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This is a question Conspiracy theory nutters

I keep getting collared by a bloke who says that the war in Afghanistan is a cover for our Illuminati Freemason Shapeshifting Lizard masters to corner the market in mind-bending drugs. "It's true," he says, "I heard it on TalkSport". Tell us your stories of encounters with tinfoil hatters.

Thanks to Davros' Granddad

(, Thu 27 Aug 2009, 13:52)
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No conflicts of interest declared...
In my line of work, you can encounter a lot of conspiracy theorists who think nothing of ruining my evening and causing my arteries to clang shut by invoking the classic…

“But hasn’t the Pharmaceutical Industry got cures for pretty much all diseases these days; they just choose to suppress them as they make more money from people being sick. That’s why they’re so against alternative medicine; it can cure people cheaply and cut into their massive profits.”


To which my short answer is,


My long answer is, however;

No. It takes on average $900 million to develop a single drug. Think about it. $900 million. That’s an amount of money that even Bill Gates would have trouble finding down the back of the sofa on a regular basis. Of the drugs that get out of pre-clinical testing, 70% will fail at Phase 1 trial stage. One of the reasons that drug discovery is so expensive is that (apart from the fact that it’s difficult), the pharmaceutical industry is so heavily regulated.

Now I’m not defending Big Pharma. Far from it. Frankly, they’re a bunch of cunts. Their price fixing and handling of off-patent drugs in the 3rd world is criminal, they aren’t always transparent with their methods and data and when they fuck up, people die. But they exist to make money and if, for example, 1 in 3 people in the Western world will get cancer in their lifetime do you not think that they would exploit a cure, any cure and have us over a barrel to make money from it? Not to mention the kudos, the plaudits, the Nobel Prizes that any scientist would receive if they managed to cure the potentially incurable? The idea that they would regularly piss away close to a billion dollars while sitting on possibly one of the most lucrative ideas of all time is laughable. The there's the sheer number of people, in the thousands, they would have to pay to slap gagging orders on.

Furthermore, the failings of Big Pharma do not in any way vindicate the tofu weaving approaches of untested, unproven and unregulated alternative treatments. Of course they’re going to appear cheaper, they don’t have to be rigorously tested, they can get around all current licensing because they’re NOT MEDICINE.

And if I have to listen once more to some patchouli oil wearing twig muncher bleat on about harmful chemicals or ancient Chinese meridians or the memory of water, whilst ignoring the 50 billion dollars that the spurious nutritional supplement industry generates each year then I’m going to take my copy of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science and ram it in their gaping maw. Then let’s see how well reiki works in getting their circulation going again, shall we?

I’m lucky enough to live in a country that gives me a choice; I have free healthcare (no matter how much it needs an over haul); I can buy all manner of magic sugar pills to help me convince myself I feel better. I can even listen to a pinched faced harridan with a degree in Unicorn Science from the University of Fabricationsville tell me that eating pine cones will help me live till I’m 205, but the second this type of magical thinking extends to using people in the 3rd world suffering from HIV, TB and malaria as guinea pigs for their Fisher Price “my first alternative therapist” play set, then, as you may be able to tell, I get angry.

Ideally I’d like to see the Pfizers and GlaxosmithKlines of this world act like they have a social responsibility. It’s unlikely to happen. But what I’d really like is for those well meaning, but ultimately deluded individuals who would have us all back in the Dark Ages to shut the fuck up, or get a fucking science degree. And leave me the hell alone when I’m trying to kick back and have a beer.

*awaits knock on door from secret cabal of lizard overlord vitamin salesmen*
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 11:33, closed)
Have a beer and while you do light a hopi ear candle to help drain the toxins in your body caused by the aluminum can the beer came in ...
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 11:51, closed)
Interesting read
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 11:52, closed)
Just the ticket
I've been looking for a ballpark figure for the cost of the development of a new drug compound for a presentation that I have to give this afternoon. Clicked on B3ta for a break from my work, and you've written my presentation for me!
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 11:55, closed)
without meaning any disrespect to Rakky
or her excellent post, I feel the need to point out that the pages of b3ta's QOTW are only slightly above Wikipedia on the spectrum of reliable sources of information, so if it's at all important, alternative confirmation should probably be sought...
(, Wed 2 Sep 2009, 14:48, closed)
You are ABSOLUTELY correct
as I REALLY don't want to be quoted as an expert. I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. I should also make that clear.

However the source for that was a colleague in drug discovery and it had better be bloody close to accurate as it's in the presentation i'm giving in 2 days!

i do however applaud anyone who invoked "citation needed" though with anything!

(, Wed 2 Sep 2009, 17:59, closed)
It's OK!
I only needed something vaguely plausible - for illustrative purposes. I didn't want to say "hundreds of pounds" and look like an idiot. I went with $900,000,000 and got some sensible looking nods from the audience (who probably weren't listening anyway).
(, Thu 3 Sep 2009, 9:26, closed)
Well said, that woman
Another point is that drug testing takes 10 years or more, which eats into the time available while the drug is still under patent during which the company can recover their costs and make profit. So not only do they have to recoup their $900M, they have to do it over a relatively short time before the patent expires and any old Tom, Dick & Harry Ltd can manufacture the stuff in a garden shed for tuppence-ha'penny.

I take antihistamines for hay fever. The drug, cetirizine dihydrochloride, is now off patent, so while they used to cost £5 for a packet of 7, I can now buy a generic packet of 30 for 29p. Manufacture of drugs is dirt cheap, but the research costs a bomb.

And I'm nothing to do with the pharma industry.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 12:39, closed)
But don't neglect to mention that drug companies spend at least as much on marketing as they do on research, and some studies estimate over twice as much.

The whole "it cost us a lot to devlope this so this is why we are screwing you on the price and go f**k yourselves if you can't afford it" approach doesn't really stack up.

And don't even get me started on the benefits of economies of scale...
(, Wed 2 Sep 2009, 22:55, closed)
You might like...
Junior Skeptic Mixtape, last song, "Skeptic" by George Hrab.

Excellent and catchy...
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 13:27, closed)
You tell those pharmaceutical cunts and hippie bastards!
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 13:45, closed)
patchouli oil wearing twig muncher
This pretty much sums up 80% of the population of North London where I live, and for putting it so eloquently I thank you. Consider this phrase well and truly taxed the next time I get into a screaming row in the street with some fuckwit poncy-arsed cocksucking shitbag earth mother type who's got more armpit hair than I have.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 13:46, closed)
Top post, that.

Don't suppose you've got any tips on how to deal with a faith-healing father in law, do you?
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 13:50, closed)
me as well
Need you to talk to my boyfriends brother. do you do appointments?
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 13:52, closed)
A while back I stumbled across
this guy:

Doctor Emanuel Revici, a chap who allegedly found a way to slow down and stop certain cancers using a very simple method based around detecting chemical imbalances (the catalyst that aids the cancer spread) and fixing them. This technique doesn't cure the cancer, but it stops it spreading and doing further damage so it's as good as a cure in the quality-of-life respect. The clinic that promotes this technique documents the results they've had (some good, some bad, a lot more good than bad) and they also make some interesting points about the worthiness of traditional oncology versus doing nothing, i.e. is it worth having years of painful treatment when the chances of survival may not increase.

Naturally, I remain skeptical about such claims and if I was suffering from cancer myself, I would almost certainly side with the medical Pros. However, when they are presented in a reasonably neutral 'decide-for-yourself' way like this, I find it intriguing.

What do you reckon? Have you encountered Revici and his method before?

EDIT: The one thing most of these probable-quackeries have in common is a shit website. The Revici clinic one is pretty bad. That also fans the flames of suspicion.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 14:07, closed)
He's a crank and a dead one at that
Sorry. I did a search for any publications in peer reviewed journals of his methods and there are none. He seems to have been a conventional researcher who turned to the dark side. Beware any website that waves around "acid and alkaline" as potential cures and that only has testamonials and not proper trials.

I should add that it would be amazing if someone could cure these damn things, I just don't buy the "lone maverick doctor" fighting the system argument.

(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 14:44, closed)
I'm mostly with you there
although I think it's reasonable that despite the huge advances in science to date, it is still possible for an individual to make a private discovery. It has happened so many times throughout history but the same old political barriers still exist, preventing far-out work from even being acknowledged, let alone approved.

The thing that grabbed my attention about this Revici guy was the lack of debunking articles about his method, although you are right that there are also few that show any support either (there are some though and cursory Googling of names indicates they are probably credible). Most crank websites have rebuttal sites explaining in detail why the crank belongs in the nut house. The Revici method seems to sit firmly in the neutral zone, which could simply be an indication that it hasn't gained enough widespread fame to be properly debunked. The clinic does at least attempt to openly explain the science behind the theory... the alkaline/acid thing was (I think) just the first step in developing his method, which actually relies on measuring hundreds of patient properties to establish which ones are 'out of balance'. It's also considerably more complicated than my description suggests, but you know what I mean.

I'm of the firm opinion that something as convoluted as cancer, with its myriad forms, will never be curable by conventional western medicines; these drugs tend to have the best results when targeting highly specific cause/effect pathologies and most cancers don't behave consistently in all patients. I think it will ultimately boil down to a more generalised approach like the Revici method to defeat it. That or nano-bots, anyway.

I certainly don't think there are any major conspiracies in the big pharma companies. They just suffer the same problems as other big-industry corporations, that is, inertia and The Establishment. Western medicine has grown up over such a long period of time and has refined such a strict system of peer-review that is inherently biased towards new methods that share the same mindset. Any therapy which doesn't fit within its rigid demarcation of acceptability will be thrown out by the peer review network long before it ever gets a chance to be funded and trialled. I'm sure this system does a great job of removing the duckchaff, but statistically there are bound to be at least *some* radical, revolutionary therapies which get incorrectly labelled as quackery.

If the case study statistics on that website *are* true, I argue it is worth investigating further, perhaps with private funding from a rich, benevolent donator. In fact, one of its main supporters (Dr Seymour Brenner, a highly-respected oncologist) is urging the AMA to consider clinical trials (see the bottom two paragraphs of the page). I'd be keen to see a proper study and trial of this particular method, if only to have it fully debunked so that cancer research can plough its funds into the right places. Above all, it must be deeply upsetting and frustrating for cancer patients to have so many different streams of conflicting information in the public domain, so discrediting the real quacks is definitely worth doing.
(, Wed 2 Sep 2009, 5:57, closed)
it's like we've never been apart
wavy lines back to, oh, countless drunken evenings which involve me saying innocently "Rakky, remind me again why you get so annoyed with homeopathy..."?
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 14:12, closed)
You're right, of course
I work in patents, pharmaceuticals actually and while I don't have a lot of time for GlacksoPfizzerMurk, Inc. when you see what they get up to outside regulated markets the fact remains that most of the medical treatments we have are due to them. I do wonder about one thing though, when drug X (now in patent) replaces 1980s drug Y (out of patent) for the same indication, is it really any better? Fewer side effects? Better pharmacokinetics? Etc etc.

Not a pharmacologist, me

Think I might steal "patchouli-oil wearing" and "tofu weaving", even though "tofu weaving" ain't new. How about "patchouli doused tofu weavers"?

Clicketty by the way.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 14:15, closed)
I got the phrase
Tofu weaving into the letters page of the Guardian, as I have mentioned on many occasions.

And should anyone require their loved ones deprogramming from the ways of the fluffly dark side then I'm sure I could set up a clinic. I could do with something to direct my currently unfocused rage on.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 14:38, closed)
I think I might
love you a little bit. Have a very well deserved click.
Oh, and what you said sounds a fair amount like this:
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:05, closed)
I wish I was Tim Minchin (or Dara O'Briain, or Charlie Brooker)
I'd give anything to be even a tenth as funny and articulate. And have such great hair. But I hadn't seen that video before I wrote this, so...

(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:10, closed)
I'm sure
your rant was 100% original material! I just thought you might like the link :)

Also - I'm not sure you could say Dara O Briain has lovely hair. Shiny scalp, possibly. Mmm, beeswax.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:33, closed)
Yes, bad punctuation on my part
I meant Tim Minchin's hair. Obviously not Dara's. I still love him in a cuddly way though.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:46, closed)
*Applauds loudly*
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:14, closed)
*claps loudly*
Well said, all of it.

But don't underestimate how fucking seductive that mindset is. (I'm talking about the tofu-weaving types, of course.) My mum's deeply into all this shit, and it took me years to really snap out of it. So of course it annoys me even more now than it would otherwise...
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:23, closed)
Well said.

(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:32, closed)
aaaahhhhh buuutt

where do they get the 900 million ? from selling well marketed shite that doesn't work at all, that's where... and also selling things for years that keep the pain at bay while holding back on the one pil cure all.... sorry I don't trust the machine and having spent 3 years working for a medical (not pharma) company and albeit only as an operator I made some stark observances...

1: Big brother is always right even when he's wrong.

2: Providing evidence that something was done correctly is far more important than actually doing something correctly.

fuck the cia are going to read this and all my previous posts... shit there's a red dot on my forehead now ! do n't tru u ss ttt t thee gooovvvver uuu r r rr ghgh hh h j j kk l g;ohsg'lkn

(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 15:56, closed)
They get money from developing drugs that work in a teeny tiny way better than the previous version. I'm not arguing that that's right, not at all.

But where do the vitamin pill manufacturers get their money from? The homeopathic industry? From making shit up and pretending it works without one iota of proper peer reviewed research to shore up what a mad german invented on a whim 200 years ago.

Just because one system is broke, doesn't always follow that the alternative must be true.

(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 16:19, closed)
a nicely written answer :)
duly clicked
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 16:35, closed)
I used to have similar conversations with a lady who was using 'special water'
to cure her dog's cancer. She'd opted for it instead of the traditional route of chemo because she was still using her as a show dog and planned to still breed from her. Nice lady.

Now I just get suspicion aroused from clients who are wary of changing their pet's diet to a veterinary diet because "We're just out to make money off them/it'll kill them faster/it will cause more illnesses".

Yup, that's why Hills and Royal Canin have spent untold millions in research to make the food have the right nutritional balance to serve as a complete food as a maintenance diet or spent years developing a special diet which should be used in conjunction with veterinary visits to see how your pet is doing so that we don't have to put them to sleep earlier than necessary as we'd quite like to prolong their life and have it be a comfortable one. Nope, we just want your money.
(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 17:18, closed)
Don't get me started on the whole
"but animals don't experience the placebo effect, so magic water must work, explain THAT, skeptic..." rant as well.

I give you a) regression to the mean and b) the owner's perception of whether their animal is getting better or not. The dog can't tell you whether the sugar pills work, the owner can. Placebo by proxy.

(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 17:26, closed)
impressively long rant...
....but a good one.

(, Tue 1 Sep 2009, 22:07, closed)
Thank you!
'nuff said
(, Wed 2 Sep 2009, 0:10, closed)
I think I might ...
have developed a slight crush on you madam.

/gratz and clickage.
(, Wed 2 Sep 2009, 5:15, closed)

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