old pile of business as usual in Juneau.
And so, two years ago we put Sarah Palin in the Governor's Office on the promise that she would clean up the mess.
And she made good on that promise. A number of corrupt former Alaskan politicians are learning new trades today - as license plate manufacturing technicians and prison wine connoisseurs - because of her. She put the fear of God into Exxon and the rest of those greasy bastards. She did what her predecessor couldn't, or wouldn't, and got the Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline moving, finally - and she awarded the contract to a Canadian company when every American company wanted to play reindeer games, thinking they had us by the short hairs. Screw them, they had their chance. Step up or step off, that was her message, one way or the other, the job is getting done and getting done correctly and within the law. She's tough, smart, straight as an arrow and she's one of us, equally at home on the deck of a fishing trawler, or in a hunting camp, or talking to foreign businessmen about investment in Alaska.
It's obvious, of course, why John McCain would choose Sarah Palin for his running mate.
First, she's young, at 44 younger even than Barrack Obama. Traditionally, when you think of Republicans you think of old white men in dark suits and solidly colored ties - you think, well, of John McCain. Sarah Palin is none of those things. She's vibrant and shrewd and smart and attractive and she knows how to sincerely reach people, all people not just those in her own party. McCain desperately needs to reach the very people that Palin resonates with. He tries, he does, but it's like watching your arthritic old grampa out on the dance floor at a family wedding, tooled up on one too many Pabst Blue Ribbons and doing the geriatric jazz hands thing to a bad cover of Steppenwolf. It's embarrassing. Whatever he is, John McCain isn't young - Sarah Palin is.
Second, and just as important, change. Obama's been beating the change drum for a while now, and it's a beat that resonates with a lot of folks both liberal and conservative. Now, change means something different to republicans and democrats and otherwise. I was talking to my mom the other day, she works at her local polling station in Southern Michigan, and she brought up this very topic. When people answer the exit polls, and especially young people, they all say the thing they want most is change. However, when pressed for details, well, they're all a little vague as to what change, exactly, they're looking for. And that's my experience too. As far as I can tell, change to democrats means no more George Bush and Dick Cheney, no more old bastards in dark suits and power ties. Change means an end to the dammed war and lower gas prices. Change means saving the polar bears and an abortion in every womb. Change means, well, going back to the Clinton administration. To Republicans, change means finishing this war on Terrorism even if it takes a hundred years. Changes means drilling for oil in ANWAR. Change means one man, one woman and no faggoty civil unions, just the way God intended it to be. Change means "alternatives" to evolutionary theory in the schools and dinosaurs on the ark. Change means jobs at home, and all the illegal immigrants get sent back to where they came from. Change means not having to push "1" for English, dammit. Sarah Palin is a clear sign that Barrack Obama isn't the only one who can make change.
Third, she's squeaky clean. What's that you say? They tried to bring charges of abuse of power against her here in Alaska because she cashiered a number of folks that crossed her path? True, very true. It didn't take though, and the rest of the country knows exactly zip about it - and Alaska doesn't have enough of a voting population, even if they actually gave a crap about it, to make any kind of difference on the national level. And all of our electoral votes, all three of them, are going to be cast by Republicans any dammed way. And that takes us to my forth and final point today:
Last, she's squeaky clean. No, I didn't stutter. She's been cleaning up Alaskan politics. She's sent members of her own party to jail. She has made more change in the state in the last two years than we've seen since 1959. And that scares the ever living crap out of a lot of very powerful people, the vast majority of which are republicans. And see, that's where we come right down to it. Business as usual in Alaska. Big Oil, Big Mining, Big Tourism, Big Government - it's been easy to do business in Alaska, a pile of cash across the right palms and you're off and running. And then, suddenly, gas is four bucks a gallon, and the cost of metals and minerals is through the roof, the Big Business is just drooling at the shear magnitude of it all - but instead of business as usual, they got Sarah Palin, the Barracuda. Now ask yourself something, what's the best way to get this popular and suddenly powerful governor out of the way? They tried to get her indicted on trumped up bullshit, and that didn't work - Alaskans just laughed, we didn't like the guys she axed either. So now what? How do all of the big special interests clear the decks so business can proceed in the usual, approved, corrupt Alaskan fashion?
Why, we have the party promote her, of course.
She brings with her all of the things the Party needs if John McCain is to sit in the big chair and it gets her the hell out of Alaska and into a job that's largely ornamental and powerless -because there isn't anyway in hell that John McCain is planning on giving her the power that George gave to Dick - and that, folks, is what we refer to in governmental cliched terms as a "Win-Win."
But I'll tell you something about Sarah Palin, something that most of us Alaskans already know: she's called Sarah Barracuda around here for a reason - as her predecessor, former senator and governor Frank Murkowski found out by a landslide in the last state election.
If the GOP takes the White House this time around, will Palin be a good Vice President (there is no such thing as a "great" VP, think back, name one), yes. She will. Of this I have no doubt. And four years from now, or maybe even eight, she'll make a truely great president - and by then, hell, I might even be voting republican again.
Is that a good thing for the United States and the rest of the world? Yes, absolutely. Sarah Palin is hands down the best choice John McCain could have made.
Is that a good thing for Alaska. No. Selfishly, no.
Friday, August 29, 2008
It erupted into public view on July 11, when the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee fired the state's top public safety official.
The issue is whether Palin, her administration or members of her family improperly pressured Monegan to fire Alaska State Trooper Michael Wooten, Palin's sister's ex-husband, and whether Palin fired Monegan when that didn't happen.
After working as a sports reporter at an Anchorage television station, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska, City Council from 1992 to 1996, was elected mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470 in 2000) in 1996, and ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 2002.
Palin was elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 on the theme of governmental reform, defeating incumbent governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and former Democratic Alaskan governor Tony Knowles in the general election. She gained attention for publicizing ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders
THIS WILL BE THE MOST FUN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION EVER!
Seriously, I love the fact that McCain picked Sarah and I guess McCain explained what he wanted a Vice President of the U.S. to do.
Now if 72-year old McCain wins, and dosn't "make it" through his four years, we get a 44-year old female former Miss Alaska pageant president.
Love it, love it, LOVE IT!
Maybe I have to vote for McCain. The drug companies fear him . . . and he got a hot VP.
Then again, Obama is pretty cool too. No matter what happens, the next four years will be real interesting.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the US of provoking the conflict in Georgia, possibly for domestic election purposes.
The Pharma Law blog made the list, and Christiane Truelove wrote the following:
"The Pharma Law Blog Former Pfizer whistleblower Dr. Peter Rost continues blogging, but seems to have lost some steam. Still, you never know when he’ll bring to light another scandal. And now that he’s working as an expert for plaintiffs’ lawyers in pharmaceutical industry cases, maybe he’ll get a bit more to talk about."
And that made me think about blogging or not and what to write about.
Quite frankly, writing day in and day out about pharma news is a bit boring to me, and contrary to PharmaBlogReview's suggestion, to write or talk about companies that are involved in litigation in which I'm involved as an expert witness is dicey.
Being an expert witness means that suddenly I know more than ever about all kinds of buried bodies, but the material from which I learned this is often confidential, and so I won't ever be able to discuss such things.
I realize that certain expert witnesses seem to assist in distributing material they've received during their professional work, but I don't think that is a good idea.
So, that means the Pharma Law Blog has been a bit more silent on corporate malfeasance than usual.
The interesting part is that it doesn't seem to make any difference what I write; visitors keep coming anyway. That is a bit bewildering for a marketing guy such as myself, but hey, it means that I can just hang out here now and then.
Feel free to come and do the same!
Want to read Peter Rost's columns for a Swedish newspaper? Vill du läsa Peter Rosts krönikor i Realtid?
Nya cyklar i Paris (2008-08-18)
Lev fem år längre – ät mindre! (2008-08-04)
Inte redo för barn? (2008-07-21)
Så klarar du av en panikattack! (2008-07-07)
Vill du leva längre? Drick kaffe! (2008-06-22)
Genombrott för medicin mot spelberoende (2008-06-09)
Pfizers anti-rökpiller Champix orsakar flod av självmord (2008-05-23)
Varför måste vi sova? (2008-05-12)
Hjärnan styrs av politisk ”rättvise-gen” (2008-04-28)
Kolesterol – något vi behöver vara rädda för? (2008-04-14)
Gratis medicin är dyrt (2008-03-31)
Kursras hotar Pfizeraktien (2008-03-17)
Rökarna som tobaksbolagen talar tyst om (2008-03-03)
Apoteksprivatisering ger dyrare läkemedel (2008-02-19)
Fred Hassans gloria på sned (2008-02-04)
En politiskt korrekt jul i New York (2007-12-21)
Läkemedelsindustrin är i fara (2007-12-10)
P-piller för män till slut verklighet (2007-11-26)
Bil till doktorn om han skriver många recept (2007-11-12)
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Don't laugh your head off folks, this is for REAL, this is how this esteemed company trained their reps, really!
WARNING, this is not parody, not a joke, this is ACTUAL TRAINING VIDEOS FUNDED BY MERCK!
Go to vioxxdocuments.com for more!
Monday, August 25, 2008
Some of you may wonder why I'm doing this, since you know that I've spent about twenty years marketing drugs; wouldn't there be lots of companies who could need my help doing just that?
After all, as a Pfizer marketing vice president I generated the #1 sales performance vs. budget . . . and also doubled sales in just two years as a managing director in charge of a European region.
But the market told me something different.
And I wouldn't be a good marketer unless I allowed the market to tell me where the real need for my services would be . . .
So, I provided those who need assistance in marketing their drugs and other products the opportunity to reach me through my web site Pharma Marketing Consultant, and I’ve been in touch with lots of pharma people.
I have also promoted my role as a public speaker through the site Public Speaker: Ethics, Healthcare, Drugs, Leadership and through Speakers Platform and Talarforum, which has generated many speaking engagements, especially overseas.
The most significant interest in the U.S., however, has been from law firms, specializing in healthcare and drug company litigation. For them I’ve developed the site Expert Witness: Pharma, Drug & Healthcare Litigation.
Perhaps this interest from plaintiff lawyers shouldn't be surprising. Defendants usually have all the marketing and company executives they could ask for, assisting them and testifying in support of Big Pharma.
The law firms around the U.S. who assist the small people, who have been hurt by drugs and devices marketed illegally or unethically, however, have never really had any drug company marketing expert who could assist them.
So that’s what I do—I testify and write expert reports and I put business plans, strategic plans, marketing documents and e-mails into perspective and explain to our courts what is reasonable marketing practices and what is unethical.
And I've come to realize that working as an expert witness for plaintiff law firms is an area with a completely unmet demand. There are lots of doctors testifying about what went wrong medically, but very few experts who could testify about what went wrong inside a particular drug company, based on their own documents.
The one challenge is that since there has never before been a drug company executive doing what I’m doing, it does take a while to educated the legal community that this resource is now available.
To do that this web site is important, since it is valuable Internet real estate, ranking quite high on Google search engines and Technorati, which in turn make my links to my professional web sites more effective.
In the legal community word of mouth, however, may be even more important. In fact, what got me started on this career track was my book The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman.
And it was Trial Magazine, the magazine published by the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), which published a review that got many of the lawyers calling.
So here’s the review, which helped jump start my career as an expert witness:
BooksMay 2007 Volume 43, Issue 5
The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman
Soft Skull Press
224 pp., $14.95
Reviewed by Jason Mark
It is not unusual for plaintiff lawyers litigating pharmaceutical cases to uncover business practices that put profits over safety. We read about it in documents we discover and hear about it in testimony we take during depositions. Unfortunately, that focus on sales, not safety, is common in the marketplace controlled by big pharma.
Peter Rost, a physician and former drug company executive, knows about it, too—but at an almost incomprehensible personal and professional sacrifice. The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman could not have been easy for Rost to write, never mind publish. In the hope of setting the record straight, he exposed the corrupt power of a pharmaceutical giant and laid a foundation for positive change in the future. But in doing so, he may have ensured the end of an impressive career.
Rost was vice president of marketing at Pharmacia, a rarely talked-about pharmaceutical company that Pfizer took over in April 2003. He was in charge of U.S. and global marketing of Genotropin, a human growth hormone and flagship drug for Pharmacia that was expected to generate global sales in excess of $600 million. Genotropin was intended for use in short children and adults with growth hormone deficiency.
Rost enjoyed life at Pharmacia. His coworkers were happy and energetic, and the atmosphere was positive.
Enter Pfizer. As Rost describes the takeover, Pfizer dehumanized the once-vibrant Pharmacia workplace. Managers were forced to attend “career transition” school—a course on how to fire the masses of Pharmacia employees who would be casualties of the takeover. And managers were forbidden to provide recommendations for employees leaving the company.
Even worse, Rost claims, was Pfizer’s resolve to destroy anyone who stood in its way or who wanted—as Rost did—to tout the cost and health care benefits of importing drugs, and to tell the truth about Pfizer’s decision to illegally promote off-label use of Genotropin as an anti-aging drug. Rost says the company entered into “favorable contracts” with distributors and doctors working in the anti-aging area and paid them kickbacks through “consulting agreements.” Sales reps who did not agree to Genotropin’s off-label promotion were fired or faced other adverse actions.
Rost, for his part, worked with Pharmacia’s legal department to correct many of the illegal marketing practices. He then went on a truth-telling mission, which appears to have been aimed in part at trying to save his job both during and after the takeover. Pfizer, he thought, might not want to fire someone with enough information about illegal marketing activity to be a serious liability to the company.
But Rost’s actions were not all self-serving. In fact, they’re cloaked with unimpeachable credibility because ultimately they address an issue—the industry’s opposition to drug importation—not specific to him, his job at Pfizer, or even Pfizer itself. Rost took on the entire industry, not because he had an ax to grind, but because of his belief in access to health care and the free market system.
The drug industry’s resistance to importation is, as Rost describes, due to the closed market it controls. Companies fear that importing drugs will cut into their bottom lines.
Rost thinks otherwise. He characterizes drug importation as one of the most important health care issues today and describes how 67 million Americans are without insurance for drugs. “The biggest argument against reimportation is safety,” he writes. “What everyone has conveniently forgotten to tell you is that in Europe, reimportation of drugs has been in place for 20 years.” If other countries could do it, and have done it, then why not the United States? As for company profits, Rost describes how lowering prices and making drugs more accessible can actually increase market share and ultimately create profits.
Notwithstanding ongoing pressure from Pfizer to keep quiet, Rost has demonstrated how one person can assert tremendous pressure against a corporate giant. He writes about how media appearances, newspaper articles, communication with various government agencies, and a general investigatory savvy helped him get his messages out and, at the same time, demonstrate to Pfizer that he was not simply going to go quietly into the night.
Ultimately, Rost was fired. He has brought a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer.
He opens his book by noting some interesting statistics about whistleblowers from a study by Donald Soeken of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. After exposing fraud, 90 percent of whistleblowers were fired or demoted, 26 percent had to seek psychiatric or physical care, 17 percent lost their homes, and 8 percent were bankrupted. Still, only 16 percent said they would not blow the whistle again.
It’s difficult to fathom putting your personal and professional life on the line. But that’s exactly what Rost did, and he tells about it in a compelling story of courage and principle.
Jason Mark practices law in Great Neck, New York.
The question is how long this will continue, and for those of you who agree with me (liking Pharmalot) now is the time to show your support and tell the paper that owns Pharmalot how much you love the site. Easiest may be to write to Ed@Pharmalot.com and he can forward your admiring notes.
Here are the somber news reported by the Star-Ledger, which owns Pharmalot:
The owners of The Star-Ledger announced today they will sell the newspaper if they cannot win union concessions and persuade a large number of non-union, full-time workers to take buyouts in the next two months.
The owners set a deadline of Oct. 1 for getting 200 of the paper's 756 non-union full-time employees to take a buyout and for achieving the union concessions. The paper's total workforce is 1,412.
The offer comes at a time when the newspaper industry is reeling from plunging advertising revenues linked to a troubled economy and the growth of online media.
The news was announced to grim-faced employees by Publisher George E. Arwady at the paper's headquarters in Newark this morning. He characterized the paper as being "on life support" and urged employees to consider the offer for the good of fellow employees.
"Despite the best efforts of all of us, The Star-Ledger is losing a battle to survive," Arwady said, noting the paper has suffered heavy losses the past two years. "If the Ledger is to have a future, it must make further changes in how it operates."
The Star-Ledger is New Jersey's largest newspaper -- selling roughly 350,000 papers daily and 520,000 on Sunday -- and in recent years has won two Pulitzer prizes and numerous other national awards. But like others in the industry, the paper has been buffeted by losses. Hiring and wage freezes have been in place for years, and the paper has tried other cost-saving measures, including consolidating news and feature sections and closing one of two printing plants.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Anyways, Fred is an open guy, so open that he admits plaintiffs are piling onto Pfizer.
He told Corporate Counsel that the number of legal "matter counts had more than doubled from 2005 to 2006, and then jumped by close to a third from 2006 to 2007."
100% increase in number of lawsuits against Pfizer in 2006 and then another 30% increase in 2007.
So now we know we've solved the riddle about why they made a lawyer CEO!?
Perhaps Kindler will come up with a strategy on how to actually avoid litigation, by, I dunno, maybe treating employees fairly, and perhaps properly dislosing side effects of high-risk drugs, like admitting that taking Chantix may make you so crazy that your neighbor will shoot you?
Rep. John D. Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of its Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, sent a letter Thursday to the chief executives of the drug company partners, giving them two weeks to supply detailed information about the study.
"The recent clinical trial showing ezetimibe (whose trade is Zetia and is part of the combination anti-cholesterol pill known as Vytorin) may have increased cancer incidence and deaths has sparked interest in possible causes. The trial -- known as the SEAS trial -- was an effort to show the combination pill reduced heart disease. Ezetimibe is unique in that it inhibits cholesterol absorption (as opposed to removing cholesterol from the blood like statins). But ezetimibe also inhibits absorption of dietary plant sterols, and one plausible theory is that the reduction in sterol absorption in the patients in the SEAS trial may have increased their risk of contracting cancer."
Today the FDA announced, "FDA is investigating a report from the SEAS trial (Simvastatin and Ezetimibe in Aortic Stenosis) of a possible association between the use of Vytorin (a combination of simvastatin plus ezetimibe) and a potentially increased incidence of cancer."
The FDA also wrote, "FDA is aware of previous reports suggesting a link between low on-treatment cholesterol levels and an increased risk of cancer. A 2007 pooled analysis of 16 studies with 23 statin drug arms, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, reported an association between the level of LDL-cholesterol achieved and incident cancer in patients receiving a statin."
Interesting stuff indeed.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Pfizer moves all all existing employment cases to Jackson Lewis except for Rost vs. Pfizer and two class actions.
"Jackson Lewis gets any employment-related legal work that comes in the door for the next two years, including single-plaintiff discrimination cases, equal employment opportunity matters, class actions, and general advice and counsel. All existing employment cases were transferred to the firm except for one single-plaintiff case and two class actions-a benefits case being handled by Sidley Austin, and a Fair Labor Standards Act case filed by Pfizer sales reps that's being litigated by Littler Mendelson."
And guess who that "one single-plaintiff case" is?
Rost vs. Pfizer.
I guess they are concerned about the outcome.
Today they breathlessly announce "For Employment Law, Pfizer Turns to One Firm: Jackson Lewis."
If they had followed the Pharma Law Blog they'd have learned about this and much more already on June 18, two months ago, in our post, "Rumors, innuendo, criminal charges and changes inside Pfizer Inc's legal department."
Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- When Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, wanted to team up with a Republican on legislation making it easier to bring low-cost generic drugs to market, he found an eager partner: Arizona Senator John McCain.
The pair introduced the measure in 2000, drawing opposition from makers of brand-name drugs. Since then, McCain has crossed swords with the pharmaceutical industry by supporting measures to let consumers import cheaper medicines from Canada and by opposing creation of Medicare's drug benefit for the elderly.
The result is a mutual antipathy that is playing out in the presidential campaign. McCain, 71, the presumptive Republican nominee, boasts in a television ad that he has ``taken on'' drugmakers. Executives and employees of the companies are reciprocating, donating three times as much to McCain's Democratic rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, 47.
``The betting would be that if McCain were in the White House the drug industry would not have the receptive ear that they have had from'' President George W. Bush, said Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey.
The drug industry usually has favored Republicans for president, including Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a group in Washington that researches campaign contributions. This time, Obama has collected $450,094 to McCain's $132,575.
The difference is that the Republican candidate is a critic of the drugmakers instead of an ally as in the past, leaving the industry without a champion because Obama also has taken positions at odds with the pharmaceutical companies.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington-based trade group representing drugmakers, won't comment on McCain, said spokesman Jeff Trewhitt.
McCain emphasizes his fights with the drug industry as evidence he is willing to confront powerful interests.
``Only McCain has taken on big tobacco, drug companies, fought corruption in both parties,'' says the narrator in a campaign commercial that began running this month.
During a Republican debate in January in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney assailed McCain for his criticism of the drug industry.
`Big Bad Guys'
``Don't turn the pharmaceutical companies into the big bad guys,'' Romney said.
McCain responded, ``Well, they are.''
In the Senate, McCain supported allowing consumers to import drugs from countries where they cost less, such as Canada, legislation drugmakers opposed. He also opposed the measure creating Medicare's drug benefit, calling it too costly.
Schumer's staff approached McCain on the generic-drug legislation because he had a reputation for working with Democrats and didn't have a ``position staked out on pharmaceutical issues,'' said Debra Barrett, who was then a legislative assistant to Schumer.
``It didn't take an extraordinarily long amount of conversation before he said, `Yeah, I want to do something on this,''' said Barrett, now vice president of government affairs in Washington for generic-drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. of Petah Tikva, Israel.
A narrower version of the measure, allowing quicker access to generics in certain circumstances, eventually passed.
`Lower Drug Prices'
McCain supports faster introduction of generics ``because that's an important way to lower drug prices for patients,'' said Taylor Griffin, a campaign spokesman.
Such positions have had an impact. The political action committee for GlaxoSmithKline Plc gave to Bush four years ago and hasn't contributed to either candidate this time. The committee donated to Bush ``due to the striking differences between the candidates' proposed policies'' in that election, said Sarah Alspach, a spokeswoman for London-based Glaxo, the U.K.'s biggest drugmaker.
Indeed, Obama's campaign said the Democrat also would be tough on drugmakers.
Obama ``has a strong record of fighting to lower drug costs,'' said Nick Shapiro, a spokesman. In addition to letting Americans buy drugs abroad, Obama wants to give the federal government authority to negotiate with drugmakers to hold down the prices they charge Medicare, Shapiro said.
Obama has been running a commercial portraying McCain as an industry tool, saying the Republican supports ``billions in tax breaks for oil and drug companies.'' McCain's campaign said that is a misleading reference to his plan to reduce corporate taxes overall.
Still, not everyone involved with the drug industry views McCain as a foe. Doug Badger, a lobbyist with the Nickles Group in Washington, which represents pharmaceutical companies, said a McCain presidency would be better for drugmakers than an Obama administration.
``I don't perceive McCain as someone with an ax to grind,'' said Badger, a former Bush health-policy adviser. ``I see McCain as a man who strikes an independent course.''
For now, the drug industry is backing Obama because of a perception he is the likely winner and because of McCain's criticism, said Peter Rost, who was a vice president of marketing at New York-based Pfizer Inc. until he was fired in 2005. Rost accused the company of wrongly accepting government reimbursement for unapproved uses of a medicine. The company denied wrongdoing.
``McCain has been more outspoken against the drug industry than Obama has,'' said Rost, who sued Pfizer and wrote a book criticizing the company. ``They're very concerned about him.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Blum in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Robert Ambrogi - Editor
Experts in virtually every field of art and science are blogging these days. Some blog as an academic or scholarly exercise. Others do it in order to help market their expertise. But whatever the reason for an expert's blog, one certain group of readers will be the lawyers on either side of a case.
Their interest, of course, is in whether anything the expert said on the blog could open the door to impeachment. "Blogs are informal and quick," notes Jef Henninger, a white-collar criminal defense attorney in New Jersey. "As a result, the expert can say something that can be taken out of context. I always Google my expert and the expert for the other side."
Needless to say, a lawyer's perspective will depend on which side the expert is on. Nancy Delain, an intellectual property lawyer in Schenectady, N.Y., would never retain an expert who has a blog, she says. But as for her opponent's expert, "I pray for a blog. Very public, very quippy, very quickly written, very full of possible ways to hang him out to dry in front of the finder of fact."
What is it about a blog that raises such interest? Experts, after all, are frequent contributors to scholarly and trade journals. Many experts are regular sources of comment in the news media. With all that out there, why worry about blogs?
The answer, perhaps, lies in the more casual tone and greater frequency of blog posts. The more one says, and the more casual the setting in which one says it, the more likely one is to trip up.
"The key concern that I have is consistency," explains Charles Rainey, an entertainment lawyer in Las Vegas, Nev. "The informalities of the blog medium make it an easy forum to misstate or garble an opinion. If I were litigating a case where the opposition had called upon an expert witness that maintains a blog, I would very carefully mine the contents of that blog for any statements that favor my argument."
Collin J. Hite, a litigator with McGuireWoods in Richmond, Va., is similarly troubled by the informality of blogs. "Without the formal process of publication, especially peer-reviewed articles, the expert is open to strong cross examination to disclose support for the statements. What happens to the expert's credibility when the answer is 'I don't recall.' How would an expert that wrote an entry months or years ago be able to defend the statements during the deposition without cites and materials?"
Other Dangers of Blogs
Besides providing fodder for direct impeachment, an expert's blog could endanger a case in other ways, lawyers say.
One is the possibility of indirect impeachment based on an expert's "extracurricular" blog – a blog written not about the expert's field of expertise, but about an outside interest or hobby.
"What if you had an expert IT witness ready to testify about your internal security measures who also happened to blog passionately about 9/11 government conspiracies, alien landings, the lost city of Atlantis or Big Foot?" asks John Spence, an intellectual property attorney with Thomson Reuters in Eagan, Minn.
"Granted there are evidentiary rules that would limit the admissibility of some information, but I think you certainly increase the risk of finding something embarrassing or harmful to the case when your expert makes their life and opinions more and more public," he says.
Another danger comes not from the expert's own posts, but from comments posted to the expert's blog by readers. Opposing attorneys could use these comments as guideposts when developing strategies for attacking the expert's testimony, suggests John Dozier Jr., an Internet law specialist in Richmond, Va. They could also mine the comments for leads on experts with opposing viewpoints, he says.
"The impact of a high profile blog, even one that does not allow open comments or trackbacks, could lead the opposing side to plenty of ammunition to rebut the expert's contentions and reputation and reliability," Dozier says.
Experts Weigh In
Experts who blog say the benefits outweigh any risk – and the risk can be avoided through caution.
"As an expert who blogs occasionally," says security expert Kevin G. Smith, "I am always mindful of the content and slant of my posts. It's no different than when I write articles. I know that these writings will be with me throughout my career so I make sure they represent my true opinions."
But while blogging requires mindfulness, it also helps build an expert's credibility and reputation, adds Smith, who writes the blog Insights.
In fact, blogging may be less risky than speaking to the news media, suggests Dr. Peter Rost, a pharmaceutical expert witness in Short Hills, N.J., and author of The Pharma Law Blog. In a newspaper interview, the expert may be quoted incorrectly and that incorrect quote could later be used against the expert in court. With a blog, the expert controls his or her own words.
"The benefit of blogging is that you build real estate with value on the net, which increases the likelihood that your professional Web page will rank much higher," says Rost. "So it becomes essentially a marketing tool, since links from your blog will be much more valuable."
Derek Geer, a forensics engineering expert in San Diego, Calif., and author of the blog Forensics Engineering, believes experts can avoid problems by carefully considering what they write. "I try to be self-consistent in my reasoning and opinions. If I write a point in a blog, I hope I am stating something that would not be contradictory to any future opinion I would make."
Plus, in Geer's case, he sees his posts as discussions of facts aimed at other engineers and scientists, not expressions of opinions that could later come back to haunt him. "I am writing about natural phenomena or results and so they are not open to opinion – they are demonstrable fact."
Chris Smith, an expert in search engine optimization who writes Natural Search Blog, believes that having a blog may actually make an expert more credible by raising the expert's stature in the industry. Blogging, he says, allows an expert to establish a "voice" and stature within an industry.
"At least where modern technology and internet industry are concerned," Smith says, "I'd say there could be some dichotomy in wanting to get a credible, widely-respected witness, and not allowing them to have a voice in their industry through blogging. … If you have two witnesses, pitted against one another, won't the one with the greater amount of recognition within the industry be more credible to the jury, even if he/she blogs, than a relative unknown expert?"
Caution is the Watchword
Experts should be encouraged to blog, but to do so carefully, advises John Dozier. "If I was an expert, I would do a great job of using the blog as a marketing tool, be careful about what I write, be vigilant in monitoring the commentary about my views, and manage the situation proactively so savvy lawyers will still hire me."
As for lawyers, they need to make blogs a standard part of their due-diligence repertoire, counsels Barry Bayer, a Chicago lawyer and technology consultant.
"Once you have the witness … due diligence obviously includes not only the books and articles published and trial and deposition transcripts and appellate opinions (and trial opinions in the federal courts) but also the blog in question – and every blog entry referring to one of the witness's blog entries."
Bayer adds one other cautionary point: Find out whether the expert has posted comments on other people's blogs, perhaps even anonymously, and hope the expert said nothing embarrassing.
And that, of course, is just one more reason for lawyers to lie awake at night.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Now that thread and similar thread on CafePharma are gone.
If you are curious you can still find the censored Biofind thread cached on Google . . . here.
Total over 1.5 million hits. And that doesn't count the impact of hundreds of newspaper articles (including over a dozen just in New York Times), radio and television segments.
Perhaps it is time to slow down and start relaxing a bit.
"Pfizer tried to blow off Peter Rost, but instead they created a one-man machine bent on doing mayhem to the pharmaceutical industry and the liars, thieves and cheats that seem to pervade it."
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
A day later, I flew back to Denmark. After appointments here in Copenhagen, I was riding in a car back to my hotel at the 6 p.m. rush hour. And boy, you knew it was rush hour because 50 percent of the traffic in every intersection was bicycles. That is roughly the percentage of Danes who use two-wheelers to go to and from work or school every day here. If I lived in a city that had dedicated bike lanes everywhere, including one to the airport, I’d go to work that way, too. It means less traffic, less pollution and less obesity.
What was most impressive about this day, though, was that it was raining. No matter. The Danes simply donned rain jackets and pants for biking. If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark!
Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn’t happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)
What was the trick? To be sure, Denmark is much smaller than us and was lucky to discover some oil in the North Sea. But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from wind. America? About 1 percent.
And did Danes suffer from their government shaping the market with energy taxes to stimulate innovations in clean power? In one word, said Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy: “No.” It just forced them to innovate more — like the way Danes recycle waste heat from their coal-fired power plants and use it for home heating and hot water, or the way they incinerate their trash in central stations to provide home heating. (There are virtually no landfills here.)
There is little whining here about Denmark having $10-a-gallon gasoline because of high energy taxes. The shaping of the market with high energy standards and taxes on fossil fuels by the Danish government has actually had “a positive impact on job creation,” added Hedegaard. “For example, the wind industry — it was nothing in the 1970s. Today, one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark.” In the last 10 years, Denmark’s exports of energy efficiency products have tripled. Energy technology exports rose 8 percent in 2007 to more than $10.5 billion in 2006, compared with a 2 percent rise in 2007 for Danish exports as a whole.
“It is one of our fastest-growing export areas,” said Hedegaard. It is one reason that unemployment in Denmark today is 1.6 percent. In 1973, said Hedegaard, “we got 99 percent of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero.”
Frankly, when you compare how America has responded to the 1973 oil shock and how Denmark has responded, we look pathetic.
“I have observed that in all other countries, including in America, people are complaining about how prices of [gasoline] are going up,” Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me. “The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income — so we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy.”
Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company — told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.
Why should you care?
“We’ve had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months,” said Engel, “and not one out of the U.S.”
By Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times
Saturday, August 09, 2008
I thought you might be interested in two potentially major problems with the recently released Schering Plough boceprevir data for the Sprint 1 trial.
1. Slide 12 of Dr. Kwo’s presentation of the boceprevir results at EASL 2008 includes some significant detail on the discontinuations in the two 28 week arms.
The two 28 week boceprevir arms average 27% total dropouts. (Unlike the Schering press release of August 4 that only identifies dropouts from adverse events; Dr. Kwo lists dropouts from adverse events, viral breakthrough and other or lost to follow-up, non-compliant, etc.) It is entirely reasonable to expect the 48 week arms to have a higher or at least equivalent dropout rates. Yet the 48 week arms showed 74% and 66% SVR12. If you simply added the 28 week drop out average of 27% you would get 101% and 93%. Beyond the 101% being mathematically impossible, you have no or very little room for the patients who finished treatment but did not SVR. And one would expect 15 – 20% finish but don’t have a SVR. I can only come up with three explanations. One, the 27% average dropout rate Dr. Kwo presented is wrong. This does though come from a fairly detailed slide presented at a major medical conference. Two, the 48 week boceprevir have a far, far lower dropout rate than the 28 week arms. This is not very likely. Three, there is something seriously wrong in the data presented in the Schering press release from August 4.
2. The Schering press release of August 4 mysteriously also leaves out 16 patients from the no lead-in treatment arms. Both the abstract from EASL and Dr. Kwo’s slideshow show 226 patients in the no lead-in arms, but the press release only shows 210 in the no lead-in arms. Since this was an intention to treat analysis those 16 should have been left in and I have to assume that if they had a SVR they would be in. Just supposing those 16 were equally distributed between the two arms and they were not SVR, they would reduce the effective percentages from 55% to 51% in the 28 week arm and 66% to 61% in the 48 week arm. This is certainly speculation but those 16 patients should be accounted for and until they are the data is suspect.
Is Schering using this press release to manufacture an advantage here to boost their stock price?
For more on this story, read, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants -- the "Missing" 16 Patients in Schering's Boceprevir Press Releases. . . .
Hat tip: Former PFE employee.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Here's how Paris Hilton responds:
If link doesn't work try clicking here. You really shouldn't miss this one . . .
This campaign will be fun!