Pharm Exec at 40 (2003-2006)

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-08-01-2021, Volume 41, Issue 8

Looking Back at 2003–2006.

A mere 15 to 18 years ago, events that occurred continue to echo in our lives today, from movies to the Internet, and war to music. Indeed, the pharmaceutical industry fits this profile with Merck’s 2004 withdrawal of Vioxx, one of the most widely used drugs at the time, influencing safety and data collection in the industry to this day.

Many films released during this period have also stood the test of time and continue to entertain audiences in 2021. In May 2003, Pixar released its fifth feature film, and most profitable to date, Finding Nemo. Now-perennial Christmas favorite Elf was released Nov. 7. One year later, The Polar Express debuted and was ranked No. 3 on the “25 Highest-Grossing Christmas Movies of All Time at the US Box Office” list by Forbes in 2020.

In music, Kelly Clarkson’s debut album, “Thankful,” was released on April 15, 2003. Clarkson was the first winner of American Idol only five months prior, and her successes to this day include two ACM Awards, four American Music Awards, one Country Music Award, three Grammy Awards, three MTV VMA Awards, eight studio albums, and a Super Bowl performance, besides numerous film and television roles.

The final episode of the hit NBC TV show Friends aired on May 6, 2004, drawing an estimated 66 million viewers. Advertisers paid $2 million for a 30-second spot during the finale. The series has seen a resurgence in popularity among millennials and Gen Z, perhaps prompting Friends: The Reunion, an HBO Max streaming special debuting on May 27 of this year.

On Feb. 4, 2004, Facebook launched, followed by Gmail on April 2 and Firefox on Nov. 9. On April 23, 2005, the first YouTube video was uploaded, and on July 15, 2006, Twitter was tweeting.

On Feb. 1, 2003, seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Columbia died as the vessel disintegrated during its re-entry over a 2,500-mile swath of the US.

On June 5, 2004, former actor, 33rd governor of California, and the 40th US president, Ronald Reagan, died at the age of 93. His presidency (1981–1989) was marked by “Reaganomics,” an approval rating of 68% when he left office, and the survival of an assassination attempt. It was announced in 1994 that he had Alzheimer’s disease, which complicated his death by pneumonia.

Under the ever-enduring theme of conflict in the Middle East is the Iraqi War (2003–2011). In April 2003, the US and its coalition countries seized control of Baghdad, ending the regime of authoritarian leader Saddam Hussein.

While President George W. Bush received positive reviews for this foreign matter, his stateside handling of Hurricane Katrina is net-negative for the history books. At one point a Category 5, the hurricane caused over 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in damage from Aug. 23 to Aug. 31, 2005. Particularly hard hit was New Orleans, and the resulting economic and environmental damage is still being felt in the region.

Also domestically, Massachusetts became the first US state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Sitting on the fence of both culture and pharma was the imprisonment of “lifestyle innovator” Martha Stewart that same year. She was found guilty of using insider information to sell all 3,928 of her shares in biopharma ImClone Systems the day before the stock lost 16% of its value.

The pharma landscape

The first known case of SARS was diagnosed in Vietnam on Feb. 26, 2003, and on Oct. 5, 2005, the Spanish flu virus was reconstructed, showing its close relationship to the avian or bird flu. On May 15, 2006, the sequence of the last chromosome in the Human Genome Project was published. In clinical trials, on March 13, 2006, six healthy volunteers part of a Phase I trial were infused with anti-inflammatory drug TGN-1412 and ended up in intensive care with multi-organ dysfunction based on a cytokine storm. The participants survived with injuries. The outcome was a revamp of Phase I trial rules out of the MHRA, basically saying that healthy volunteer dosing should be taken in a longer sequential timeframe to reduce potential risk. Finally, from 2003–2006, the following high-profile drugs were released: Allergan’s Namenda for Alzheimer’s; Pfizer’s Chantix for smoking cessation; and Merck’s Gardasil vaccine for the prevention of human papillomavirus.

Lisa Henderson is Pharm Exec’s Editor-in-Chief. She can be reached at lhenderson@mjhlifesciences.com.