I have to admit that the first time I met David Kliff, I didn’t know what to make of his forthright manner. He immediately told me exactly what was on his mind.
At first, I thought he reserved his unvarnished frankness for my ears only. As I spent more time with him at medical and financial conferences, however, I realized that Dave is just as blunt with everyone in his pursuit of what he believes to be right.
As the author of the Diabetic Investor ENewsletter and an adviser to large fund management companies, Dave has a unique perspective. He not only understands the business side of diabetes, but he also lives with insulin-requiring diabetes himself. Recently he has been very vocal in challenging several diabetes companies and the FDA about the risks of certain diabetes medications and devices.
With regard to the FDA’s response to the Avandia controversy, for example, he has this to say: “It appears that instead of reform and clarity, we’re back to the same old broken system that desperately needs reform. How many patients need to die before the FDA realizes that there are some things more important than protecting one’s backside or getting their face on television?”
Diabetes industry professionals have asked Dave to tone it down, but he refuses to be mute, particularly when it comes to safety issues for people with diabetes. His penchant for straight talk has its consequences, however. While walking with him through the ADA exhibit hall in June, I saw people turn away to avoid eye contact with him.
Dave told me that his photo was actually on display at one company, identifying him as someone to steer clear of. In fact, people could lose their jobs just for talking to him. “In the corporate world,” he says, “it’s all about covering yourself. No one is willing to take responsibility for anything… I believe investors need to know the truth and not just what the company says. People invest their hard earned money and should have all the facts.”
I especially enjoyed meeting Dave at the JP Morgan conference in San Francisco, which is largely attended by investment advisors. As a former stockbroker and current publisher of two national diabetes magazines, I observed the confusion that financial advisors experience when trying to understand new drugs and devices. Not having diabetes themselves, most of these advisors don’t know enough to ask the right questions.
As a result, they don’t share Dave’s astute knowledge of what is really innovative or what is lacking competitively. Dave may not be the only person at these conferences with diabetes. He is, however, usually the only one who is comfortable in challenging a company’s party line. He says, “Being a patient myself, I use many of the devices and drugs. For reasons that I fail to grasp, many in the business world hear what they want to hear and just pay lip service to what patients really want.”
Dave will tell you our system is designed to treat diabetes, not to prevent it. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry, after all, and the billions are being made in the treatment, not the cure. Although he doesn’t believe the conspiracy theory that cures are purchased and shelved by pharma companies, he does believe that fast-tracking a drug or product in order to get a leg up on the competition can lead to bad consequences for patients.
As a sophisticated investment advisor, Dave says, “There is no such thing as a safe drug; every drug has adverse effects. The FDA is between a rock and a hard place because it has to decide when the benefits outweigh the risks or vice versa.” And when the FDA makes what he believes to be a wrong move, Dave is there to call them on it.
If you want to be well educated about investing in pharma companies that cater to the diabetes community, subscribe to Dave’s E-newsletter at diabeticinvestor.com ($685 per year). You can count on him to be bold and daring in challenging an established system that does not liked to be questioned. David Kliff is certainly one of our best advocates.