Amgen (AMGN) And Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): When The Patients Die

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Two of the best-selling drugs in the US are Procrit from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Aranesp from Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN). The products treat anemia in patients with kidney dialysis issues.

Studies now show that the drugs can cause death in cancer patients either from clots or an increased rate of growth in tumors. Concerns about the drugs are not new. According to The New York Times "Sales of Aranesp, Amgen’s best-selling product, declined to $3.6 billion last year from $4.1 billion in 2006."

It is not surprising that the companies defend the use of the drugs as being relatively safe. but it is possible that the side effects have been known by both firms for some time. They did create the products and test them extensively before submitting them to the FDA.

The new battle between the FDA and its scientists on the one hand and the pharma firms on the other is a repeat of a pattern that is now decades old. It puts the rights of patients against the right of the companies to make money. Ultimately, it puts the value of the stocks which shareholders hold at risk. By risking some liability, the firms have not done them any favors.

Douglas A. McIntyre