New Pill

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Ted donned a clean lab coat and put on a fresh pair of surgical gloves. It wasn't often the old man even came to the offices of his pharmaceutical company, much less the research department. The President of the board of directors preferred to be called by his first name, and never asked if you felt the same. Franklin refused to admit that his obsession with germs was bordering on level of Howard Hughes. Franklin never wore surgical gloves himself, but he wouldn't shake hands with those who didn't. After working for the company for fifteen years, Ted was going to take the opportunity to shake his boss' hand.

Ted knew why Franklin was on his way to his sparsely outfitted lab. He had discovered a chemical formula that targeted the pain receptors in the neurological systems of humans. Simply said, it stopped nerve pain. It was not a narcotic and had few side effects. It would ease the suffering of millions. Although Ted was flattered to be visited by the head of such a large pharmaceutical company the greatest satisfaction came from the knowledge that his discovery would help his diabetic brother. Diabetics often develop numbness in their limbs called peripheral neuropathy. About one in ten of those diabetics get a form of neuropathy that instead of numbness is constant pain. Think of a time you had a single exposed nerve in your mouth and needed a root canal. Multiply that pain by ten, make the source millions of nerves and make it constant. That is what the painful form of Diabetic Neuropathy is like.

It would also provide relief for the millions with back problems such as a herniated disk that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Another group affected by nerve pain is the ever growing number of HIV victims, and an even larger number of people with cancer. One of the most severely affected patients, are those with RSD. The acronym stands for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which is sometimes called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). The pain is so intense, they compare it to giving birth every ten minutes.

Ted's thoughtful reverie was broken by the arrival of Franklin. The old man seemed affected my neuralgia himself as he excused himself to sit down. He admitted as much during their conversation. Franklin congratulated Ted on his accomplishments. He was proud to give Ted a bonus check of two million dollars, a promotion and a raise that almost doubled his current pay. He also told Ted he could start his two year paid vacation today if he wished. Ted thanked him for his generosity, but said he was confused by the two year paid vacation. There was so much work to be done to get the new pill approved and to market. How could they send him on vacation with that to be done? There had been nine months of test already, and it wasn't until the approval process was far enough along to verify the discovery was actually as effective as it claimed to be. The FDA process for approval was now much shorter than the 22 month window it was in 1992.

Franklin held his hand up to stop the flood of questions pouring out of Ted. He said quietly "That is not how it works around here." He went on to explain that they had just released a drug two years ago that works just on nerve pain. It admittedly did not work even a tenth as well as Ted's new invention, but the pharmaceutical company still had eighteen years left on the patent, before competing companies could release a generic version of the drug. Ted was aghast at the idea it might take almost twenty years before the millions upon millions of people would receive the benefit of his new pill. Another thought was that his brother wouldn't live that long in the pain he currently was in. Ted told Franklin that his brother's pain was one of the driving forces for him to discover some relief. Franklin assured him that his brother would be in on all the new trials and testing, so he would have a steady supply.

Franklin went on to say the pharmaceutical company was in business to make money, not to heal the sick. They would probably spend 250 million dollars, which is a quarter of a billion dollars advertising this new drug, instead of the usual 160 million dollars. That would drive the selling price so high that it would be too expensive for the millions suffering from HIV in Africa, or the millions with cancer and diabetes around the world. Only after they had run the twenty year patent of the new drug and made the most money they could, would there be any possibility of lowering the price to make the drug affordable to the masses.

Franklin told Ted that the only way he could see the new pill going to market sooner, is if one of the company's competitors looked close to developing a similar solution. He reminded Ted, that with the non-disclosure agreement he signed when starting with the company, if he went to a competitor to share his discovery, the following would happen. He would lose the bonus check, he would lose his position with the company, his retirement, and he would spend the rest of his life in prison.



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