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Oct
19

Old drug, no news: deceased Chemist on front page of Wall Street Journal

Albert Hofmann passed away in 2008 but today he made it to the front page of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), surrounded by articles on Syria, Wal-Mart, the Canadian election and megadeals. I am still trying to figure out why the location of the old papers and notebooks of this chemist was newsworthy. Could it be because Sandoz / Novartis did not want them because of the association with LSD (this will have zero impact on their stock price)? Could it be because the chemist wanted people to flock to his archive and no one was even remotely interested?  Could it be that his archive traveled to the US and then back to Europe before finding a home? Whatever the reason, should we be grateful that a scientist (a chemist) was on the cover of a major newspaper? It certainly draws attention to chemists following the recent Medicine Nobel prize going to scientists working on natural products. But surely there must be more newsworthy articles they could write that would engage readers today with how chemistry can have a positive impact on our lives. LSD was discovered in 1943, a considerable number of discoveries have been made since then both for healthcare and reflected in consumer products, which have had massive financial impact which readers of the WSJ would care about. I am not so sure that LSD has had a huge financial impact except for those making and selling it illegally. Even the idea of LSD making a resurgence with clinical trials is not really borne out based on the few clinical trials in clinicaltrials.gov. Perhaps the story that would be of interest here is how Sandoz cannot really make any money from LSD (as the patents expired in the 1960s) and therefore they really have no interest in an old employee and his notebooks (although technically they own them). In the future this kind of thing will not make the front page because the notebooks will be electronic in most cases and likely kept confidential. That’s progress.

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