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Big Tobacco is buying exclusive rights to lung cancer drugs.
November 13, 2001 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Big Tobacco is buying exclusive rights to lung cancer drugs. I can't begin to count the ways that this is just wrong.
posted by skechada (33 comments total)

 
I don't see anything wrong with it. However, their long time defense that smokey-treats don't cause cancer might have a snag now.

The good thing is Tobacco companies have $$$, and no doubt they will be dumping money into research that other companies might now have the luxury of doing. Does that mean a better drug? Hopefully. More expensive drugs? Absolutely.
posted by remlapm at 12:37 PM on November 13, 2001


Well why should someone else make easy money off of all of the hard work the tobacco companies put into giving everyone lung cancer, hm?
posted by whatnotever at 12:38 PM on November 13, 2001


exactly, now their cradle to grave business model can be extended a few years.
posted by badstone at 12:42 PM on November 13, 2001


On the upside, an anti-cancer vaccine is very Spider Jerusalem.
posted by GriffX at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2001


I'm really confused by usage of the word vaccine here. It's always been my understanding that cancer has nothing to do with viruses/bacteria, but is (simplistically) cells making bad copies of themselves uncontrollably.

Is there a virus or bacterium that has been found to cause cancer specifically? For that matter, WHAT cancer? I don't believe they've all been found to have a common cause.
posted by Su at 1:15 PM on November 13, 2001


Without getting too much into it, there is good data to suggest that certain viruses and bacterial infections can contribute to certain cancers, though some are hotly debated, like SV40 in mesotheliomas (and perhaps others).

Less hotly debated is HPV's (human papilloma virus, i.e. genital warts) link to cervical cancer.
posted by Skot at 1:26 PM on November 13, 2001


Japan Tobacco ranks as the third-biggest tobacco company in the world and manufactures Camel, Winston, Salem and Mild Seven cigarettes.

What? R.J. Reynolds makes Camel, Winston, and Salem.


posted by geronimo_rex at 1:29 PM on November 13, 2001


According to Hoovers, Japan Tobacco has rights to sell Camel, Winston and Salem outside the US. They also control 75% of the tobacco consumption in Japan.
posted by jgilliam at 1:39 PM on November 13, 2001


Su, the situation is more complicated than that. In a normal person, cells go cancerous all the time. (Yes, in you.) But in a normal person, the immune system spots these aberrant cells and kills them before they become dangerous. The disease we call "cancer" doesn't appear to be the development of cells which divide rapidly, but rather the development of cells which are doing that in such a way as to not be attacked by the immune system.

The point of the research is to figure out what kinds of antigen tags such cells might develop which could be used to cue the immune system in to attack and kill them the way it ordinarily does other cancer cells which don't get out of control.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:43 PM on November 13, 2001


SDB: I know I was oversimplifying. My point had less to do with the cancer process itself than with usage of the word.
Using one of Skot's examples, wouldn't that be an HPV virus, with cancer prevention as an added benefit because they're related? Unless it's can be said that it categorically causes cancer.
Yes, I know I'm probably quibbling, but I'm also the person who cringes every time someone says "germ." There are no such things as germs. It's essentially a marketing term.
posted by Su at 1:55 PM on November 13, 2001


That seems consistent with the fact that it was a genetic research watchdog group that compiled the initial report. (Acrobat link) I was thinking just chemo drugs when I first read the news clip, but I guess it is some sort of genetic therapy (and patents to the genes that some of the biotech companies owned)that the report is talking about.
posted by skechada at 2:00 PM on November 13, 2001


you cancer folks got me bewildered but I think the smoke people got it just about right: sell a product that makes lots of money and gives cancer; cell a product that might cure the cancer and make lots of money. Reminds me of the hospital scene in Catch 22 where the patient gets a tube into his mouth and one draining him at the same time...cut out the middle man.
posted by Postroad at 2:08 PM on November 13, 2001


"Research suggests that for most cancerous tumors to attain life-threatening characteristics, or for cancer to metastasize throughout the body, some cancer cells must become immortal through an alteration which prevents their telomeres from shortening. The activation of telomerase is almost always the means by which cancer cells become immortal. If the activation of telomerase by cancer cells could be inhibited effectively, the normal process of telomere shortening and resulting cell senescence or death would dispose of most cancer cells before they became life-threatening."

- Geron Corporation
posted by Dean King at 2:18 PM on November 13, 2001


I don't see anything wrong with it.

Hi, here's an extremely addictive product that very well might give you a fatal disease, but don't worry, because you can just buy our vaccine in order to stave off said fatal disease. Oh, you have to get the vaccine yearly, and that will be $2000, please. Not covered by health insurance, because, you know, smoking is a choice.

I'll admit to being a little biased in my opinion here, because I've lost, almost lost and am losing family members to cancer that was likely caused by smoking. I think there are at least some moral considerations in the idea that the company that sells the products that cause disease also sells you the cure.
posted by kittyloop at 2:21 PM on November 13, 2001


kittyloop:
I think there are at least some moral considerations in the idea that the company that sells the products that cause disease also sells you the cure.

They're just taking their cue from various religions that sell you a product (sin) that requires a cure (salvation), which they also are the sole vendors of. ;)
posted by calyirose at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2001


calyirose -

Yeah, but since indulgences went out of style, it just hasn't been the same value for your money. : )
posted by kittyloop at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2001


kittyloop, I was referring to it being legally wrong, not morally.

Would you prefer that there is no cure? Tobacco companies have the money to fund research. At least it's a start.
posted by remlapm at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2001


I wouldn't be surprised if the cure for death was derived from cancer cells. Any MeFites want to enlighten me why we couldn't retool all cells to telomerase and never die? Or is it possible we can and those scientists haven't figured how to do it exactly?
posted by geoff. at 2:48 PM on November 13, 2001


remlapm -
Thanks for clarifying. Yes, I would like to see a cure, and yes tobacco companies have the money to fund it. But the thought of them holding the patents at the end of the day still fills me with revulsion.
posted by kittyloop at 3:04 PM on November 13, 2001


How does this issue look from the perspective of those who don't smoke, or never have smoked, but do have cancer? On the good side, there is a well funded sponsor of research who is very expert in a cancer causing agent. On the bad side, we may have to rename Big Tobacco, Dr. Tobacco.
posted by prodigal at 3:09 PM on November 13, 2001


"JT International is a relatively new company, formed when the Japan Tobacco Group purchased the international operations of R J Reynolds Inc. in 1999. We are the world's third largest international tobacco company, manufacturing three of the world's top five cigarette brands - Camel, Mild Seven and Winston - and one of the world's leading menthol brands, Salem."

Corporate Watch in Japanese: "The biggest hurdle for [Japan Tobacco's] pharmaceutical business could be public resentment against the company for selling both cigarettes and drugs. Takashi Kato, managing director of the pharmaceutical business, insists the tobacco business does not hinder its activities. "Doctors would use our drug as long as it is good, even if they hate smoking," said Kato. But Urata at research planning admitted that some overseas laboratories refused to collaborate with the company because it is selling cigarettes.... Japan Tobacco is also looking to expand into overseas markets. Though the tobacco market is flat in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, other regions are showing growth. The company invested $7.8 billion to take over RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp.'s global tobacco business, except for sales in the U.S., last May."
posted by Carol Anne at 3:23 PM on November 13, 2001


Meanwhile, Nokia et al are patenting all sorts of mods to reduce their cell phone's radiation spewage, at the same time as they swear its harmless.

Welcome to the 21st Century
posted by BentPenguin at 4:55 PM on November 13, 2001


Only good companies are allowed to do good things like cure cancer. Unless of course they become successful and therefore big. And, we all know that big companies are bad.

If a company once sells a bad product then it is targeted by lawyers who then prevent them from improving the product because lawyers use that as evidence that the company was bad.

Lawyers use this strategy to give the little people money and they are therefore good.
posted by Real9 at 4:59 PM on November 13, 2001


Moral quandry? Heck no, this is synergy! Lots and lots of synergy.

Christ this is depressing...[reaches for cigarette]
posted by edlark at 5:01 PM on November 13, 2001


Any MeFites want to enlighten me why we couldn't retool all cells to telomerase and never die? Or is it possible we can and those scientists haven't figured how to do it exactly?

Telomerase isn't the only thing keeping cells alive. It maintains the length of your DNA, so that you don't lose important genes. It's generally active in normal cells too, but not quite to the same extent. Cancer comes about when the balance between cell growth and cell death is disrupted, and the cells that can escape cell death are the really bad ones, and escaping cell death doesn't have much to do with telomerase at all.

While telomerase is important to continued division, there are other problems associated with old age as well, most of which is the sheer amount of damage that one's accumulated by that point in time.
posted by LabTroglodyte at 5:09 PM on November 13, 2001


Andy Dick did a skit on the short lived "Andy Dick Show" on MTV where he was a CEO of a cell phone company who also sold patches for tumors to cover them up (caused by a cell phone).

"Just because we sell cell phones and make tumor patches doesn't mean our cell phones cause tumors...I mean, come on."
posted by Mark at 6:01 PM on November 13, 2001


"Meanwhile, Nokia et al are patenting all sorts of mods to reduce their cell phone's radiation spewage, at the same time as they swear its harmless."

Actually I don't see anything wrong with that. Let's say you're a big cell phone manufacturer, and all of a sudden people are claming your phones cause cancer. (For the sake of argument, let's assume they don't.) You have two options. One is to spend billions of dollars to reduce the phone's radiation output to a level that these people deem acceptable. The other is to spend even more billions on advertising and education to convince people that your products are fine just the way they are, and nobody will believe you anyway.

What do you do?
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:22 PM on November 13, 2001


I kinda like this idea. It's a gimme for the tobacco companies, who are facing huge payouts in various kinds of lawsuits and settlements regarding lung cancer caused in part by their products; buying into the treatment market acts as a hedge. But it's even better for society, in that the people participating in the process -- from the shareholders in tobacco companies, to the consumers -- are ultimately paying for the development of treatments. The money goes to the medical company and they get to pour it back into R&D of the next drug or vaccine.

The more I think about this the more I like it. Yes, it's a strange Faustian bargain, but think about it.

Bent and Cray: This is really more like in Fight Club, where Jack works as an accident investigator. He determines the cost of recalling vehicles to repair a defect, and if it's below X they'll do it, but if it's higher than X, they settle and "hide" the defect.
posted by dhartung at 4:06 AM on November 14, 2001


if one is stupid enough to smoke knowing it causes fatal lung and heart diseases, one may just be stupid enough to not use lung drugs to extend one's already short, pathetic life for stupid principles concerning ethics of people who sell those selfsame smokes which cause fatal lung and heart diseases, etc.

dhartung-jack his name isn't given as jack, as you know, if you're going to be uber be uber.
posted by elle at 5:11 AM on November 14, 2001


Strange. The original link to the story no longer seems to work, but leads instead to a story about how "Vendors and Telcos Weave the Mobile Web". A quick search there for "Japan Tobacco" yields nothing.

The story can still be found here, though.
posted by UnReality at 8:19 AM on November 14, 2001


if one is stupid enough to smoke knowing it causes fatal lung and heart diseases, one may just be stupid enough to not use lung drugs to extend one's already short, pathetic life for stupid principles

I'm stupid enough for the first part, but not quite stupid enough for the second part. Am I too stupid to post to MetaFilter? I guess I'll leave that up to elle, who knows better than anyone.

What an irritating, snotty, high-horse post. But hey, on the other hand, you contributed nothing at all to the discussion. Way to go!
posted by Skot at 10:03 AM on November 14, 2001


Thanks for the update, Unreality. :) I grabbed the link from a tech website, so they might've just used the same addy for a diff news bite.
posted by skechada at 2:59 PM on November 14, 2001


i'm sorry confusing semantics aren't funny and some other things are.
posted by elle at 5:31 PM on November 14, 2001


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