Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pearl Harbour Saves Florey?

As long as America was at peace ,America's businesses could compete against each other relatively freely without the ability of the "dollar a year men" in Washington to make use of  " the emergency " to misuse government's wartime muscle to restrain competition, so as to favor the firms they represented in peacetime.

If Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour hadn't happened, America would have probably remained a neutral at least throughout the first half of 1942 - long enough for Pfizer and Dawson to be free to fully publicize the life-saving powers of naturally-brewed penicillin in the national media.

This would have been enough, in peacetime, to create an overwhelming public demand for its immediate mass production.

Penicillin would then become just another in a series of remarkable drug discoveries that first emerged as a small but notable success and just kept on growing in importance.

Sulfa drugs started that way - they really had no immediate or dramatic success to introduce themselves to the world.

Rather it was a series of notable successes, among a number of different years and a number of different continents that gradually made them famous.

Newer and newer sulfa variants kept on being discovered and were then put to work curing additional diseases.

Likewise,Penicillin's initial success would have focused attention on the possibility of ever more drugs from molds and bacteria - as of course happened from about 1947 onwards to today, but in a non-dramatic ,and above all, industry-directed fashion .

85 years after sulfa and penicillin first emerged in the lab (around 1928), only one drug has got any kind of universal dramatic legend attached to it and this is penicillin.

The deleterious effect of the American declaration of war on what should have been its normal emergence from lab to drug company to its acceptance by GP and patient is the reason why.

Without Pearl Harbour happening in December 1941, Florey and Merck would have been free to pursue their synthetic penicillin mirage while Dawson and Pfizer would have been equaly free to introduce natural penicillin - first grown in large trays and then from deep tanks.

The winner would have been the same (Pfizer) but they just might have emerged in May 1942 rather than be delayed until May 1944.

Ie, it would be as if the dramatic events of May 1941 to May 1944 never ever happened.

Let us go to a concrete example:
DOI: 10.1021/ed018p552.2
Publication Date: December 1941

This is a monthly publication of the American Chemical Society.

 In 1941, when the public heard the word scientist, they thought only of chemists - chemistry was the Queen of the Sciences back then to an extent we can't begin to imagine ,unless we were living back then.... before 1945 (Physics) and 1953 (Biology).

This journal was directed towards chemistry teachers and undergraduates in North America's high schools and universities--- a huge audience well beyond more prominent chemistry journals with a select but tiny audience.

This particular column was a monthly roundup of news from the popular press that had a chemical industry aspect to them.

Just reading the column in its entirety makes it clear that "WHAT"S BEEN GOING ON" for December 1941 was written and released before Pearl Harbour.

Using language from The New York Times's description of Dawson's work on penicillin back in May of 1941, the paragraph seems a little out of date to fit this speedy "up to the minute" news digest column's style.

It credits Fleming with discovering penicillin in 1929, but says nothing happened to it until Dawson at Columbia proved it up.

I admit it - I love it !!!

No mention of Oxford nor Florey no Merck no OSRD nor of the NRRL and COC.

I think it reflects a little quiet PR spin that Pfizer put behind on its corporate decision to seriously help Dawson use Pfizer-brewed NATURAL penicillin on clinical cases.

That brewing, and that corporate decision, happened in mid October 1941, a date much closer to the date the column would normally have been researched and written --- rather than about events from way back on May 5th 1941.

A Merck-oriented paragraph on penicillin in this same time period would have credited Florey and ignored Dawson totally.

Merck never had to do that media-spinning, not after Pearl Harbour.

One wartime government agency,the OSRD-CMR, run by Merck men, now controlled almost all of the news on penicillin and they spun it to focus exclusively on Florey and hence indirectly on Merck.

But they forgot to put a muzzle on Dante Colitti  (and Doctor Mom) and penicillin became a legend despite the best efforts of  OSRD,Merck and Florey....

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