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The frenetic energy in the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat were often punctuated with the tag line he made famous: "SAMO" (Basquiat's acronym for Same Ol' S***).
Later this month Sanofi-Aventis will be launching their new drug Aplenzin, an extended release form of an older antidepressant Wellbutrin. What's unique about Aplenzin? Not counting the curious choice of dosage strengths (174mg, 348mg, 522 mg)....not much.
But the release of Aplenzin does highlight a recurring theme in the pharmaceutical industry: increasingly desperate attempts to extend patent lives of drugs.
In the last several years, "new" medications are brought to market that turn out to be variations on one of three basic themes:
1) Extended Release, Sustained Release, Controlled Release of ...
2) Isomer of....
3) Metabolite of...
(For an interesting take on these shenanigans, check out Malcolm Gladwell's article, "High Prices: How To Think About Prescription Drugs")
What is lacking in drug development is inquiry into new targets for drug development, not variations on the same theme. But there's promise on the horizon: witness the advent of nanotechnology for drug delivery for treating drug addiction, the very disorder that Basquiat succumbed to at the age of 27.
In the mean time, we can reflect on how remarkably prescient Basquiat was, speaking not about the pharmaceutical industry, but about his anti-establishment stance against "art school "artists:
"SAMO for the indirectly involved, the easily convinced, and the baffled..."
May your spirit live on, Baquiat.