So, I'm back at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago for the second time this month. We were here for ASCO--the cancer conference--at the beginning of June. But this trip is much different. Unlike ASCO, the American Diabetes Association which is holding its annual meeting here is letting us broadcast from inside the building! ASCO would not, has not and seems like never will let us work within the huge halls. A spokesman claims we'd cause a "media circus" and that the financial media threaten to compromise the "scientific integrity" of ASCO.
ADA felt that way until last year. I was covering the ADA meeting for the first time in 2006 in Washington, DC and it refused to let us set up indoors. Instead, ADA made us go outside, literally in a gravel and dirt-covered parking lot across the street. Well, wouldn't you know it poured that day. Buckets. Cats and dogs. A puddle formed under our canopy when it was time to interview the then-Amylin Pharmaceuticals CEO--and always impeccably dressed--Ginger Graham. There she was in her $600 Ferragamos (actually I don't know what brand they were or how much they cost--they just looked expensive) soaking in muddy rainwater. That's all it took. After the interview Graham marched across the street and cracked some heads.
The next day we were inside. And this year we're in again. Good thing, too, because it's hot and muggy here today. But there is still one restriction. We originally planned to be live above the colorful exhibit hall floor where all the drug, biotech and diabetes device companies hawk their wares to the thousands of doctors here from all over the world. Well, we don't know which one, but one of the companies balked about a camera being in there and so now we are relegated to a position just outside the hall.
Drug companies are very touchy about people being able to peak behind the curtain of marketing. But I can tell you that GlaxoSmithKline which is at the center of the Avandia safety scare is giving away freshly-popped popcorn for people to eat while they watch a 3-D movie in the "Avandia Vision Theater". Yep, that's what it's called. They also have desktop computers set up where doctors can watch the recent testimony of GSK's head of R and D in front of a congressional committee defending Avandia.
The embattled diabetes drug is a hot topic here. I interviewed half a dozen endocrinologists yesterday and five of them said they hadn't written a single new prescription for Avandia since the study raising heart safety concerns appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine about a month ago. One doctor from Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital estimates half of her patients who were on Avandia have switched to Actos. That drug is made by Japan's Takeda and Eli Lilly gets a small, dwindling royalty on Actos sales.
The issue will take center stage here this afternoon when a special symposium featuring rock-star doctors will take place in the 45-hundred seat theater here. Dr. Steven Nissen who started the whole thing will be on that panel. But ahead of his appearance there I will be interviewing him live on the "Closing Bell" today at 4:30 ET.
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