Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

The ASCO/Avandia Hangover


In the wake of ASCO (the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting) where Genentech reported mixed clinical trial results, the stock is trading at a new intra-day's lowest level since May 2005. And in the wake of yesterday's hearing on Avandia where the stage may have been set for a black-box or severe safety warning being put on the diabetes drug's label, GlaxoSmithKline  is actually trading up.

But I don't want to devote this entry to stock talk. Instead, I wanted to share some reader/viewer feedback to my previous blog entry about my mom and the live interview I did from ASCO on Monday's "Closing Bell" with the Chairman and Interim CEO of Novacea , John Walker. My last question to him was about an alleged conflict of interest surrounding the lead clinical trial investigator for Novacea's prostate cancer drug, Asentar.

ASCO & Cancer Treatments

Dr. Howard Scher is the principal researcher on Asentar. He was also on the FDA Advisory Committee for Dendreon's Provenge and was one of two outspoken critics of the drug and the data on the panel. Mr. Walker told me Dr. Scher (who through a spokesperson has declined CNBC requests for an interview) is beyond reproach. For those who might not be up to speed on the story, the FDA Provenge panel recommended approval of the drug--17-0 that it's safe, 13-4 that it's effective. Dr. Scher was one of the dissenters. But the FDA issued a delay. And many Provenge proponents are pointing the finger at Dr. Scher, among others.

While I suspect that there is an internet or blog network that sent out the word to flood my inbox with "atta-boys", I received a flood of emails patting me on the back for simply asking the question of Mr. Walker. Dr. Scher, by the way, told us through a spokesperson that he had hired private security to protect him at ASCO because of alleged threats he has received following the FDA's decision on Provenge. Here's a sample of the feedback:

"Wow, you really are keeping the flame alive. This story stinks to high heaven."

"A thank you for your following of Dendreon's Provenge. Many prostate cancer sufferers feel completely and totally betrayed by the FDA."

"I caught your interview with Novacea CEO Walker! GREAT JOB!! My friend, you hit a ‘home run’! You held his feet to the fire…and, you did it with class!"

"I'd like to thank you in particular for your June 4th interview with John Walker, interim-CEO of Novacea. I was quite stunned and amazed that you asked him about Dr. Howard Scher's extreme opposition to Provenge and his conflicted interests."

But I also received nearly just as many emails from blog readers on my previous post about cancer. Some people asked their communications to remain private. Here's a small sample of those who did not:

"I hope these new medications will eventually save the loved ones of many, many people. It's nice to say that you made a terrific profit from investing in the stock of a biotech or pharma company. But how much nicer to say that one of their new drugs saved your mom's life."

"Thank you for sharing this personal story with us. I have recently been diagnosed and am being treated for bladder cancer. I have high hopes for many more years."

"Thanks for sharing about your family loss to Cancer. It really put a face to all the news that I trade each day."
Anonymous "Daytrader"

Putting a face on biotech, pharma and medical device investing is what my producer, Ruth, and I attempt to do as often as possible. Deadline pressures keep us from doing that on every story. Our next opportunity is on Monday when we will be covering an Alzheimer's conference in Washington, DC where we expect data on developmental drugs for that devastating disease.

Questions?  Comments?