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Drug Firms Tackle Drug Abuse Conflicting Conferences Fun With Numbers DOE Inspectors: No Paper Tigers Rowland Voted In At AAAS The pharmaceutical industry is finally picking up the ball on the development of medicines to treat drug abuse (The Scientist, Nov. 26, 1990, page 1). The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association has established a nine-member Commission on Medicines for the Treatment of Drug Dependence and Abuse to work with the National Institute of Drug Abuse to develop scree

January 7, 1991

  • Drug Firms Tackle Drug Abuse
  • Conflicting Conferences
  • Fun With Numbers
  • DOE Inspectors: No Paper Tigers
  • Rowland Voted In At AAAS
  • The pharmaceutical industry is finally picking up the ball on the development of medicines to treat drug abuse (The Scientist, Nov. 26, 1990, page 1). The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association has established a nine-member Commission on Medicines for the Treatment of Drug Dependence and Abuse to work with the National Institute of Drug Abuse to develop screening guidelines for member companies who want to send existing therapeutic compounds to NIDA. It will also help NIDA decide which medications are most useful in combating drug abuse. Charles Grudzinskas, director of new product management at Lederle Laboratories, expects that the commission will also try to persuade Congress to give companies more protection from potential product liability suits.

    For the first time in its history, the National Science Board has arranged a joint meeting with the governing bodies of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering at the academies' Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif. At this historic gathering, February 14-15, the cream of U.S. science policymakers will discuss the importance of public support for research. Unfortunately, they won't be able to hear the man in the best position to bring about such increased support. At the same time as their meeting but some 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., President Bush is scheduled to address the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Says one NSB member, "We're sorry about the conflict, but there's not much we can do. We have enough trouble scheduling our own meetings."

    Some sort of award for the ability to stretch the truth by altering statistics goes to the National Institutes of Health. In a report to a cost-conscious Congress, NIH officials worked over a 98 percent increase in the average cost of research grants over the past decade until it reappeared as a minuscule 1.7 percent annual rise. Their secret? The use of something called a biomedical research and development price index, which contains items that reflect the cost of doing biomedical research. It runs several points higher than the more familiar consumer price index. Using that index to factor out inflation, NIH was able to whittle down the actual increase to a more manageable 16 percent. And by the time it was put on an annual basis, the 98 percent rise had shrunk to a tiny 1.7 percent.

    Lawrence Berkeley Lab director Charles Shank, anxiously awaiting a visit this month from Energy Department inspectors, is taking a hard line in his attempt to sell scientists on the importance of environmental safety. Those who are "committed to refining our environmental, health, and safety operations...are the future leaders of this Laboratory," Shank promises in a memo, while "those...who do not have your houses in order may find that it will be costly to you." Other recent assessments by the department's crack "Tiger Team" of investigators suggest that his worries may be justified. Lawrence Livermore Lab has been slapped by DOE with a $291 million cleanup bill, and all construction at the Argonne lab not related to its Advanced Photon Source has been halted for an indefinite period, pending changes in its environmental safety practices.

    F. Sherwood Rowland, chemistry professor at the University of California, Irvine, won a narrow victory over MIT president Paul Gray in voting for president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Rowland, who helped discover the effect of chlorofluorocarbons on the earth's ozone layer, acknowledges that he's never been active in AAAS affairs. And he's wary of interpreting his narrow victory--12,884 votes to 11,290--as any type of mandate for change in the 130,000-member organization. "Reporters have asked me if it's a case of big versus little science, or East versus West, or bench scientist versus administrator," says Rowland, describing three obvious differences between him and Gray. "But I'm going to withhold any comment until I get to know the association a little better and see what needs to be done."


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