Now that’s what I call vertical integration

Megaconglomerate and borderline-evil corporation, Nestle, seeking to expand its health sciences unit (it has one of those!?), is reported to acquire Aimmune Therapeutics – maker of the first FDA approved treatment for peanut allergy – in an all cash deal whose U.S. dollar amount is equivalent to the total number of seconds a healthy human being in America lives on average.

As producer, provider, and consumer of literally millions of tons of peanuts each year, and uniquely positioned to add or remove amounts of it just about anywhere they desire in the food supply chain of most inhabitants of this planet, what Nestle intends to do with the company whose treatment, Palforzia, comprises capsules of steadily escalating precise doses of peanut flour with the goal of desensitizing an individual’s allergic reaction is unclear. It is certainly worrying. Not enough to the Federal Trade Commission or the Antitrust Division or the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But certainly to some!

Some estimate the treatment may net as much as $1,000,000,000 annually, generally from families by way of their health insurance. It costs approximately $900 per month or about $11,000 a year.

That 20% of participants in Aimmune’s clinical trial had to discontinue before completing a year of treatment, with most due to adverse events stemming from systemic allergic reactions (including at least one case of severe anaphylaxis), should not be left unmentioned. There is a point at which the frequency of severe side effects for individuals negates the collective benefits of the treatment. Given its FDA approval, dear reader, we know that point is not one in five patients.

Most concerning perhaps in this diffuse moral quagmire is the consequence of this kind of “vertical integration”. Putting it far more concisely than I ever could, Jack Donaghy explains the situation to Liz Lemon:

“Imagine that your favorite corn chip manufacturer also owned the number one diarrhea medication.”

“That’d be great because then they could put a little sample of the medicine in each bag.”

“Keep thinking.”

“Except then they might be tempted to make the corn chips give you–”

“Vertical integration.”