[back] Taxol & Taxotere


by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.


The National Cancer Institute spent $32 million of taxpayer's money researching its 'cure du jour,' taxol, a toxic drug made from the bark of Pacific yew trees. It then gave exclusive rights to harvest the yew, as well as "monopoly control over the data from federally funded research," to Bristol-Myers Squibb, the worldıs largest producer of chemotherapy.

In this sweet deal, BMS pays no royalties on taxol sales and only a pittance for the rights to the yew tree bark. Yet it charges hapless consumers $1,000 per treatment, or eight times what it cost the NCI to synthesize. These are some of the insights in "Unhealthy Alliances" by Linda Marsa (Omni, 2/94).

The article uncovers an "entangled financial web between government, industry, and academia." We learn that drug makers have "their own network of principal investigators (PIs), scientists, and doctors at leading medical schools around the country...."

While positive results are not required of such researchers, "the drug industry is more likely to continue pumping money to those whose results show that a compound is safe and effective than those who donıt," according to Sidney Wolfe, head of Public Citizenıs Health Research Group.

"All we receive in return for the extravagant tax breaks we give to the drug industry is the highest medication prices in the industrialized world," fumes Sen. David Pryor (D-AR), an industry critic.