GSK, Roche teaming with anti-doping agency

After Lance Armstrong's fall from grace, more drugmakers are joining up with anti-doping authorities.--Courtesy of Lance Armstrong Tour 2010 team presentation

Drugmakers have watched their products become performance-enhancing tools for athletes for years. Steroids, human grown hormone and the now-notorious EPO, among others, came out of Big Pharma's labs for entirely different purposes, but made their way into the competitive medicine chest.

Now, after Lance Armstrong's spectacular fall from grace, more drugmakers are joining up with anti-doping authorities to nip abuse in the bud, The New York Times reports. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK)--which sponsored the testing lab for the 2012 Olympics--and Roche ($RHHBY) have both shared proprietary information with the World Anti-Doping Agency, including data on drugs still in development. Smaller companies are doing the same.

For GSK, the Olympics lab inspired more work with WADA, including development of new tests for particular compounds. "What the London 2012 involvement led to was a real pride and willingness, and a positive attitude toward this continued engagement," GSK's Pauline Williams told the Times.

Amgen ($AMGN), which makes erythropeitin-stimulating drugs intended for anemia in kidney and cancer patients, helped develop a test for one of them, Aranesp. But it hasn't always been free of controversy; as the NYT points out, it sponsored a cycling event at a time when cyclists were using EPO, and the event organizers didn't even test for the drug in athletes participating in the event. Amgen has since given WADA some reagents for use in developing new tests for their drugs.

Now that big-name companies are cooperating--and very publicly so--WADA officials hope more drugmakers will join the effort. They figure peer pressure will help. "We know the progress of their drugs, and we know that at some point collaboration will come," WADA science director Olivier Rabin told the Times. "We are a bit stubborn." 

- read the NYT piece (sub. req.)

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