Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Anonymous Pushing Birth Control

Anonymous Pushing Birth Control

Who is anonymous, pushing birth control? And why are they staying anonymous?
As researchers, we are slaves of patronage: we rely on the largess of the wealthy to allow us to carry out our craft. If you talk to us, or let us pontificate, you will hear the theme that society should allow us to pursue our scientific interests, with no regard for cost, and no responsability for finding, identifying, justifying, or accounting for the money in any way. Sorry. That is just how we are - or at least the way we have constructed the fable of research. However, like Handel eagerly accepting the commission to compose music at a king's request - and eager to pretty much become British, too, we are eager to accept the call to conduct research if only we can find the patronage.
So, I can understand accepting Pharma money. If, one day, my agenda and Pharma's agenda cross, I just might. In my clinical resaerch world, however, I don't have an agenda to pursue that would add to their sales, and my agenda is basically contrary - I believ we should prioritize non-pharmaceutical interventions wherever there is equivalency, or where psychotherapeutic interventions are better.
Nothing wrong with getting funding, thoughm now and again. So, hey, money comes along from Pharma, and what can you say? What if it is Anonymous money?
Looking through research, I stumbled upon politically charged clinical issues studied with anonymous money. Think about this: Pharma's name is already on research worming its way into policy. And they are allowed to bank-roll FDA, for Goodness sake. Why be anonymous?
So, I looked into this. Why? One, because I am pretty much always suspicious of Pharma. If they have a magic pill, they will run with it. If they don't, they will act like it, and run with it. Once you see their tentacles, be suspicious.
Politics: if you can get your med to be delivered as a matter of government policy, you win. Big time. Scientists at least have half a chance to recognize skull-duggery, and act the right way, despite the influence of money. But when it comes to politics, there are no such checks in place.
The full frontal assault to get Gardasil mandated as policy for all teen-age girls was one clear example.
So, this "anonymous" story makes me wonder.
http://www.choiceproject.wustl.edu/
Put "contraceptive choice project" and "anonymous foundation" into your favorite search engine, and you get a lot. Including the Choice Project.
If you were a suspicious person, you would figure out some guesses pretty quickly. Either a Pharma company is eager to get their birth control to be widely pushed through goverment-dependent systems, such as Planned Parenthood, or an advocacy group who stands to make a lot of money, like Planned Parenthood, has developed a foundation and is getting Pharma to carry out their research. Or something like this.
Where does this suspicion come from? The over-billing stories. One of the Pharma-related stories is that Planned Parenthood, due to their benevolence, gets a discount on prescription medication, and then bills the government full price. This has the potential to be amazingly profitable. Amazingly. I was party to a knowledgeable-insider discussion recently about the dollar value on patented medications. A couple speakers were familiar with the donated-medication programs provided by Pharma. While a drug might have a price tag of $10/pill, the "marginal cost" of each pill may be less than a penny. so, a politically savvy arrangement might have an organization like Planned Parenthood buying a month of birth control pills, let's say a $25 value, for only $5. Pharma can afford it. It won't spoil competition for the ways they sell the Ortho-N for $25. Everyone gets to make some politicla contributions and feel like they have made the world a better place. The only chump is the taxpayer, where the bill for thousands is spread out across tens of thousands.
So, if you can develop the next birth control pill, or ring, or patch, or injection, everybody wins.
Unless you get caught.
But how much trouble can that get you? Elected officials already take all kinds of money from Pharma. No surprise there. If PP gets caught, they just isolate the specific clinic for accounting irregularities, and find the fall guy.
So, the sweet spot is to develop yet another birth control drug that will be viable on the lucrative free market, but that you can also channel through Planned Parenthood. Or, maybe not develop another. Looking over the "Choice Project," it appears that it is a study of current medications. Why study current contraceptive medications?
Why the heavy funding for current contraceptive medications?
Anonymously?
If you google "contraceptive" and "anonymous foundation," you will see that this funding is not limited to St. Louis' "Choice Project." And, it did not start yesterday.

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