[ed. note: This article originally ran on October 6, 2015. The ad is circulating again and generating questions here at Stock Gumshoe, and it appears unchanged. The article that follows is also unchanged and has not been updated. The stock being teased by Money Morning is essentially unchanged in price from when this article was first published]
—from October 6, 2015—
Bill Patalon is pitching the latest cure for “MDR Pathogens” in an ad for his Private Briefing service and, as we’ve grown to expect from Money Map Press, it’s wildly over the top in hinting at dramatic, fantastic, miraculous results for shareholders (and patients)…
… but the actual investment being teased, according to all the clues provided, is much more mainstream and, well, kinda boring.
Which might be a good thing, in the end. But let’s dig through the ad and see what they’re talking about.
They start, of course, with freaking us out:
“Unfortunately, a pandemic has crossed our borders.
“Deadly and highly contagious superbugs known as MDR Pathogens are spreading rapidly throughout our cities and small towns.
“At this very moment, infectious disease specialists from the CDC are closely monitoring for MDR Pathogen outbreaks in eight major metro areas.
• Atlanta • Chicago
• San Francisco • Baltimore
• Denver • Nashville
• Portland • Minneapolis
“And I can tell you that, whether or not you live near these cities, or know someone who does, it’s critical you pay close attention to what you are about to hear.”
So yes, I silently congratulated myself for living far from the madding crowds in all those metro areas… but wait, even if I don’t live there I’m in trouble? Oh, jeez, what is it?
“What we’re facing is a superbug that can be spread through both direct contact with an infected person, as well as through the air.
“MDR Pathogens can be transmitted easily with a handshake, by bumping into someone at the checkout line at the grocery store…
“And because it’s airborne, just by being in the same room as a carrier.
“Once activated inside victims, these superbugs go to work quickly.
- Skin lesions can develop and rapidly spread all over the body.
- Lungs can fill up with fluid.
- Kidney and liver failure can follow nearly instantaneously.”
Oh My GOD! How could I not spend $19.95 a month to learn about this? I can feel my skin getting itchy already!
“According to the CDC, 33% of the country now has an MDR Pathogen precursor lurking inside them. That means…
- If you were to walk into a restaurant, mall, or airport and look at the person standing to your left and right…
- One of you could suffer an MDR Pathogen attack, at any moment, without warning.
- And chances are, none of you are showing a single symptom… yet.
“I’ve investigated this dangerous situation, and I’m going to share with you everything I’ve uncovered.
“Because already, deadly MDR Pathogen outbreaks have been reported in 41 states.”
Deep breath, deep breath.
OK, so what are they talking about?
MDR Pathogens are what are also commonly called (especially by attention-seeking article writers), “Superbugs” — the MDR stands for “multiple drug resistant,” and it’s mostly just another way to refer to the growing ranks of bacterial infections that are resistant to several different kinds of antibiotics. One that gets a lot of attention is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is definitely terrible but also quite treatable in most people (I’ve had MRSA infections, as have my kids), but there are other varieties as well — Clostridium Difficile is one that has seen a few outbreaks and lots of press attention lately. Some are very systemically frightening, particularly when they spread through health care settings where the infections can be very hard to root out entirely and where the individuals who contract the infection are already often in a weakened condition.
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So… is this all a spiel for another of the “next generation antibiotics” stocks?
Kind of seems that way — antibiotics were mostly ignored for many years by big pharma, given the expense of developing them and the generally good performance of generic antibiotics for most patients… but now that the bugs have continued to mutate, and the infections that are resistant to all, or nearly all, antibiotics have proliferated, there’s a big push for the next big thing — antibiotics that use some entirely different approach, or that fight the worst of the MDR Pathogens particularly well. That push comes both from big pharma and from little development-stage biotechs, and they’ve also gotten some help from the regulators in terms of extra carrots for antibiotics developers (longer patent lives, R&D grants, contracts for stockpiling strategic drugs, etc.)
Of course, there’s also a balancing act — most folks with regular old strep throat will be cured just fine with one of the old, boring antibiotics, even good ol’ Penicillin, so this new wave won’t replace all the cheap generics that are sold in huge volumes… the next wave in antibiotics will need to be pretty expensive because there will probably be restrictions on its use, either by the payers who’d rather use generics first or by the doctors who wish to preserve the “big guns” for the worst cases in order to avoid another wave of resistant pathogens.
And yes, drug resistance is a very big deal in the big picture — and a dangerous side effect of our love affair with antibiotics, a love affair that means we demand prescriptions from our doctors whenever we have a sniffly nose… and, disturbingly, that we pump our livestock full of antibiotics in part to help them grow fatter, faster.
But turn down the volume a little bit — most of these infections and illnesses are still eminently treatable almost all the time, and most people who have these infections have no long-term problems… it’s a big deal, and it’s worth taking precautions particularly if you’re in any way at risk, but it’s not the Spanish Flu that’s going to take out whole cities, and you don’t have to act like Donald Trump and avoid touching people in public. Check out the CDC’s page on drug resistance, it’s sobering but not nearly as alarmist as ads like Money Map’s… according to the CDC, about two million people in the United States get some sort of drug-resistant infection or disease each year, and about 23,000 die as a direct result (those are 2013 numbers, I believe). So about one half of one percent of us (0.6%) will get some sort of this infection this year, and 1.1% of those infected will die. That’s less than half the number of folks who die from pneumonia each year (50,000+), just by way of comparison — though some of that number overlaps, too, and in most cases (though not all), the people at risk are facing other risks, too… they’re already hospitalized for something, or they have compromised immune systems, etc.
This is not a new issue, of course, though it continues to grow in importance as bacteria evolve to fight us and evade our drugs… but the real question, now that we’ve gotten past a little bit of panic about these deadly outbreaks, is will it make us rich?
We’ve seen similar pitches many times for the past several years (I think the most recent was from Dave Lashmet over at Stansberry last year but I might be forgetting some), and there have been some high-profile buyouts of these “new antibiotics” companies over the years as well, including Durata Therapeutics and Cubist Pharmaceuticals in just the past year.
One of the attention-getting “outbreak” stories was in the headlines for a while, and you might remember it — the NIH facility in Bethesda had an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant infections in 2011, and the teaser describes it this way:
“In 2011, an MDR Pathogen was activated inside a 43-year-old woman in New York City, who had been an unknowing carrier.
“Her infection was so severe that doctors didn’t have strong enough medicine to save her.
“So they immediately transferred her to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) outside of Washington D.C.
“When she arrived at the NIH, doctors quickly diagnosed the presence of an MDR Pathogen and placed her in ‘enhanced contact isolation.’
“Hospital staff took extreme precaution to wash and sanitize anything that was near the patient.
“And they disposed of all gowns and gloves after they were in the isolation area.
“After four weeks of treatment, the patient recovered and she went back home to New York.
“It was an apparent victory over the MDR Pathogen.
“But the celebration was short-lived.
“Three weeks later, a second patient was infected, a 34-year-old male, who had never crossed paths with the woman from New York.
“Then a 27-year-old woman contracted it.
“A total of 18 people were infected before it was contained.
“11 of them died.
“This particular NIH outbreak had a 61% mortality rate.
“And the NIH is one of the leading medical facilities in the world.
“This happened there.