Another page has been torn off the calendar, and that means it's time to open up Big Pharma's vault of peculiarities and do a roundup of strange-but-true tales from the world of drugs that surfaced on my radar last month.
I give you the 10 weirdest drug stories of September:
- Bristol-Myers Squibb gets out of the airline business For 40 years the drug company has operated its own fleet of private jets. Now the company is in the middle of a cost-cutting drive, including a bunch of layoffs. So someone thought maybe it was a good idea for the BMS brass to give up their plane perks and fly commercial like the rest of us. Question: Did BMS really need 32 -- that's thirty-two -- airline staff in the first place?
- Swedish snuff addicts -- an end to your suffering is at hand! Pfizer is testing its smoking cessation product, Chantix (called Champix in Europe) on snuff users in Sweden. The Swedes are apparently addicted to their "snus" and Pfizer, of course, is looking for an extension of the indications for its help-me-quit pills. Footnote in this academic paper has scant details.
- Did a Sepracor sales rep disappear after she was raped at a sales meeting? That's the rumor making the rounds on CafÃ© Pharma, a bulletin board for drug sales reps known for its salty posts and unvarnished commentary about the drug biz. Seems something bad may have happened at an Orlando training event ... or maybe these writers are just full of nonsense. Grimly fascinating look at the inner psyche of reps.
- AstraZeneca Releases "Artery Explorer: The Movie" It's Fantastic Voyage 2! AZ has launched a special-effects laden web video that is supposed to be an educational piece about atherosclerosis but has such a portentous voiceover that it comes off like an action movie trailer. "Surf through your arteries on a journey deep inside your body," the company says. All that's missing is Raquel Welch in a tightly cinched jumpsuit.
- Did Pfizer time layoffs to coincide with start of Large Hadron Collider? Of course not, but several techs at the big blue giant who have too much time on their hands advance a theory that PFE's downsizing plan was pushed back to October in the hopes that the collider would create a planet-destroying black hole -- and thus void the need for Pfizer to honor its severance agreements.
- Alleged pimp indicted for running call girls from his desk at Novartis This one is set to run and run, but now it's official. A New Jersey grand jury indicted a man on charges of running a prostitution service over CraigsList from his office at Novartis.
- Helicopter crashes into house of Abbott Labs employee Who says the drug business is boring? A couple traveling home by chopper after seeing a concert at a casino took an unscheduled and fatal stop on top of an Abbott worker's house in Kenosha, Wisc.
- Merck thinks cigarette company may have cure for osteoporosis Merck has licensed a compound from Japan Tobacco, a cigarette company, which it thinks may stimulate bone growth.
- Pharma companies continue their obsession with premature ejaculation Not everyone can be researching a cure for cancer or HIV. Some set their sights a little lower. Below the waistline, to be exact. Sciele and its delightfully named partner, Plethora Solutions, are researching a drug that makes "it" last longer. Johnson & Johnson is a step ahead of them in this market.
- Indevus thinks it may have a cure for stuttering Its shares -- a penny stock -- rose on the news. "There are currently no approved drugs anywhere in the world for patients with stuttering," said the company's chairman, stating the obvious. He estimates 3 million Americans may benefit if he gets approval for pagoclone. Side benefit: The drug produces the positive effects of alcohol, relaxed demeanor, etc., without the negative ones.