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Bill Gates sells MSFT, takes Prozac

In sickness and in wealth

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Bill Gates has sold almost half a billion dollar's worth of Microsoft stock this year, and begun to invest heavily in big pharma. In the second half of this year he bought 2.5 million shares in Eli Lilly, manufacturer of Prozac, and also made major investments in Merck and Pfizer, notes Information Week.

The 9 million shares Gates relinquished represent only a tiny proportion of Chairman Bill's MSFT holdings, or about 1.36 per cent.

Eli Lily's patent on Prozac expired a year ago, but the company has sought to widen its appeal, combining its with other drugs and marketing it as a kind of MSG of anti-depressants.

"Companies are getting a lot more creative in ways to sustain the product lifespan of drugs," a J.P. Morgan told The Street.

In sickness and in wealth, big pharma remains the most profitable industry in America. No doubt Gates took comfort in the Bush administration's indulgent attitude towards the inflated prices charged by the pharmaceutical industry. Although nine out of ten drugs fail clinical tests, the industry - which argues that high prices are needed to justify R&D - spends two and half times as much on marketing than on research, according to Families USA.

(I'll defer to our very own Thomas C Greene, who covered the industry in detail).

A crack about anxiety-inducing computer software would simply be too cheap, so we won't dream of making it here. ®

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