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Tag: The Economist

Why four doses of ipilimumab costs more than $100,000

Friday, 3 January, 2014 0 Comments

“Like all wars, the one against cancer is going to cost a lot of money, one way or another,” declares The Economist in its current issue in an article about a new campaign against cancer that’s being mounted by researchers and drug companies. Among the therapies examined in “Getting close and personal” is ipilimumab, a drug to treat melanoma that was launched in 2011 by Bristol-Myers Squibb and branded as Yervoy. This is a so-called “checkpoint inhibitor”, which allows immune-system cells called T-lymphocytes to attack cancer cells. Along with fighting melanoma, ipilimumab may also hinder lung cancer and prostate cancer. The stumbling block is the expense for the patient, especially in the US, where four doses of ipilimumab costs more than $100,000.

Why $25,000 a shot? Because bringing a new drug to market in America typically costs upwards of $100 million and can take as many as 15 years of research, testing and regulatory review. The drug companies, understandably, will want to recoup their investment after such a lengthy, pricey process. However, there’s hope on the horizon in the form of “adaptive trial design”, which looks at patients’ reactions to a drug early in a clinical trial to modify the way the rest of the trial is handled. The goal, according to The Wall Street Journal, is to more quickly identify those drugs that are working and those that aren’t. “Researchers Aim to Speed Cures to Patients” admits that the process is tedious but not without some glimmers of hope:

“In a recent hopeful sign, adaptive trial design enabled two experimental breast-cancer drugs to deliver promising results in a clinical trial after just six months of testing, far shorter than the typical length of a clinical trial. Researchers assessed the results while the trial was in process and found that cancer had been eradicated in more than half of one group of patients, a particularly favorable outcome. The breast cancer trial, known as I-Spy 2, is testing up to 12 experimental drugs.”

Faster, please.


Book of the Year: “Submergence” by J.M. Ledgard

Tuesday, 31 December, 2013 0 Comments

J.M. Ledgard leads a double life. As a journalist, he covers East Africa for The Economist, but he’s also a novelist and the multitasking narrator of Submergence, James More, reflects Ledgard’s twofold career. Ostensibly, he’s a water engineer based in Nairobi, but that’s just a cover for his activities as a British intelligence agent. When we meet him, he’s been captured by a Somalian affiliate of al-Qaeda, which keeps moving him back and forth across the bleak African terrain, trying to hide from American drones while planning jihad. James is sustained in his suffering by the memory of a brief affair in a hotel on the French Atlantic coast with Danielle Flinders, a brilliant and carnal bio-mathematician, who studies the luminous creatures of the ocean floor. As James sinks deeper into the desolation of his captivity, Danielle prepares for a dive that will take her to the extreme depths of the Atlantic. Submergence mixes language, science, politics, geography and love in a superb story about deserts, oceans, desire and terror.

Saif, the leader of the jihadist group, constantly talks of martyrdom. At one point, he says, “I expect to die soon. I welcome it. I expect you’ll be killed too. That is why I want you to convert to Islam.”
“No,” James said, firmly.

This exchange is followed by a truly extraordinary lyrical passage:

“There was no chance he would convert. It was not just a question of Islam, it was the way life was constructed. A man lived his threescore years and ten, less than a whale, less than a roughy fish, and the only way to come to terms with his mortality was to partake in something that would outlive him: a field cleared of stones, a piece of jewellery, a monument, a machine. Every man was a loyalist for what he knew. Even tramps fought for the tramping life. Life was too short for him to renounce the English parish church, once Catholic, with their knights’ tombs, prayer cushions, flower arrangements, the brass lectern in the shape of an eagle. No, the quiet of those places — the ancient front door, the graveyard, the meadow, the damp — gave him a sense of belonging. He was loyal to them. It was too late to abandon the English canon, from Chaucer to Dickens, the first World War poets, Graham Greene typing through the smog and the drizzle… He had said it before: he was an intelligence officer who reached out, spoke Arabic, read widely, but if the Crusades were invoked — and Saif was invoking them — then he was a Crusader. If he had to die at the hands of fanatics, he wished to remain familiar and coherent to those whom he loved and who loved him.”

J.M. Ledgard has partaken in something that will outlive him and he’s to be congratulated for writing such honest and moving prose. If, in 2014, we are to suffer pain and loss, let us remain familiar and coherent to those whom we love and who love us.

desert


Obama must strike now

Friday, 30 August, 2013 6 Comments

The spineless stance of the 285 British MPs who hid behind the tainted skirts of the UN last night does not change reality. To let the Syrian tyrant go unpunished now would assure him, and like-minded barbarians, that the proliferation and use of chemical weapons will be tolerated. And that cannot be. If the UK is unwilling to uphold this prohibition, it is even more important that the US does. In the words of The Economist:

The Economist “Because doing nothing carries risks that are even bigger. If the West tolerates such a blatant war crime, Mr Assad will feel even freer to use chemical weapons. He had after all stepped across Mr Obama’s ‘red line’ several times by using these weapons on a smaller scale — and found that Mr Obama and his allies blinked. An American threat, especially over WMD, must count for something: it is hard to see how Mr Obama can eat his words without the superpower losing credibility with the likes of Iran and North Korea.”

Obama must now proceed with a “punishment of such severity that Mr Assad is deterred from ever using WMD again. Hitting the chemical stockpiles themselves runs the risk both of poisoning more civilians and of the chemicals falling into the wrong hands. Far better for a week of missiles to rain down on the dictator’s ‘command-and-control’ centres, including his palaces. By doing this, Mr Obama would certainly help the rebels, though probably not enough to overturn the regime. With luck, well-calibrated strikes might scare Mr Assad towards the negotiating table.”

It’s time to hit Assad. Hard. Otherwise we can abandon civilization to the wolves. In his third year of wavering, two years after stating Assad had to go, one year after drawing — then redrawing — that red line, Barack Obama must act. Alone, if necessary.


Wanted: Jesus with an MBA

Tuesday, 12 March, 2013 0 Comments

“Its fastest growing markets are in the emerging world. The number of Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 1m in 1910 to 171m today, or from 1% of the total to 16%. The number in the Asia-Pacific region has risen from 14m in 1910 to 131m today, or from 5% of the total to 12%.” Those are the kind of numbers that any manager would like to hear and in “Pope, CEO,” The Economist treats the Catholic Church as an enterprise in need of management advice. Inspired by this market-driven approach to the papacy, the BBC invited Revered Robert Gahl, an associate professor of ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, to write “The pope as CEO.” Snippet:

“Many of the cardinals hope that the next pope will be able to bring managerial efficiencies to the Vatican to empower all of those dedicated clerics and lay people who give their lives while serving behind those ancient walls.

Given the need for reform, no-one should be surprised if the next pope, while drawing from his own managerial talents, were also to rely upon experts in managerial consulting while taking on organisational reform so as to better serve the mission entrusted to him by the board of directors.”

There’s a lot of truth in these observations, but it is also true that the papacy existed long before The Economist, the BBC, the MBA and the CEO, and it will continue long after they have been replaced by other channels and acronyms. A secular “solution” for a belief system would neither please secularists nor believers, but the speculation does fill space until the white smoke emerges and, in the case of The Economist and the BBC, the conjecture is so erudite that it’s enjoyable.


China: The Economist flatters; the New York Times reveals

Friday, 26 October, 2012 0 Comments

The latest issue of The Economist features Xi Jinping, soon to be named China’s next president, on the cover and the editorial accompanying the title mentions the word “corruption” three times. Here’s the penultimate paragraph: “The Chinese Communist Party has a powerful story to tell. Despite its many faults, it has created wealth and hope […]

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The night Mr Obama met a very serious, very prepared candidate

Friday, 5 October, 2012

Snippet: “Mr Obama’s descent into the gutter has been especially tawdry. Rather than defend his own record or lay out what he wants to do about the deficit, the erstwhile candidate of hope has set his attack dogs on such weighty issues as how much tax Mr Romney paid or how many jobs were lost […]

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The Economist speculates and hedges

Friday, 13 January, 2012

Mitt Romney CEO “Mr Romney has something that the president and his Republican rivals sorely lack: business experience. For 25 years he made himself and the management consultancies BCG and Bain a lot of money by making companies more efficient which, yes, sometimes means firing people, but also drives economic growth. So far, Mr Romney has done a poor job of defending himself against attacks which are really aimed at the creative destruction which is the essence of capitalism itself. He says he created a net 100,000 jobs during his time at Bain. That figure is impossible to prove, but he could do more to argue that the benefits outweigh the costs. His task has not been helped by disgraceful attacks from fellow-Republicans on corporate restructuring.”

The question mark is a most useful device when the fog of electoral war covers the field and “America’s next CEO?” is typical of the kind of speculative hedge that employs it when fence sitting seems to be the best option. Punctuation aside, The Economist seems to be warming to the leading Republican candidate for the White House: “Mr Romney seems sure-footed. It is hard to think of a single misstep in this campaign. He may be wooden, but no scandal has ever attached to him. His family life is impeccably monogamous and progenitive. Those who have worked closely with him tend to admire him. On both the economic and the foreign-policy sides, he has already put together impressive and above all sensibly moderate teams.”


Do not be a charioteer, be a scribe

Monday, 9 January, 2012

Writing is the greatest invention, according to Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist, writing in the January/February issue of INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine. His conclusion:

“The amazing thing about writing, given how complicated its early systems were, is that anyone learned it at all. The reason they did is revealed in the ancient Egyptian scribal-training texts, which emphasise the superiority of being a scribe over all other career choices, with titles like ‘Do Not Be Soldier, Priest or Baker’, ‘Do Not Be a Husbandman’ and ‘Do Not Be a Charioteer’. This last text begins: ‘Set thine heart on being a scribe, that thou mayest direct the whole earth.’ The earliest scribes understood that literacy was power — a power that now extends to most of humanity, and has done more for human progress than any other invention.”

From WRITING IS THE GREATEST INVENTION.