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A Pharma Expert Weighs In

In case you were wondering, Chuck Norris does not know what he’s talking about when he talks about drug discovery and development. In other news, I don’t know what I’m talking about when I talk about martial arts or tv/movie production. But I’m not trying to tell Chuck Norris about those things, now, am I?
Update: Chemjobber finds that these are not only borrowed ideas on the part of Norris, but borrowed words as well.

29 comments on “A Pharma Expert Weighs In”

  1. Slicer says:

    Oh boy, the naturalist fallacy in action. Hey Chuck, what natural compound do you think can fix the gradual degradation of your body, slowly turning you from a roundhouse kicking machine into a cripple and eventually a corpse? Any of them?
    One wonders why the actual drug in the article isn’t approved, though.

  2. Dennis says:

    I’m almost disappointed that Chuck Norris’s post isn’t more ridiculous.

  3. darwin says:

    Imagine the possibilities with Chuck Norris and Dr. Oz joining forces-unstoppable.

  4. oldnuke says:

    @3: Perhaps if they joined forces they would attain “stupidity critical mass” and destroy Hollywood.
    Unfortunately, being stupid (and proving it in public) isn’t a felony.

  5. @3, @4… No, the two of them together would create a black hole of stupidity which would eventually swallow the solar system. I’d say the galaxy, but (a) I’m not one for hyperbole and (b) I wouldn’t be around to see it anyway – stupidity takes its time, just like gravity.

  6. bill kwalwasser says:

    Chuckie is a perfect candidate to appear on Fox News – oh god!

  7. Cato the Elder says:

    Chuck Norris’ tears can cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

  8. Wavefunction says:

    So Chuck Morris is trashing the industry for focusing on rare diseases while ignoring *diabetes* (I guess my uncle who has diabetes must be having some kind of magic access to scientists working underground then) while others do exactly the opposite? Seems you can never win.

  9. The Iron Chemist says:

    Chuck Norris does not get cancer. Cancer gets Chuck Norris.
    Chuck Norris has no use for column chromatography. He stares sternly at his crude mixtures and the compounds sheepishly separate themselves.
    Azides refuse to work with Chuck Norris because he is too dangerous.

  10. Sideline chemist says:

    Is anyone besides me howling with laughter that good old Chuck’s anger with evil pharmaceutical companies has been inspired by perflubron, one of the most unnatural compound you can find?
    Last I checked, bacteria, sponges, yeasts, & other little critters were not biosynthesizing poly-fluorinated compounds Chuck!

  11. dave w says:

    #10: Chuck Norris is so ugly that Fluorine refuses to bond with him…

  12. Chemjobber says:

    “During the past two decades, the pharmaceutical industry in particular has focused almost exclusively on an automated, high-tech approach to discovering drugs derived from synthetic compounds and has shunned traditional trial-and-error chemistry and natural compounds.”
    I’ve always known that Sam Danishefsky was ghost-writing for Chuck Norris.

  13. Chemjobber says:

    Also, Chuck Norris has been plagiarizing the New York Times, or at least his ghostwriter has been:
    From that NYTM article on insulin back then:
    “For the pharmaceutical industry — which during the past two decades has increasingly focused on an automated, high-tech approach to discovering drugs — it would mark a victory for old-fashioned trial-and-error chemistry, the kind of endless tinkering and mucking around in the dark that by now was supposed to be a thing of the past.”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Enter the dragon pt 2:
    Chuck Norris vs. Derek Lowe
    Science vs. Scientology ….astronomy vs. astrology…..

  15. Dennis says:

    @Chemjobber, glad to see I wasn’t crazy when I was thinking that most of the parts at the end sounded like I’ve read it before.

  16. Chemjobber says:

    @Dennis, heh, no kidding. I don’t know what Chuck Norris on pharma sounds like, but it just didn’t sound like what I would expect of him, especially the critique of the last 20 years of drug discovery.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I heard Chuck Norris complain at Davos that the biggest problem is that the homo-lumo orbital combinations of too many drugs are incompatible with those of the Cyp34A enzyme. Not.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Stick to Dodgeball movies.

  19. matt says:

    Everybody’s piling on Chuck Norris, but what he said isn’t _that_ unreasonable. This blog has talked about the excesses of combichem, and championed at least a moderate swing of the pendulum back toward the craft of a phenotypic screening.
    Granted, it’s not really clear what that has to do with the FDA approval process, or perflubron, but there is certainly an aspect of truth just missing some context.
    John LaMattina completely whiffs on another statement. Norris said “PER BILLION DOLLARS” invested, the pharma industry was less productive. LaMattina responded the overall numbers were higher, but failed to include the denominator, the dollars invested.
    Again, this blog has talked about the increasingly harder scramble to bring drugs to market. This is not an inaccurate point, I think. Norris may well be wrong about causes, and clueless about what should be done to correct it (I think we’re all in THAT boat), but the claim was attacked as incorrect when I think it is not.
    Given where the Norris piece was published, it probably was one of their more accurate and less ignorant editorials.
    The important thing to realize is that Norris represents “the Average Guy” with an interest in the process by which we get medicine, and rather than dismissing his concerns arrogantly, it would behoove pharma industry observers to engage him and work to inform.
    Otherwise, you may see an FDA dismantled, pharma pricing gutted much further than anything seen so far, and in fact the whole industry crippled by an unholy legislative alliance of FDA critics, Big Pharma bashers, Food Babe airheads, legions of Dr. Oz cretins, and purveyors of woo. To prevent that, we need to engage with the thoughtful (though uninformed), and peel them away with reason from adding democratic mass to the zealots.

  20. ADR says:

    @10 Those are truly hilarious! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Anonymous says:

    @20 – very well said.

  22. azetidine says:

    The problem here is that Chuck Norris does not believe in the periodic table. The only element he recognizes is the element of surprise.

  23. Carl Pham says:

    @20 – right on.
    This is a republic. And a free market system. You do NOT prosper by calling your customer and average voter a blinkered fool. Even when he is.

  24. Carl Pham says:

    Also, with respect to Lowe’s terminal comment, the turnabout is not fair play. You can live your entire life knowing beans about martial arts and completely unaware of expert opinion on the subject. Nobody will ever ask you to vote on appropriating $100 billion of public money to support this or that style of kicking — which may have significant impact on how long you live, down the line. It does not intrude on your life, unless you wish it.
    Unfortunately, medicine impacts everyone’s life, sooner or later, and, to an extent that no doubt can be fiercely debated, everyone pays some portion of its R&D costs — through taxes, drug costs paid by Medicare, et cetera. Everyone is involved, whether they want to be or not, whether they have the wit, training and interest to be or not. It’s not possible to just say “let the experts handle this and trust them.” That way lies disaster for everyone. It’s important that somebody take the precious time to explain to the ignorant but honest why things are the way they are, and recruit them to a more informed viewpoint.

  25. InsilicoConsulting says:

    #20, anonymous and #25! I agree

  26. Dr Manhattan says:

    @20 “The important thing to realize is that Norris represents “the Average Guy” with an interest in the process by which we get medicine, and rather than dismissing his concerns arrogantly, it would behoove pharma industry observers to engage him and work to inform.”
    You do know that Chuck is a big proponent of Creation “Science”? So while it you could try to engage him, you might not go too far before running into problems…

  27. Johannes says:

    I especially don’t understand his criticism that 70% of new drug approvals are for rare diseases.. Pharma has massive incentives for broader diseases already, if it was possible they would pursue those instead of rare diseases.

  28. Hap says:

    1) Medicine affects lots of people, but its workings are not transparent (and not just the financial ones). If people could learn to perform as doctors or drug makers with much less training, someone would probably be training them to do so, but the volume of knowledge needed to understand its workings (and to understand the gaps in that knowledge) and to implement them means that people who don’t know most of that probably aren’t going to be able to change it usefully for the better.
    2) If someone is ghostwriting Norris’s criticism, then it’s not necessarily clear who he’s speaking for – it could be that the writing is similar to what he knows and believes (although he could have done it himself in that case), or it may not. It also may not mean that such criticism is likely to reflect the criticism of the general population – it might be accurate criticism but one can’t assume it reflects the feeling or perceptions of lots of people.
    3) 70% seems high, but pharma going at niche diseases wouldn’t be surprising – the big diseases that would be appropriate targets also have lots of failures, and the small market size of rare diseases means potentially smaller trials, an easier path to approval (because of the lack of other options), and a diminished need to worry about competition. I also don’t know if “rare diseases” counts the various genetic subsets of cancer agents which may have small enough target populations to fit under that designation.

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