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Saturday December 18, 2004

Intermediate +

THE ARTICLE

Who can you trust these days? It seems not giant pharmaceutical companies. The world’s largest drug company, Pfizer (makers of Viagra), is currently on the back foot following reports that that its best-selling drug, Celebrex, causes heart problems. This comes hot on the heels of another safety concern after another drug giant, Merck, had to withdraw one of its market leaders, the painkiller Vioxx, when clinical tests proved it to increase the risk of heart attacks. Merck’s share price has plummeted by one-third since September and the company is being sued for $18 billion. These are the latest on a string of scandals surrounding blockbuster drugs - those which rake in $1 billion plus in annual sales for their makers.

Celebrex, which is used to relieve pain by 26 million arthritis patients in the USA alone, is almost as high-profile a drug as Viagra. Pfizer says it has no plans to withdraw its money-spinner, which has earned the drug giant a whopping 2.3 billion dollars in the first 9 months of this year. The tests so far indicate the drug may be harmful if taken at four times the usual dose. Profits seem to come first for drug companies, which will only withdraw products after years of testing and courtroom battles, during which share values continue to rise. In 2003 Pfizer made a profit of $3.91 billion, and had sales of 45.2 billion dollars. However, Celebrex may suffer the same fate as Vioxx and be withdrawn if the link between the drug and cardiovascular problems is proven.


 
 

POSSIBLE WARM UPS / COOL DOWNS

1. CHAT:  Talk in pairs or groups about medicines & drugs / drug companies / drug safety / corporate greed / corporate responsibility / shareholder-pressure …
To make things more dynamic, try telling your students they only have one minute (or 2) on each chat topic before changing topics / partners. Change topic / partner frequently to energize the class.

2. MY MEDICINE CABINET: Brainstorm all of the drugs students know / take. Discuss in pairs / groups.

3. HYPOCHONDRIACS: Write this word on the board. Under it put the following sample health problems – the squeamish may want to omit one or two:
headache (migraine) / common cold / diarrhoea / herpes / constipation / wrinkles / period pains (stomach cramps) / low or high blood pressure / acne / sore throat / penile erection dysfunction (for which Viagra was created)…
Students ask each other what they do / take in each of these cases. Report on who is the biggest hypochondriac. In a possible follow-on students discuss alternative remedies to drugs in the above cases.

4. 2-MINUTE DEBATES: Students face each other in pairs and engage in the following (for-fun) 2-minute debates. Students A are assigned the first argument, students B the second. Rotate pairs to ensure a lively pace and noise level is kept:
Drugs (medicines) are dangerous. vs. Drugs are well-tested and regulated.
Drugs are unnecessary. vs Drugs are essential to our well-being.
Herbal and natural medicines are best . vs Herbal and natural medicines are only used by hippies trying to be trendy.
Drug companies are greedy. vs. Drug companies are companies – they need to make a profit.
Drug companies are irresponsible – they always withdraw a drug only after dozens, hundreds or thousands die because of it. vs Companies have to wait for definite results.

Drugs make us live longer and reduce our pain. vs. We can live longer with a healthier lifestyle.
Drug companies give us false information - Anti-wrinkle creams and hair replacement gels do not work. vs. They make us look years younger.

PRE-READING IDEAS


 
 

1. WORD SEARCH: Students look in their dictionaries / computer to find collocates, other meanings, information, synonyms … of the words ‘drug’, and ‘medicine’.

2. HEADLINE: Put the article headline on the board for students to talk about / predict / speculate. Pairs / groups formulate and present their own guesses as to the contents of the report.

3. TRUE / FALSE: Students look at the headline and predict whether they believe the following statements are true or false:

(a)  You can always trust giant pharmaceutical companies to tell the truth.  T / F
(b)  Pfizer is world’s largest drug company.  T / F
(c)  Pfizer’s drug Celebrex, reduces heart problems.  T / F
(d)  A drug company is being sued for $18 billion.  T / F
(e)  Celebrex is better-known than Viagra.  T / F
(f)  Pfizer says it has definite plans to withdraw Celebrex.  T / F
(g)  Profits seem to come first for drug companies.  T / F
(h)  In 2003 Pfizer had sales of 45.2 billion dollars.  T / F

4. SYNONYM MATCH: Students match the following synonyms from the article:

(a)

these days

very very soon after

(b)

on the back foot

reduce

(c)

hot on the heels of

catalog(ue)

(d)

plummeted

recently

(e)

one third

connection

(f)

string

cash cow / golden goose

(g)

rake in

plunged

(h)

relieve

having to be defensive

(i)

money-spinner

generate

(j)

whopping

about 30 per cent

(k)

dose

destiny

(l)

fate

huge / enormous

(m)

link

amount

5. PHRASE MATCH: Students match the following phrases based on the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

(a)

Who can you

giant

(b)

on the

scandals

(c)

hot on the

battles

(d)

drug

is proven

(e)

clinical

trust these days?

(f)

string of

fate

(g)

four times

tests

(h)

courtroom

back foot

(i)

suffer the same

heels of

(j)

if the link between A and B

the usual dose

 

WHILE READING ACTIVITIES

1. GAP-FILL:  Put the missing words under each paragraph into the gaps.

Another killer painkiller?

Who can you __________ these days? It seems not giant pharmaceutical companies. The world’s largest drug company, Pfizer (makers of Viagra), is currently on the __________ foot following reports that that its best-selling drug, Celebrex, causes heart problems. This comes hot on the __________ of another safety concern after another drug giant, Merck, had to withdraw one of its market leaders, the painkiller Vioxx, when clinical tests __________ it to increase the risk of heart attacks. Merck’s share price has plummeted by one-third since September and the company is being __________ for $18 billion. These are the latest on a string of scandals surrounding blockbuster drugs - those which rake in $1 billion plus in annual sales for their makers.

 

 

proved
heels
trust
sued
back

Celebrex, which is used to __________ pain by 26 million arthritis patients in the USA alone, is almost as high-profile a drug as Viagra. Pfizer says it has no plans to withdraw its __________, which has earned the drug giant a whopping 2.3 billion dollars in the first 9 months of this year. The tests so far indicate the drug may be harmful if taken at __________ the usual dose. Profits seem to come first for drug companies, which will only withdraw products after years of testing and courtroom battles, during which share __________ continue to rise. In 2003 Pfizer made a profit of $3.91 billion, and had sales of 45.2 billion dollars. However, Celebrex may suffer the same fate as Vioxx and be withdrawn if the link between the drug and cardiovascular problems is __________.

 

money-spinner
proven
values
relieve
four times

 

3. TRUE/FALSE:  Students check their answers to the T/F exercise.

4. PHRASE MATCH: Students check their answers to the phrase match exercise.

5. QUESTIONS: Students make notes for questions they would like to ask the class about the article.

6. VOCABULARY:  Students circle any words they do not understand. In groups pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find the meanings.

7. COURTROOM BATTLE:  Students make notes from the article that might be used in a courtroom role play to defend or prosecute Pfizer and Celebrex (teacher pre-assigns prosecutors / defence lawyers?)

POST READING IDEAS

1. GAP-FILL: Check the answers to the gap-fill exercise.

2. QUESTIONS:  Students ask the discussion questions they thought of above to their partner / group / class. Pool the questions for all students to share.

3. VOCABULARY: As a class, go over the vocabulary students circled above.

4. STUDENT-GENERATED SURVEY: Pairs/Groups write down 3 questions based on the article. Conduct their surveys alone. Report back to partners to compare answers. Report to other groups / the whole class.

5. COURTROOM BATTLE:  Students share and discuss ideas based on the notes they made regarding Pfizer. Half of the students are defence, the other half prosecution lawyers. Once they have generated ideas in pairs/groups, face each other and argue their respective cases. This may be done in pairs / groups / or whole class. Following the role plays, change roles and repeat. Following this, talk in pairs about what was said in-role play and whether that corresponded to their own (real) feelings / opinions.

6. PHARMACEUTICAL DISCUSSION: Students ask each other the following questions:

(a)  Do you use medicine often?
(b)  How effective do you think medicines are?
(c)  Do you think marijuana should be used for medicinal purposes?
(d)  Should drug companies test their products more / for a longer time?
(e)  Do you believe the marketing of drug companies (‘this drug will make you look / feel younger / remove your acne / improve your stamina / get rid of your cold…)?
(f)  If a clinical tests suggests a link between a best-selling drug and cardiovascular problems, what actions should the drug company take regarding public safety?
(g)  Are pharmaceutical shareholders more interested in profit or the possible bad effects of a drug on arthritis sufferers?
(h)  Does the medicine you take always work?
(i)  Do you think pharmaceutical companies’ advertising encourages us to become hypochondiacs?
(j)  What do you think of alternative / Chinese / traditional / herbal medicines?
(k)  Which is better, Anadin or a good night’s sleep?
(l)  Many of the world’s major pharmaceutical companies try to block the sale of generic anti-AIDs drugs for people in the Third World. Is this acceptable?

7. DRUG ADVERTISING: Cut out from magazines and take into class some glossy advertisements for drugs – choose a selection (pain killers / hair loss remedies / skin rejuvenation products / cold remedies / cough mixtures / indigestion tablets / acne creams…). Students choose one each and analyse the sales spiel. They report to the class on their ad and its credibility / possible exaggerations / downright misleading images playing on peoples’ weaknesses etc

8. WHO CAN YOU TRUST THESE DAYS? Students ask each other about / rank the trustworthiness of the following:
- a doctor prescribing Celebrex
- the CEO of Pfizer
- a sales assistant in the local pharmacy recommending Celebrex
- a TV commercial advertising the product
- the scientist / researcher who generated the report highlighting possible dangers of Celebrex
- CNN / BBC news report
- your mother
- a government drug administration regulator
- a major Pfizer shareholder

HOMEWORK

1. VOCAB EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or the Google search field to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find more information on Homo floresiensis. Share your findings with your class next lesson.

3. STAY HEALTHY: Create an information poster detailing what to do instead of going to the doctor and asking for drugs.

4. LETTER TO PFIZER: Write a letter to the CEO of Pfizer requesting he/she withdraw Celebrex immediately.

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE:

(a)  You can always trust giant pharmaceutical companies to tell the truth.  F
(b)  Pfizer is world’s largest drug company.  T
(c)  Pfizer’s drug Celebrex, reduces heart problems.  F
(d)  A drug company is being sued for $18 billion.  T
(e)  Celebrex is better-known than Viagra.  F
(f)  Pfizer says it has definite plans to withdraw Celebrex.  F
(g)  Profits seem to come first for drug companies.  T
(h)  In 2003 Pfizer had sales of 45.2 billion dollars.  T

SYNONYM MATCH:

(a)

these days

recently

(b)

on the back foot

having to be defensive

(c)

hot on the heels of

very very soon after

(d)

plummeted

plunged

(e)

one third

about 30 per cent

(f)

string

catalog(ue)

(g)

rake in

generate

(h)

relieve

reduce

(i)

money-spinner

cash cow / golden goose

(j)

whopping

huge / enormous

(k)

dose

amount

(l)

fate

destiny

(m)

link

connection

PHRASE MATCH:

(a)

Who can you

trust these days?

(b)

on the

back foot

(c)

hot on the

heels of

(d)

drug

giant

(e)

clinical

tests

(f)

string of

scandals

(g)

four times

the usual dose

(h)

courtroom

battles

(i)

suffer the same

fate

(j)

if the link between A and B

is proven

 

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