Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Adopt, Adapt, and Improve

Most shipmates will recognize this gentleman (shown here in a fourth wall-breaking moment from the Bank Robber/Lingerie Shop bit)'Motto of the Round Table'as John Cleese. (I say "most" because I know that one of you thinks that this gentleman is actually named "Monty Python.")
Which isn't to say that you're wrong; he's the tallest member of the troupe, so he might be mistaken for the leader of Monty Python's Flying Circus. But that's what happens in this New Age, where we assume stuff, are rarely corrected, and are merely told what is important.
By people who rarely get edited or informed.
The Beach's teevee and radio "information" sources lead me to surmise that events (like 2500 flu cases out of 6,776,560,627 people) are just opportunities for misinfotainers like teevee personalities to run their undergarments afoul and make more shrill and stupid noises to satisfy viewers' need for the opiate effects of drivel, and further addict and inure viewers to prolonged and mendacious assaults on their limited reasoning faculties.
Small misapprehensions become widely-accepted misunderstandings. Like "tighter control of criminals' access to firearms" becomes "liberals taking my guns away." Or "seasonal infectious flu instances" becomes "Dirty Illegal Mexican Alien Swine Flu Pandemics."
The fact that various outbreaks have been named "Russian," "Hong Kong," "Spanish," "Swine," or "Bird" means nothing to the influenza. It will infect, mutate, grow, study interpretive dance and do whatever else it is that influenzas do.
The would-be marketing guy in me believes that strains of influenza should be named for their cures, not their origins or causes. That way, you can't panic people on teevee and radio with menacing names for menacing things until you have it completely contained. Thus, the focus will be on fixing the disease and not on naming the disease.
Of course, you'll suffer a horrid debilitating drowning coughing illness from Tamiflu-Correctible Influenza or from Scuzzy Wetback Wallowing Pigfilth Flu either way. The former just looks nicer in the obituary.
A lively discussion took place at Dr. Momentum's Aces Full of Links, where I -- as I am often wont to do -- veered wildly and recklessly off-topic in order to satisfy my compulsion to talk about ME.
His post concerned Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman's suggestion that this swine flu should be renamed "Mexican influenza" so as not to offend Muslim and Jewish sensitivities about pork. A brief mention of "insulin injections which may contain porcine products" and I set topsails and courses and left sense in my wake, rattling on about a seven-year-old's experience with Jewish Orthodoxy and his own subsequent knowledge of relative price-per-unit realities in the manufacture of insulin.
A perplexity spied by b.o.b. (bob), a welcome contributor here in The Journal, to whom I owe an even more detailed explanation.
Many years ago, I worked at the Joslin Camp for Diabetic Boys (now operated by The Barton Center), and until that one Summer when I was not begged to come back (something about our pirate radio station and a camp nurse, if memory serves), I -- like the rest of the good consumers-in-training and staff -- was privy to news about breakthroughs in treatment modalities.
Oh, we knew all about the "artificial pancreas" backpacks which pumped measured doses of insulin right into your side at pre-determined intervals. We heard about how someday -- maybe as soon as 1995! -- science would shrink those down to "the size of a quarter." And we heard about how there would soon be "synthetic human" insulin to replace the pork-, beef-, sheep-derived insulin we depended on. Space-age genetics technology would create friendly and plentiful genetically-modified bacteria that would produce huge vats of the stuff, so much that it would be practically free.
There were, of course, skeptics.
Andrew, the Junior Counsellor in Cabin Six, understood a permanent consumer base like insulin-dependent diabetics. "What'll keep drug companies from just saying they have to use more expensive equipment to make it so they have to charge more? Or that you have to buy it more often because it expires in half the time? Or that you have to use more because it's not as strong as the stuff we have now?"
But you'll be able to use the same insulin that I use, not the sheep-beef stuff that they have to special-order, I advised, recalling his religious restrictions. (Which, we later discovered, were actually the result of his father's protracted disagreement with their rabbi over President Reagan's election.) "HAH! You wait. You'll see. They'll control the market with their one product. It's taken me eight years to find the insulin that works perfect for me. No high-highs, no more insulin reactions. Remember that time two Summers ago?"
Of course I remembered Andrew's ordeal. Waterfront watch... blood sugar dropped... thrashing... lines, floats, and canoes... three CiTs with a fishing net. But human insulin...
"You'll see. They'll take everything else off the market and we'll have to buy their kind. They'll find some excuse to take the beef or the sheep off the market. It's a monopoly."
I tried to tell him that there would be different insulin companies manufacturing it and selling it, and competition would bring the price even lower. That he sounded like one of those crazy Project Blue Book/Area 51/UFO nuts.
Or sort of what I sounded like when I observed on James' blog that recombinant-DNA insulin is "cheaper to produce, but costs more." No corroborative evidence, just me typing...
I was that know-it-all smarty-pants Owl from Winnie the Pooh.
And that's how a crisis of confidence and self-policing has inspired me to once again endeavor to avoid adding to other online comments sections. Not because I don't have anything to share; I'll just keep it here where I'll be more comfortable not messing up other peoples' threads.
Remember to wash your hands and don't cough in peoples' faces. Get plenty of rest and avoid stressful or immunity-compromising situations.
Adopt, adapt, and improve.


B.O.B.(bob) said...

I'd hate to think I led to your not commenting. I certainly have added my 2 cents about things I know little about. In fact while I know a lot about biopharmaceuticals I don't have any direct experience with insulin so what follows is no more than informed opinion.

The pharmaceutical industry is it's own worst enemy becuase it isn't honest about the why things are the way they are. they just say trust us. At one time that was enough but people are (rightly) no longer accepting that.

So here's the thing about recombinant human insulin. It is better at controlling diabetes in humans. Because the immune system is designed to reject non-human invaders it starts clearing non-human insulin as soon as it's injected. The recombinant stuff doesn't. Also it is safer since there will be far less chance of being infected with viruses.

Question are diabetics better off today than they were 20-30 years ago (healthier in general, losing fewer limbs, etc.) that's becuase of better insulin for the most part and better control. All discovered through research.

The costs of actually making the drug aren't remotely what you are paying for. your paying for the research that went into that drug and all the other drugs that failed (I've worked in this industry for 20 years, I've worked on dozens of molecules, so far I've worked on 3 that are actually on the market). Same way it doesn't cost Apple $500 to build an iPhone. You're paying for the next iWhatever.

You're also paying for the company to comply with Federal and world wide regulations. The pharmaceutical industry is the most heavily regulated in the world. You think Byzantium was byzantine? you ain't seen nothing. Again though, do you want to not have this be the case? Go back to trusting some unknown person to not doctor your medicine (as happened in China last year).

Oh well enough. Yes drugs are expensive but are drug companies making enormous profits right now? yes they're making money but their bottom lines would say not rcrzy profits like say gas companies or electronics manufactureres in the 90s.

ThirdMate said...

Thanks, Bob.

My easy response is "No doubt!" I hope Andrew is lurking out there. I'm also glad that you mentioned how regulations can affect price. My friends on fishing boats will attest to that. But the cost of research is something that I foolishly forget, and thus I apologize to you.

I fully understand that if I were getting that "free insulin" that we were "promised," (kids say the darnedest things) the research would stop and none of the products or advances I take for granted today would be here. I would be poking beef-pancreas extract into myself with hand-sharpened metal needles and reusing boiled-sterile glass syringes.

I certainly can testify that diabetics are better off with insulin that matches our own, species-wise. For 25 years, I was doing "just fine" with pork insulin. My first analog experience was not good (unexpected lows at unexpected times -- like while driving). I started using the recombinant Humalog, for injections. I still use it in the pump.

As far as my commenting elsewhere is concerned, I'm uncomfortable with second-guessing myself. I spent about two hours writing, editing, fact-checking, reworking, spell-checking, hemming and hawing, previewing and correcting this reponse. (I just did it again, BTW) I must have deleted it all three times, and this is my own comments section! I've just done that too often, most recently at "Aces." I won't spend hours trying to come up with a perfectly wise and witty response; I'm just not feeling as apt these days.

I shall, however, endeavor to be a gracious host here.

Dr. Momentum said...

I've said a lot of things I've regretted, but I've never regretted the corrections.

So, upon reconsideration, I probably shouldn't regret having said the things in the first place. I probably wouldn't know half of what I know if I hadn't said a bunch of those things I regretted.

Does that make any sense?

ThirdMate said...

I just don't want to end up like those jerks on newspaper sites who deride the editorial content and blame Obama for typographical errors. The horror, the horror...