WHO: With Aid From GSK And Merck, Togo Becomes First Nation In Africa To End Lymphatic Filariasis as a Public Health Problem

April 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

After over 10 billion doses of a pair of medicines — essentially all donated by charitable arms affiliated with the two multinationals, over almost two decades — Togo has eliminated both elephantiasis and river blindness, as public health concerns, in the country.

The WHO has certified Togo as the first African nation to reach this milestone. Here’s a bit — and to be certain, Kenilworth should rightfully be lauded for this (as should GSK):

. . . .”We celebrate this important achievement with the people of Togo. Lymphatic filariasis is a debilitating, but preventable, disease that not only affects patients and their families but also communities and health care systems,” said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, Merck’s chief patient officer. “Working with our partners for nearly two decades, we strive to eliminate LF in Africa and Yemen to help improve the lives of tens of millions of people.”

Phil Thomson, president of Global Affairs, GSK said “Achieving elimination of LF is a fantastic achievement for Togo and is testament to the commitment of the Togolese Government and the dedication of the health workers delivering treatments on the front line. We are committed to playing our part with the donation of albendazole for as long as it is needed to replicate this success throughout endemic countries, freeing communities from the burden of LF.”

The MDP’s director, Dr. Yao Sodahlon, is a Togolese national and expert in tropical diseases who worked closely over the years with the ministry of health and other partners to ensure Togo’s success. . . .

This is a story not told often enough, about the morally just contributions of many life sciences companies — to “the humbled, the lowly — the least able to pay — of our brothers and sisters. . .” (to refer to Luke 10:30-37, as Pentecost looms). . . But brothers and sisters. . . all of us, are — just the same. Now you know. Onward — with a fiercely independent smile.


Op Ed: I Don’t Think An RA/QA Expert Is A “Must Have” — At Merck’s Board Of Director Level…

April 17, 2017 - Leave a Response

I debated with myself, about whether to even mention this, when the proxy filed last week. I chose not to, back then. . . .

But just this morning, the shareholder proponent of a proxy proposal (called Trillium) filed so-called “free writing” solicitation material, ostensibly to answer the company’s suggestion that the proponent’s proposal isn’t worthy of the shareholders’ affirmative vote. [NOTE: This post is not intended as proxy soliciting material, of any stripe — and this blog is affiliated with no one on either side of this debate — this is merely business journalist commentary and legal analysis, of the issues involved. Merck’s position on the matter may be found here (at page 78).]

In essence, the shareholder proponent would like a report, on how best to “strengthen” Merck’s QA/RA chops — at the full board level. From Trillium’s SEC filing:

. . . .[Please] issue a report (at reasonable cost, in a reasonable time and excluding confidential information) evaluating the merits and feasibility of Merck (1) strengthening Board expertise in pharmaceutical manufacturing and product quality and safety, (2) adopting an independent board chair leadership structure, and (3) any other related governance improvements the Board wishes to consider. . . .

Aside from the language problems I see with the proposal (that arguably make it inappropriate, under existing SEC rules and releases and no action letters, as a subject for advisory vote by shareholders), I am convinced that the proponent’s premise is ill-founded. [And it matters quite a bit that at none of the companies Trillium mentions, is the Chairman and CEO also a lawyer — Merck’s is, and (based on my eight years of close observation) he sets a very appropriate regulatory focus, “at the top.”]

That is, I think even though some other multinational public pharmaceutical and life science companies have QA/RA experts at the board level — it doesn’t strike me that such a person is a requirement for effective corporate governance, at Merck — given its Chairman/CEO’s legal background.

True enough, a strong QA/RA function is an absolute requirement for any large pharmaceutical concern, but that is largely an operations and management function (i.e., well-below board level). And Merck’s is robust, in my independent estimation. Kenilworth may make various mistakes, from time to time, but this — RA/QA — is one of their long suits, in my view.

If Merck had seven 483s pending right now (it does not), or the FDA shutting down its facilities left and right (nope), then “tone at the top” would be a very important priority — even reaching into the board room. That may have been the old legacy Schering-Plough problem (i.e., pre-2010) — but that is clearly not the profile of New Merck.

So. . . were I a shareholder (I am not), I’d vote no on the Trillium proposal.

Now you know. Onward. [I welcome a reply, from Trillium, in comments. I will run it — as a new post. But note to Trillium: yours will also be “free-writing” material, so do comply with SEC rules. I will run all that you need to do so, should you choose to respond.]


An Excellent Fourth Circuit Brief, Filed Over The Long Holiday Weekend…

April 17, 2017 - Leave a Response

Do go read it all (a 67 page PDF file) — but it is no longer even remotely clear to me that the Fourth Circuit will rule in 45’s favor.

In fact, it is increasingly likely that the Trump Administration’s appeal to the Supremes will come on the heels of both the Fourth (unexpected) — and Ninth (widely expected) — Circuits ruling against the Constitutionality his Muslim Ban 2.0.

. . . .The facts of this case are extraordinary. President Trump publicly committed himself to an indefensible goal: banning Muslims from coming to the United States.

The President refused to repudiate that goal on multiple occasions, including after he was elected, and he continues to advertise it to this day on his own website. . . .

The President also explained how he would implement his impermissible goal:

Because people objected when he used “the word Muslim,” he announced, he would instead be “talking territory, not Muslim.”

He followed through on this promise in an Executive Order signed one week after inauguration, and prepared with no input from the relevant federal agencies. . . .

The government has never contested that the extraordinary record in this case, taken in full, establishes that the President adopted the Order with the primary purpose of targeting Muslims. . . . Nor has it ever argued that the government could ban people because of their religion consistent with the commands of the Establishment Clause. . . .

Now you know. Late this week, I’ll fly down south, and drive into rural Alabama, for the collegiate Nationals (triathalon); then Mississippi the following weekend. . . smile.


Large Genome Study: 2014-2016 West African Ebola Epidemic Traveled (Mostly) By “Short Hops”…

April 17, 2017 - Leave a Response

From late 2013 to 2016, for the first time in the history of infectious diseases — and in an Ebola outbreak (actually, in any real viral epidemic of size) — a vast (near universal) sampling of the blood, and thus the genomes, of infected patients took place. . . .

As the University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP reported last week, this in turn led to a treasure trove of data, about how and where, and when the virus was transmitted, and mutated. Do go read it all — but the learning is that the virus traversed only small geographic distances, in the main. It was spread by very local communities of contact, as a general rule (with urban centers being an exception). Do go read it all, as another study is also detailed there, at CIDRAP:

. . . .The largest genome sample ever analyzed for a human epidemic reveals that the West Africa epidemic unfolded with small, overlapping outbreaks as the virus spread over short distances and that urban settings amplified the spread. . . .

Meanwhile, another study harnessed different advanced scientific tools in the blood of a single sick patient to detail gene-level response during infection. . . .

Now you know — breakfast at the train station diner, with my graduating senior — then a walk to the office, on a flawless Easter Monday. Smile. . . be well, one and all. The Universe will sing midnight rain-songs, tonight, for certain. . . .


This Past Week, Several Large Terrestrial Radio Telescopes Cooperated — To “Image” A Black Hole’s Event Horizon…

April 15, 2017 - Leave a Response

Using a virtual radio scope, essentially the size of the Earth itself (a half-dozen radio dishes, spanning the globe, were lashed to one another, by software links) — the idea was to capture a non-visible light “image” of the black hole (and its event horizon) at the center of our own galaxy.

It seems that effort has succeeded. Late in 2017, we will see a representation at least — of the most lonely of places — a place from which no light, no heat  — and no soft, lilting voices ever escape — an event horizon. Where time itself. . . stops. [It will take weeks to process the data, into an image.]

Until we have that image — transformed into visible wave-lengths — for our human eyes to decipher. . . I will leave you with this, at right.

And. . . as I write this down, I know that any amount of  feeling alone is merely a matter of relative degrees — it dawns on me that we are (as I’ve modified Taylor) — simply raindrops on the midnight pavement of stars. . . . among hundreds of billions, in this local cluster alone.

Or as Milton wrote — we look up, into a Milky Way, “powdered with stars. . . .” powdered with. . . in all likelihood, billions more of. . . us.

Humbling indeed, in her glistening, crinkled space near-eternity. . . [as she increments — by two. Smile.]

Be well, one and all.


Without Any Ado At All — Or Any Explanation… I Give You… Kim Jon Shkreli!

April 14, 2017 - Leave a Response

I can’t tell if the Facebook user who photo-shopped this (click at right to enlarge) intended it as satire, or loving homage — and I don’t care. Fair use — for editorial comment — is claimed, by this site.

My comment is. . . damn.

Just. . . damn.

Enjoy one and all — that’s an (early) Easter goodie!

[Apparently Mr. Shkreli has been trolling undergrad meme boards, at the University of Chicago this week. I am certain he is unaware just how. . . sad that seems to most of the sentient world. Hanging out with undergrads, as he approaches 1-1/2 times their age — since (obviously) he had no comparable experience, at that point in his life. Speaks to a deep hole, in his soul. ]


A Sign Of Domestic Policy Desperation? Of 45’s Threats — Against America’s Neediest Patients…

April 14, 2017 - Leave a Response

I have resisted for almost three weeks — resisted even mentioning the near daily lunacy 45 utters about his now plainly unravelling lies — on health care. But with Christ now on the cross (according to my former covenants) — I will venture forth, to tell Mr. Trump — of his ultimately impotent and banal depravity.

To speak the truth — to that vain, and small handed power. And tell the readership — though I suspect most of you saw it in the New York Times, this very morning (Paul Krugman’s opinion piece is spot on, as well). [He is threatening a wide array of the support payments (some of which he lacks the power to change, without an Act of Congress), now embedded in the US health care delivery system — well beyond de-funding Planned Parenthood, overnight.]

Although I continue to firmly believe 45 will be unable to broker any deal on his broad promises about health care delivery, it is enlightening to see his latest tactics. They smell of. . . desperation. The desperation his Congress-critters now convey to him — fresh from the town halls as they (and he) are confronted with the lies they told. And told — and told.

His latest gambit is the classic New York con-artist/thug’s gambit: “that’s a very nice safety net (basic health care for the poor) you worked so hard to build, there (Mr. Obama and the Democrats). . .” then he snarls — “it would be a shame if it imploded” (because I cut the existing funding streams). . . .

This is a form of brazenly immoral posturing — and it must be resisted. Let him own the implosion, if he dares go through with it.

He won’t. Just like a few weeks ago, with his empty threats — this is. . . just that. He will have to step away from the threat, because even the GOP Congress will not back him, in adequate numbers. It is a disgusting, odiously pungent and vain little threat, just the same. “We, the People” must tell him so. Over and over and over again.

We, the People” are not one of the many, many subcontractors on his former building projects — the ones he didn’t pay, or bullied into taking a fraction of what he owed them. We need to stand as one, and put the lie to his cheap, charlatan theatrics, on health care. No Act of Congress, until later in 2018, is my abiding bet. Even if he tries to put it ahead of the tax legislation debates — and perhaps especially so, if he is foolish enough to do so.

I’m off the grid for the weekend. Be well one and all; enjoy dying eggs if the spirit moves you! Whoosh!


A Quiet Good Friday Update: NuvaRing® Settlement Status Hearing Delayed, Again…

April 14, 2017 - Leave a Response

It was early 2014, when an agreement in principle was reached to settle this litigation for $100 million.

As near as I can tell, there are still some class plaintiffs awaiting their checks. And the lawyers (especially on the defense side) continue to bill time, potentially delaying individual fundings (and in truth, even the plaintiffs’ counsel — likely not on an hourly rate any longer — may be slowing the process a bit here, as well) — in closing out this litigation.

So. . . I will admit to being frustrated — as both sides seem to play (at least in part) a game of kick the can down the alley, from a prior April 18, 2017 status date — to an unspecified date in June 2017, overnight. [See this Colorado side note, from over a year ago, now — of some significant pathos, as background.]

Were I to simply adhere to my former covenants — of Christian charity — I would hold the thought that both sides are in earnest working diligently to close this out, and get the disbursements to all injured parties. And so, the thinking would run — they didn’t need to appear before the able federal District judge in Missouri, next Tuesday.

But for at least the last decade, I’ve lived as a Zen realist — and held that one’s life on Earth is as exactly as pleasant (or as awful) as one treats others — even relative strangers (and people we once knew).

Under this view, then — there is no hell, after death (and thus no need for a church’s forgiveness — only the forgiveness of our fellow travelers) — only the hell (or heaven) we create for ourselves here on Earth. Then the cycle starts anew — next lifetime. I will hold the hope that only a few more women will have to wait for “their next life-times,” to see this payout. Now you know. Onward, in somber fashion — on Good Friday. Be safe and well, one and all of good will.


[U] Additional News, Out Of Austin, Texas: Council Approves Merck IT Incentives Package

April 13, 2017 - Leave a Response

Voting 7-3 in favor of the package, after less than an hour of discussion and debate, the Austin City Council this evening is making its bid to win the right to host Merck’s fourth IT “hub” facility. [Our backgrounder, here.]

Kenilworth is reportedly talking to as many as 50 cities around the globe, about the IT hub, and the fairly high income jobs it will provide. Even so, the city council acknowledged that at least initially, most of the best jobs would be filled by people relocating from other Merck facilities around the globe — not native Texans. Here’s a bit — from The Austin Statesman:

. . . .According to the proposal, the company would aim to create 119 full-time jobs and spend almost $6.4 million to equip a temporary facility by the end of this year.

The company also said it would invest almost $29 million over the next decade to build and equip its new innovation center, which would focus on large data collection and the design of technology platforms for “personalized, proactive and preventative health care,” the firm said in its application documents.

An economic impact analysis estimated the project would directly contribute $1.9 million to the city after subtracting the cost of the incentives.

Merck didn’t request incentives from Travis County. Projects of this size and scope often receive an additional grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund when they receive local incentives. Gov. Greg Abbott hasn’t announced any such grant. . . .

Now you know. . . Ahem. I hear some upstart warm-weather hockey franchise (what on Earth might those youngsters know of cold steel, on hard ice?) is still ahead, 1-0 on my storied tribe of ‘hawks, on the west side — and in the third, to boot. Hmmmm. . . this simply won’t do. Won’t do — at all. I guess I’ll have to put the TV on, and straighten things out — wasn’t even looking.

[Updated, Good Friday 2017, at dawn:] The upstart’s goalie, one Pekka Rinne, looked flawless in net, last evening — so congrats, whippersnappers — but will he sustain that immaculate net-minding, for a best of seven? We shall see. . . Smile. . . .


[U] Any Evidence Of Organic (Life-Made) Methane, On Saturn’s Enigmatic “Tiger-Striped” Moon Enceladus?

April 13, 2017 - Leave a Response

It is time to find out — NASA press briefing just now beginning. More soon.

Updated: It is more likely chemical methane, but see graphic at right. Per Space.com, then:

. . . .The new study indicates that the floor of Enceladus’ ocean likely features hot water vents, similar to the ones that host lush ecosystems at the bottom of Earth’s oceans. . . .

The alien ocean also features a type of molecule frequently used as a food supply by life-forms on Earth. . . . . . . .

Be well, one and all. May just be geo-chemical methane. . . . sigh.

And now, in every bit as vulgar a fashion — as the Cassini golden spacecraft, twisting slowing out there, in the dark is elegant . . . 45 is dropping massive GBU-43/B conventional weapons — in Afganistan. I am deeply saddened, and may not update this until late tonight. . . . Why does it always eventually turn to hate — and death, with him? This after we killed 18 local friendly forces, this morning, by mistake. Is he just trying to control the news cycle, with this giant of a bomb? Disgusting.

[And, from Longfellow, modified:] Voices soft, and deep, and serious. . . words that whispered [“thy skin — like. . . heroin”]. . . songs that haunted. . . . G’morning, on a Good Friday. . . .