While I'm watching the webcast of the FDA Advisory Committee Meeting on the anemia drugs (Amgen, Johnson & Johnson ), I wanted to hop on my TV versus print soapbox one more time.
As I posted yesterday, I had asked a Dendreon spokeswoman for an interview with CEO Dr. Mitchell Gold in the wake of the FDA sending the company an "approvable letter" for its prostate cancer treatment Provenge.
She tried twice to steer me toward talking to "patients, key opinion leaders (i.e., prominent doctors who presumably support Provenge) and analysts (presumably bullish ones)." We've done that kind of reporting on Provenge -- looking at both sides, I might add -- several times over the past few years.
As I repeatedly made clear to her, at this juncture we are interested solely in an interview with Dr. Gold. Investors, analysts and I have questions: How much cash does the company have? How long will it last? Have you been able to find out from the FDA exactly what data it's requesting? How long will it take to collect and provide the data? Etc., etc. Her response was, "We are still trying to get our arms around the situation."
She never told me Dr. Gold was unavailable or would not do an interview. But she implied, at least, that he is not ready to talk. Indeed, the company had scheduled no conference call with the Street at that time. (Last night Dendreon announced it would hold a conference call at 4:30 ET today. You can listen to it at www.dendreon.com.)
So, imagine my surprise when I see Dr. Gold quoted in an article on the front page of the "Personal Journal" section of today's Wall Street Journal. He told the paper he's "extremely disappointed." And he said Dendreon couldn't afford to make Provenge available, in the meantime, to patients who are not enrolled in clinical trials as an influential FDA panel member had suggested.
"No, the company does not have that kind of resources. We look forward to completing the trial and working with the FDA to bring the drug to patients that way." He also gave the reporter Marilyn Chase a timeline: Dr. Gold reportedly "expects an interim analysis in 2008 (from the ongoing clinical trial) with final data in 2010."
As I've blogged before, this issue is not exclusive to Dendreon. It's a constant battle for me -- especially with big pharma, more so than biotech. There is a bias, or maybe it's a comfort level, that many companies or their executives skew toward print more than broadcast.
Either you're talking to the media or you're not. If I had not made a request to the company more than once yesterday via email, voicemail and in "live" phone conversations for an interview, then I'd have no grounds for grousing. Just be straight with me, "Hey, this time we're gonna talk to the Journal first, but maybe we'll be ready to do TV Friday morning" or something along those lines. But don't tell me, "We're still trying to get our arms around the situation," while at the same time the CEO is embracing an interview with WSJ.
I hope this entry doesn't sink my chances of landing an interview -- hopefully, tomorrow morning -- with Dr. Gold. Over the years, I have enjoyed what I would characterize as an excellent working relationship with him and other company representatives. But, after the favorable FDA panel meeting several weeks ago, Dr. Gold came on our air early the very next morning. It is now almost two days since he received the bad news from the FDA and we've yet to hear from him.
Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com