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James Love

James Love

Posted: April 13, 2006 02:12 PM

Gilead Sciences and Tech Central Station, Checkbook Journalism


Tech Central Station Daily (TSCDaily.com) is a polished online news and opinion magazine, that is "hosted" by James Glassman, and published by of the DCI Group, L.L.C.

The DCI Group describes itself as "a full-service public and government affairs firm," that "possesses extensive grassroots and government affairs experience," that "helps shape public opinion and outcomes 'outside the Beltway.'" The DCI Group sells Internet Strategies that allows a client "to take an issue and communicate it on your terms to the world - no media filter, no hostile interpretations by opponents." (For more on DCI group, see the entry in SourceWatch.)

With patents on Tamiflu, and drugs such tenofovir (for HIV), adefovir dipivoxil (hepatitis B) and others, Gilead Sciences is among eight "sponsors" of Tech Central Station. Tech Central State has published apparently 20 stories mentioning Tamiflu, including for example, this one:

Incentives and Deadly Disease, Pavel Kohout, 23 Nov 2005 ". . . Currently there are political attempts to expropriate Tamiflu patent rights. As attractive as it may sound to some defenders of the poor, this is the wrong way to go. If Tamiflu rights were confiscated now, it may happen that in case of another epidemic there would be no drug available at all. Even more chillingly, patent rights violations would impede development of drugs for cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other deadly diseases that are far more serious than any epidemic."

Or this one:
Future Flu Fight, Anders Sandberg, 16 Dec 2005
"As the Tamiflu affair shows, it might even be bad for business to have a successful treatment. There is a general perception that it is immoral to profit from a necessary treatment and this has paved the way to destructive precedents of forced licensing. It makes manufacturing drugs against emerging diseases even more commercially risky: if they are unsuccessful you lose money; if they are successful you make less money since governments declare you must license them to competitors or sell them at a certain price. It makes companies concentrate on illnesses that are less likely to be a subject of a political panic and less useful in third world countries."

Or this one:

Figuring Out the Flu, By Dr. Henry I. Miller, 20 Jan 2006
"Historically, flu pandemics have come in two or three waves, lasting a total of 13-23 months. In other words, the need to take Tamiflu -- by first responders, health care workers and ordinary citizens -- could go on for months and months, or even years. U.S. public health officials have said they plan to buy 20 million doses of Tamiflu, but that would be enough to treat only 200,000 people for 100 days at the dosage approved by FDA for prophylaxis. And the retail price per pill is around $8, so the expense to treat that small number of people for that amount of time would be $160 million. According to various models, in the absence of sufficient amounts of an effective vaccine -- which is not yet within reach -- to blunt the first wave of the pandemic, we would need to treat perhaps half of the population with Tamiflu. Do the math: 150 million people for 100 days equals 15 billion doses, at a retail cost of $120 billion."

Tech Central Station even offers a special web page on Bird Flu:

http://www.tcsdaily.com/sections/birdflu/resources.aspx

There is nothing wrong any of these views entering the debate over how to respond to Bird Flu or the patents on Tamiflu. But the fact that they are published on something that looks like a news magazine, but which is in fact run by a public relations company, makes the Page 6 payolla scandal at the NY Post seem less shocking.

In addition to Gilead Sciences, the other sponsors of Tech Central Station include the American Beverage Association, ExxonMobil, Freddie Mac, General Motors Corporation, McDonalds, Merck and PhRMA. They all get plenty of spin for their money. Merck, for example, has benefited from many stories stridently attacking Brazil's efforts to obtain lower prices for the AIDS drug evavirenz. McDonalds benefits from TCS stories like "Kids, Fries and Cancer: Is There a Connection?".

I have frequently been on the receiving end of critical Tech Central Stories, as well as articles elsewhere written by James Glassman and other Tech Central contributors. Because my own views concerning patents on medicines are often presented in a misleading or inaccurate way, I invited James Glassman for lunch, to discuss things. So far, he has not had the time for a face to face chat.

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