Author Archives: BixoBrat Bixogen

The Missile Missive

“You should have a look out the front window, sir.”

Rupert smiled as he swiveled his chair towards the floor-to-ceiling glass.  He loved being called ‘sir,’ especially by one of the Three Marketeers.  “Which one is she?” he thought as he gazed at the 27th floor windows straight ahead of him on the other side of 42nd Street.  “Maybe she’s Alice.”

The view looked spectacular, just like any other day.  “Well, it’s very nice, Alice,” Rupert said.  “Should I look at anything in particular?”

“Sorry, sir, but I’m Janet,” she said.  “Alice is already down at the lobby with our security guards.”

Rupert sat up suddenly. “Guards?” he asked.  “Why?”  He put his head against the window glass and peered down towards the street.  “Augh!” he shouted as he jumped back.  “There’s a missile pointing up at me!”

“Yes, and it has our logo for HoriXentalBop on it.”

Rupert glared at her.  “Is this your idea of a marketing campaign?  Or was this Alice’s bright idea? Or – who’s the third one of you?”

“Malisma, sir.”  Janet coughed and said.  “That is not our idea or our missile.  No one seems to know why it’s there and why it is advertizing one of our drugs.”

The phone on Rupert’s desk rang.  Rupert and Janet watched it ring a couple times.  “What is that thing and why does it make that annoying noise?” Janet asked.

Rupert snapped awake.  “Oh, yeah, right.  It’s a landline phone, I forgot.”  He picked up and dropped the handset.  He fumbled for a while, then pressed a green button on the phone.

A loud background of car horns and shouting rushed from the speakerphone.  “Hello?” said an authoritative voice.  “Am I speaking to Mr. Rupert Madasheck?”

Rupert leaned forward and said, “Yes, Chief, this is Rupert.  Over.”

“Um, sir, this isn’t a walkie talkie,” the Chief said.  “You don’t need to say ‘over’ any more.”  More shouting spewed out of the speakerphone.  “Sir, we have some assclown here who wants me to inspect this missile he just parked in front of our lobby.”

“What?” Rupert asked.  “Why?  Alice here tells me it’s not ours.”

“Janet, not Alice,” Janet said.  “Alice is down there.”

“Janet.  Whatever.  Not our missile.  What’s going on down there?”

More incoherent voices and a loud rustling of papers rattled through the speakerphone.  “He just gave me this folder with his driver’s license and passport and stuff,” the Chief said.

“In case you need to contact me,” a stranger’s voice broke in.

“Back off, clown!” the Chief said.  “Sir, I called for the corporate attorney and she just showed up.”

“Should I come down there?” Rupert asked.

“No!” the Chief shouted.  “Do not come down here.”  Rupert’s office started to shake as a chopping sound filled the air.

“First news helicopter incoming,” Janet said as it loomed large in Rupert’s window.

“Duck!” Rupert shouted as he dove under his desk.

“Relax, sir,” Janet shouted above the roar.  “It won’t crash into the building.”

“The cameras!” Rupert shot back.  Janet ducked under the desk with him.  “Oh, this is cozy,” Rupert said as they rubbed shoulders.  A blinding flash filled the office.  Rupert cowered.  “Oh, no, cameras.  Maybelle doesn’t need my photo on the front page.  Again.”

A female voice shouted through the speakerphone but Rupert could not understand it over the helicopter’s roar.  There were several shouts from different voices, then the noise died down a few dozen decibels.  “What?” the Chief said.  “She’s Melvyn Weiss in lipstick?”

The helicopter veered away from Rupert’s office window and the speakerphone calmed down to a low background hiss.  The Chief said, “That assclown said he was their ‘Chief Fun Officer.’ And he called our attorney here – who’s Melvyn Weiss?” [1]

“Rupert? This is Sosumi Ciyuencourt.  I made that guy take his missile out of here and we will take legal action to get our HoriXentalBop logo expunged from all of their materials.”

Rupert crawled out from under his desk.  “What materials?”

“Planes, tanks, missiles, military hardware,” Sosumi said.  “He was planning to drive around Manhattan next week with this massive phallic symbol and distribute free condoms.  Disgusting.  I already got an email from him about all the free publicity for us.  But that’s not the worst of it.”  Sosumi took a deep breath.  “He said I was hot enough to ride his missile next week or even tonight.”

Probing Questions!

  • This episode is so outrageous that it couldn’t possibly be true, could it?  Um…could it??

  • Does Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals’ Chief of Security have a specific definition for the word ‘assclown’?

  • Will landline phones make a comeback in 50 years during another wave of retro nostalgia?

  • Why is it that Rupert’s desk just happens to have enough room for two people to squeeze together underneath?

  • Melvyn Weiss in lipstick?  Maybe he meant to say ‘Robert Simels’? [2]


It’s Not Inevitable!

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes,” Rupert said.  “I heard it from a great authority.” [1]

“I’m sure you would know, since you were there when Ben Franklin wrote it,” Betty Lidalot said.

George Contenumbaes said, “Well, speaking in my official CFO capacity, those two exceptions are not exactly valid.”

Betty and Rupert stared at George.  “Were you hoping to live forever?” Betty asked.

“Technically, corporations can live forever.  Some states insist that Limited Liability companies are partnerships and must have a finite lifetime.  But Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals can live forever.  Wrong again, Mr. Franklin.”

Rupert eyed George warily.  “Are you suggesting we can also avoid taxes?”

George raised his eyebrows in a blank look of utter innocence.  “Oh, no, not me.  But Apple and Google seem to suggest just that.”

Betty grunted.  “Yes, I’ve been reading about their scam to offshore everything to Ireland and avoid billions in taxes.  They wouldn’t be the first company.”

“Oh, there’s also Yahoo using both Ireland and the Cayman Islands,” George said.  “Let’s not forget Amazon avoiding British taxes by putting its headquarters in Luxembourg.  Same with Skype.”

“What a surprise,” Rupert said.  “Corporations doing everything legally possible to save money.  That party might be over, since I read that Ireland is discussing tax avoidance with the European Union.  And France might impose some cheese-eater’s culture tax.”

“Enough of international corporations wheeling and dealing,” Betty said.  “None of those are biotech related companies.  Tell me something inevitable in our business.”

“Tossing out heads of R&D,” said Rupert.  “You heard about AbbVie, Merck, and Bristol-Myers Squibb in the latest round, I’m sure.”  Betty and George nodded.  “Others might follow anytime soon.  J&J’s CEO sent out a memo to its employees to reassess their corporate credo – not a good sign.”

“That doesn’t mean they will toss their R&D Vice President,” said Betty.

“Why not?” Rupert asked.  “That’s what we do whenever there’s a problem.”

Betty rolled her eyes.  “Rupert, there’s a wave of production disasters around the world.  For one, there is the Canadian recall of drugs that used ingredients from a Chinese contract manufacturer.  Boehringer Ingelheim is imploding and shaking up its management because of production disasters.  But all of those are failures of execution, not of research.”

“You want failures of research?” Rupert asked.  “Let’s talk about Alzheimer’s Disease drug failures.  Baxter, Lilly, and the J&J-Elan collaboration.  Three failures that waited until the most expensive time to fail.  Why can’t failures happen before clinical trials?”

George sighed.  “There’s only one thing left that’s certain in this business.”  He paused for dramatic effect until Betty started tapping her foot on the tile floor.  He inhaled and said, “Medicinal pot.”

Betty and Rupert groaned and glared at George.

“Hear me out on this one,” George said.  “How many people like taking their meds?  Think about the way Avastin is used to treat macular degeneration.  I hear they inject the stuff right into the eyeball.”

Betty blanched.  Rupert covered his eyes and muttered, “Ick, that’s disgusting.”

“Yes, there are well over a million eyeball injections per year,” George said.  “But what about cannabis users?  There was a study to study the link between pot smoking and what people thought the benefit of pot smoking would be.”

Betty looked dazed.  “Are you saying they asked pot smokers if they liked smoking pot?”

“They asked if users had positive or negative expectancies of using pot.  Funny thing, those who expected positive things from using pot, um, tended to keep using pot.”

“So people who like using pot will use pot,” Betty said.  “Right?”

“Wouldn’t that fall under the ‘Well, Duh!’ category?” asked Rupert.

“Yes indeed,” said George.  “It was a study done at the VA in Palo Alto.  Using your tax money.” [2]

“My tax money!” Rupert and Betty cried in unison.  “Augh!”

A Free Lunch With Cappuccino

“It needs to be a lunchtime meeting,” Gamela Nuryandi said.  “You don’t want to be in that part of town after sunset.”

Malisma Collins, Vice President of Marketing, looked at the proposed invitation and asked, “Then why would anyone want to show up at all?”

“Think about it this way,” Gamela said as she spread her hands wide.  “We can spend big bucks on dinner at a restaurant fancy enough to lure physicians from their busy lives.  They won’t bother attending if you rent a room at a Boston Market.  They will insist on the best restaurants with at least a Zagat rating so they can order bottles of Opus One – on our tab.”

Malisma shook her head.  “Yes, but I see some of those states are rethinking their strict gift ban from pharmaceutical companies.  It seems their restaurant associations are complaining about the loss of business.” [1]

“That’s nice, but we also need to consider our own budget,” Gamela said.  “We need the same boost in prescriptions, so let’s try this avenue in my sales territory.  Inviting patients to lunch is much cheaper than hosting physicians for dinner.  The majority of patients won’t expect the same five-star meal as an MD.  Plenty of them will flock to, yes, even to a Boston Market for a free meal.  We save big-time with no alcohol on the bill and we might have a bigger effect in driving prescriptions.”

Malisma looked unimpressed.  “But for every doctor we could invite, how many patients will we need there?  How do we know they are really patients?”

“Many of these diseases have their own communities.  We can reach out through the advocacy groups to the patients and to caregivers.  Multiple sclerosis, for example.  There’s a National MS Society with online social networking.  Several of our other drugs have the same potential relation to patients.  These are savvy people who know how to advocate for their own health, and they can act as our pharma reps to guide prescriptions.”

“Would we still need a key opinion leader to give a talk?”  Malisma leaned back in her chair.

“Certainly.  These are savvy patients, remember.  They know the medical issues and they recognize names of our KOLs.  These patients are motivated enough to take time out for lunch in the middle of a day, too.”  Gamela smiled sweetly.

Malisma leaned forward in her chair and drummed her delicately painted fingernails on her desk.  “And you’re sure Newark, New Jersey, is a good place to host these luncheons?”

Gamela’s smile faded.  “Well…there are worse places in the world.”

Malisma frowned.  “Somalia or downtown Detroit, maybe.  Do we have a stock of Kevlar body armor?”

“Ha ha.  Remember it’s a free lunch, not a top-notch banquet.  We even have a limo service with bullet-proof windows that will guarantee safe delivery of our KOL speakers.  And remember, we aren’t the first to try sponsoring a free meal direct to patients. [2]  We don’t want to be left behind on this.”

Rupert knocked and asked, “Did anyone here order three crates of White Castle burgers?”

Lawsuits: A Wood Chipper for Your Career

Rupert reached his hand through the semi-darkness of the banquet until his fingertips traced Mikung’s thigh under the table.  He felt her warm flesh shiver under his touch, and his tingling fingers raised goosebumps along his arm.  He kept his head turned away and pretended to listen as a seminar speaker droned on about financial statements.

Slowly, delicately, Rupert eased his fingers along the quivering thigh until they brushed against something new.  Fingers reached towards his, and softly enveloped his hand with a soft caress.  The lights dimmed and the speaker said, “May I have the next slide, please?”  Rupert, under cover of gathering darkness, lifted his hand from Mikung’s thigh to ease along the encountered hand.  Two sets of fingers interwove and Rupert slowly turned his head to meet the smiling gaze of…Mikung’s husband Ganja Din?

Rupert yanked his head backwards and awoke.  He sat up with a snort and looked around the conference room.  The wall clock showed ten minutes until the Board meeting.  Rupert stood up and paced the room angrily.  Another dalliance dealt a death blow, he thought glumly.

The first Director to arrive, Ima Punk, slipped into the room and disturbed Rupert’s thoughts.  “So any idea if Mikung will show up today?” Ima asked as she sat down in the most comfortable chair around the table.  “I know if Luzemore Investments tries to toss me, they will never get me off this Board.  Cappuccino’s board meetings are the highlights of my year.”

Rupert glowered down at Ima.  “How could Wiener Merkins Cowfield & Buyouts fire her?” he asked.  Inhaling deeply, he let his shoulders slump.  “Sexual harassment cases are the worst, just non-stop arguing and accusations.  Now that she’s fired, can they force her off our board if she doesn’t resign? Wiener Merkins gets the right to designate a board member, but there needs to be a shareholder vote first.  I think.”

Ima looked unimpressed. “Mikung is a Director for several other companies – or was.”  She opened a notebook and pointed at a page.  “This one, BioRidiculon, her name is gone and a Wiener Merkins partner named Bubba Hardesty is a new director.”  She flipped a couple pages.  “Stemophon Therapeutics doesn’t list any director from Wiener Perkins.  And Perky Paternity Testing lists both Mikung and Wiener Merkins’ senior partner as directors.  That can’t be right.”  Ima closed her notebook and shook her head.

Betty Lidalot strode into the conference room with a dapper young gentleman.  “Rupert, Ima, I’d like you to meet Mr. Georgios Skatalopoulos.  I’ll introduce him officially when everyone is here.”

Mr. Skatalopoulos bowed gallantly to Ima and turned towards Rupert.  “Good afternoon, Mr. Madasheck.  I am proud to be here representing Wiener Merkins Cowfield & Buyouts.”

Rupert looked at Betty.  “Any chance that Mikung will appear today?  That could be awkward.”

Betty smiled.  “Not to worry, she will not be gracing our boardroom.  As far as I can tell, she is busy in Silicon Valley with lawsuits and selling off real estate to pay debts.  I believe her husband is also busy, right here in New York diddling with finances…and boyfriends.” [1]

Rupert grunted.  “Boyfriends.  Her husband’s boyfriends.”

Ima looked up from her tablet screen.  “Well, it looks like Mikung has set aside the harassment case and resurfaced.  As a partner at Forqueue and Forqueue.”

All heads turned towards Ima.  Silence.  Finally, Mr. Skatalopoulos said, “Isn’t – isn’t that the law firm that’s trading lawsuits with a former employee to the tune of $28 million?” [2]

[1] A follow-up on last year’s Silicon Valley harassment case, this one contains plenty of rumors and allegations…and few facts:


Congress InAction for Pharma!

“How am I going to explain this to the Board?” Rupert moaned as he thumped his head on the desk.  Across from him sat corporate lawyer Sosumi Ciyuencourt and the Vice President of Manufacturing Stirrin Cooquet.

“Tell them that we will soon be manufacturing our own HoriXentalBop in June,” Stirrin said.  “But in the meantime, we rely on Glaxo, and they get it from some contract manufacturer.  If we can’t trust a Big Pharma manufacturer, who can we trust?  It turns out they have ‘issues.’  Their product is delayed, so there is no treatment of Restless Third Leg Syndrome available until at least June.” [1]

“We’re getting a personal visit tomorrow from both our Senator and our district’s Reprehensible,” Rupert said.  “Why?”

“That’s ‘Representative,’ Rupert,” Sosumi said.  “There’s no point in namecalling.”

“After their pathetic showing on gun control, of course there’s a point in namecalling,” Rupert said.  “They have no intention of representing us, but we need to jump to their command?”

“Congress is one of our biggest single customers for HoriXentalBop,” Stirrin said.  “No one suffers from Restless Third Leg Syndrome like a Congressman.”

“What about Mark Sanford?” Rupert asked.  “He’s not in Congress and he’s suffering more than anyone else I know.” [2]

“Yes, that’s why he’s trying to get elected in the worst way,” Sosumi said.  “If he gets elected in that worst way, he can wallow with his fellow suffers.”

“Then there’s Anthony Weiner,” Stirrin said with an almost-straight face.  “His case is so bad that he sexted his namesake on Twitter.”

Sosumi cleared her throat noisily.  “This is no laughing matter.  Congress acted decisively for the first time in years, ensuring there is no airline delay of their drug supply.  Now it’s up to us now that Big Pharma has failed us.”

Rupert looked directly into Stirrin’s eyes.  “Now it’s up to you, Stirrin.  I see I’m late for my next meeting.  So get going before Congress does us any more favors.”

Qality Matters!

“Hold on, let me write that down.”  Rupert clutched the phone between his shoulder and cheek, then leaned across his desk to grab a memo pad and a pen.  “OK, go ahead.”  A voice spoke in his ear and he scribbled.  “Got it, thanks.”  He terminated the call and looked at his note.  “Thursday at seven,” he mumbled and wrote on his desk calendar.

Then he looked back at the print on the memo pad.  It read, ‘Qality Matters!’  Underneath, in smaller letters, was ‘Tip #233: Qualaty problems? Try rearranging your Executive Teem!’  Along the bottom of the pad in small letters was ‘Nebraka is for louvers’ [1]

He punched a speed dial button and asked, “Tricia, where did we get these memo pads?”

The voice of Tricia answered, “Someone I know got a ton of them from Novartis for free.  I think they had lots of layoffs at the plant and didn’t want the pads any more.”

“Novartis had layoffs?” Rupert asked.  “Why?”

“Quality issues, that’s all I know.  I thought all you execs keep track of pharma industry goings-on.  I sure don’t.”

Rupert hung up, turned to his computer, and googled ‘Novartis quality.’  This led to several hits including a Forbes article about manufacturing gaffes.  Panicked, he dug through the Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals directory to find a quality department.  His fingers danced on the phone’s touchpad and made several mistakes before he dialed correctly.  Finally a voice announced he had reached Quality Control.

“Hello, this is Rupert.  Get me the head of Quality Control,” he said.

“Rupert? Who the heck is Rupert?”

“I’m your CEO, who are you?”  Rupert began to sweat.

“My CEO?” the voice said.  “I’m a contract employee from Temp-O-Lab, my CEO is someone named Jane.”  The voice paused.  “Here, you should talk to Mr. Caldez.”

“This is James Caldez, may I help you?” a new voice said.

“This is Rupert Madasheck.  How good is the quality at Cappuccino?” Rupert asked.  “Are we square with the FDA and all that?”

There was a long pause.  Finally the voice asked, “You’re the CEO?  You realize this is Quality Control, right?  You might want another department.”

“If I want to know about quality around here, of course I want Quality Control,” Rupert said.  “Don’t I?”  He realized that was a bad question.  Never show fear or indecision, he thought.  Show clear, direct leadership no matter what.  Too late.

“Well, there’s Quality Assurance,” the voice said.  “Then there’s Software Quality Management.  And Quality and Audit Control.  And Quality and Compliance, Quality Control Receiving, Design Quality, Supplier Quality, Process Quality-”

Rupert’s hands shook violently.  “Alright, thanks,” he said and hung up.  He quickly dialed the Legal Department and asked Sosumi Ciyuencourt, “Are we being sued for anything?  Anything like kickback schemes?”

Sosumi spoke after a brief pause.  “No.  I do not believe we are being sued for anything of consequence at the moment.  Why do you ask?  We weren’t giving rebates to pharmacies if they switch patients to our drugs, were we?” [2]

That night he dreamt of being stuck in a Dilbert comic with ‘Qality Matters!’ memo pads dancing around him. [3]  It was the same nightmare he suffered for the last 23 years or more.  Will it never end?

Eat Pond Scum!

“Marketing, get in here,” Rupert shouted into the phone.

A minute later, Malisma Collins strode into his office with her eyes flashing.  “You can learn my name,” she said.  “I’ve been here for seven years.  You don’t need to learn a new name like your R&D revoloving door.”

Rupert looked down at his flash cards.  “Malisma.  I do know your name.  So there.”  He glanced at his computer screen and said, “Could you please explain the name for this new malaria vaccine we just licensed form UCSD?  Who decided to name it EDS?”

Malisma studied her fingernails closely.  “It was named by the post-doctoral student in charge.  I understand it stands for ‘Eat Death Scum,’ so we needed a different name.”

“Eat death scum?” Rupert asked.  “Where would anyone get a name like that, Malaria?”

“Malisma.  My name is Malisma.  Learn it.”  She inhaled deeply.  “Remember, we are asking people to eat this algae.  Pond scum, really.  It’s been engineered to deliver proteins from malaria and cholera.”

Rupert choked.  “Cholera?  Are you planning to have patients eat death – oh, I see.”

“Yes.  We can’t vaccinate everyone in the poorest parts of the world, places where malaria is rampant.  We can’t even be sure they will take pills.  But we can send food that will help raise antibodies against the worst diseases.”

“Excellent!”  Rupert leaned back in his chair.  “We can finally cure the world of its problems.  Us, tiny Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals.”  He sat up.  “So does this, um, this Eat Death Scum, this pond scum.  Does it work?”

Malisma looked carefully at her toenails with their tiny encrusted diamonds.  “Well, not yet.  Corrina, the R&D person in charge, said they raise antibodies in the gut where you’d expect.  But mosquitoes bite and hit the bloodstream.  That means we need to inject the proteins into people.”

Rupert glared angrily.  “Didn’t you just say you can’t vaccinate everyone? Isn’t that about two billion people?”

Malisma noticed how incredibly perpendicular the walls were.  And how close, and getting closer.  “Um, yes.  So for the moment EDS doesn’t actually work.”

Rupert hissed audibly.  “Doesn’t actually work.  So who needs this pond scum?”

Malisma looked up.  “It could still maybe work for water-borne diseases.  That includes cholera and other major killers.”

“Cholera.”  Rupert snorted.  “There’s no market for that, none where we could make a dime.”

“It’s only pond scum,” Malisma said.  “You could grow it in a bathtub and still make money.”

Rupert pondered.  “Think of a better name, please.  And your R&D counterpart.  Could you also send in this Cholera?”

Malisma glared across Rupert’s desk.  “That’s ‘Corrina,’ you simp.”



Quest for Edible Malarial Vaccine Leads to Other Potential Medical Uses for Algae

Hard to Find Good Help

“How could we possibly make such a guarantee?” Calligrafa Corbin asked.  “We are an excellent clinical research organization with a stellar track record.”

“I am sure you are,” said Rupert.  “And so was Hoptuit or whatever they’re called.  Until it wasn’t.  All it took was one rogue technician who fabricated data.” [1]

Calligrafa paled.  “I suppose someone had to be the first one prosecuted under the Good Laboratory Practice Regulations.  We do not intend to be the second.”

Rupert frowned and swiveled in his chair.  He glanced at the walls, at the ceiling tiles, at the untouched bagels and coffee in the corner.  He could not look Calligrafa in the eyes.  “That’s what worries me.  You might settle for third.  Second place might go to a company so bad that it finally went out of business overnight.”

Calligrafa began to tremble.  “Oh.  You mean PRACS?”

“I mean PRACS.  That’s just a renamed Cetero, the lab flagged by the FDA as generating fraudulent results. [2]  What gets me is that when PRACS disappeared, they wiped out maybe 40 studies. Those were run for the big boys.  You know, Merck, Glaxo, Gilead, Ranbaxy.  Much larger than we are.  We can’t afford a fraudulent clinical trial.”

Calligrafa let go of her pen so it would stop tapping frantically.   It skittered across the table and escaped to the floor.

Rupert leaned back in the soft leather chair and gazed at the ceiling.  “I hate being the bad guy, but it seems Eisai has the right idea.  They appointed an enforcer, someone whose job it is to make sure that Phase III trials do not fail.  This enforcer will reach into the CRO actually running the trial.” [3]  He sat up and forced himself to stare at Calligrafa.  “So will we.  We don’t like failure either.  For any reason.  Not during the trial, and not after.”

Calligrafa gulped and jammed her hands together.

Rupert swiveled to stare out the window of the conference room.  “I do not intend to end up showing preposterous so-called data that show our superdrug for muscular dystrophy is no better than placebo.  I don’t intend to dress up the statistics just to fool the rubes.” [4]

“That puts us in an impossible position,” Calligrafa said.  “You want all of your drug trials to succeed but you of course want no fraud.  We can fight fraud with the strictest enforcement, but how can we guarantee every trial succeeds?”

“Well, there’s that,” Rupert said.  “Oh, look at the time.  I really must run.  We will speak further of this.”  He stood up and strode out of the room.


That evening at the charity ball, Betty Lidalot felt a tingling sensation that alerted her to an approaching threat.  She whirled away from a very surprised movie star in mid-sentence to face Rupert still three feet away.  When she saw his shocked expression, she carefully lowered her karate stance.

“Rupert, so good to see you,” she said.  “My new SpiderSense gown, do you like it?  I had it made specially by Victor Mateevitsi.”

“Um, it looks very, um, technical,” Rupert said.  He rubbed his chin.  “Who is Victor Macchiavelli?”

“Mateevitsi.  He’s an engineer so I hooked him up with the finest fashion talent.  Now women can sense approaching danger as well as Spiderman can.”

“But Spiderman is a fictitious character.  He senses danger only when the author tells him to.”

“Rupert, you are such a bore.  Now can you tell me how the CRO meeting went?”

Rupert’s face brightened.  “It went very well.  I had them sweating and quaking in their shoes.  You would have been proud of me!  We don’t need any fraudulent results discovered after our drugs are on the market.”

Betty’s smiled and held up her wineglass.  “That’s wonderful news!  So there will be no more failed clinical trials?”

Rupert picked at something in his eye.  “Um, yes.  About that.  Well, I really must be going.  Way past my bedtime.”

“Rupert Madasheck, what is this all about?” Betty hissed.  Several ballroom dancers skirted away to clear a space around them.

“First there were placebos,” Rupert moaned.  “Now we have nocebos.”[5]

Betty frowned angrily.  “What is a nocebo?”

“We have to warn people in the trial of the possible side effects.  That seems to make people feel those side effects.  Even if we give them sugar pills.”

Tune in again when we ask:

  • Can giant error bars be ignored as long as the drug treatment line appears better than the placebo line?  Even if those error bars overlap?
  • Can Eisai’s enforcer guarantee no Phase III trial failures?
  • Can Calligrafa guarantee her CRO will never compromise results?
  • Will Betty’s SpiderSense threat-detecting gown catch on in fashionable

Think Your Way Out of a Paper Bag

 “This is the most dismal sales report I have seen in this company,” Rupert declared to the Board of Directors.  “How about if I fire the sales force, the whole lot of ‘em?  Let’s move into digital marketing exclusively.”

“I understand Eli Lilly is doing something like that,” said CFO George Contenumbaes. [1]  “I can let you know the annual cost savings.”

Rupert read the next item on the Board meeting’s docket, a report that lab scientist Dr. Erin Q. Stewpydde was found reporting good results on mice that didn’t even exist. [2]

“Our entire FrankNFrzerol program is shut down since its premise was based on data from non-existent mice,” Mantissa Polatis said.

“What?  How could you let that happen?” Rupert roared, frothing at the mouth and suddenly towering over the cringing woman.  “You’re the Vice President of Research!  Can’t you control your department?”

“But I’ve only been here for three days,” Mantissa said as she shivered in her chair.

“Oh.  Still, plenty of time to find the problems and shift the blame,” Rupert said as he glanced around and sat down.  “Yes, and where did you find these non-existent mice?”

“That’s the problem, they never existed,” Mantissa said.  “No such mice were ever protected from saturated fatty acid-induced atherosclerosis.  So the decision for Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals to proceed might never have happened.”

Rupert put his head on the table and moaned.  “So we wasted millions of dollars chasing rainbows again?  Can’t we ever do real experiments that work?”  He sat up and announced, “I’m revising my plan.  Maybe we should drop out of therapeutics and move into medical devices.  I read about this stomach sucker patent [3] and I figure the next step is a brain sucker.”

“Is that a lollipop for zombies?” Ima Punk asked.

“Very funny,” Rupert said with no hint of a smile.  “This is serious.”  He waggled his fingers over his tablet, then showed the glowing surface to the Board members.  “It says here the original patent might be a treatment for morbid obesity without invasive surgery.  Patients can eat and drink as much as they like. Twenty minutes later, they drain their stomach by connecting a pump to a valve surgically installed on their abdominal wall.”

“That might destroy the game of beer pong,” the CFO said.  “But besides losing our appetites, what are you proposing here?”

“Well, so the logical next step is to attach a brain pump.  Then 20 minutes after watching TV, you can get all the crap sucked back out.  Or, if you’re watching Factsless News, leave the pump running.”

Mantissa sighed.  “What kind of budget will I get for this?”