Leo Sternbach Drafted by Ionians
November 24, 2003
The Alphatown Ionians, showing little patience with rookies, have deactivated English philosopher Henry Sidgwick, a rookie pitcher who pitched but 86 innings in 2003. The Sidgwick deactivation was made to make way for the drafting of Leo Sternbach, the chemist who "invented" the tranquilizer Valium. Why were the Ionians so anxious to sew up the Sternbach deal? According to pundits, the Psychedelphia Woodstockings, looking for someone to replace their veteran Oscar Janiger, were also interested in Sternbach. Curiously, if Sternbach had signed with the Woodsox, he would have played in the outfield; with the Ionians, he will be in the bullpen.
Sternbach was born in Abbazia, Austria on May 7 in 1908. Last May he celebrated his 95th birthday at the same time that the company he spent his life working for celebrated the 40th anniversary of its "blockbuster" drug, Valium. Sternbach was the chemist most responsible for the development of Valium. Retired since 1973 Sternbach has been writing his autobiography. In September of this year, a book called Good Chemistry: The Life and Legacy of Valium Inventor Leo Sternbach by Alex Baenninger was published. U.S. News & World Report magazine named Sternbach one of the most influential individuals of the 20th Century.
Like his pharmacist father, Sternbach pursued a career in drugs. After receiving his degree in pharmacy from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, Sternbach began a doctoral program in organic chemistry. In 1940, he landed a job as a research chemist with Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland. In 1941, with the spread of anti-Semitism in Europe, the pharmaceutical company transferred its Jewish scientists to its Nutley, New Jersey location in the United States. From research chemist to group chief to senior group chief to Section Chief to Director of Medicinal Chemistry, Sternbach was, in the words of Roche's president and chief executive officer, George Abercrombie, "An inventor's inventor...Within every company, there is a person or two whose legacy becomes the hallmark of what the company is about, and for Roche, it
is Dr. Sternbach." Abercrombie's comments are not surprising in light of the fact that until a decade ago, one-fourth of Roche's sales came from Sternbach discoveries. Valium was the pharmaceutical industry's first "billion dollar drug."
Valium ushered in the "benzodiazepine craze" that began in the 1960s, spanned the 1970s and more or less crashed in the 1980s. Even today, Valium is found on the World Health Organizations list of "essential" drugs. ("Essential" drugs should be available at all times and in adequate amounts in key hospital settings.) Valium (Diazepan) is part of the class of tranquilizer drugs that act on gamma amino butylic acid (GABA) which has been identified as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
An anxiolytic, Valium calmed anxiety. Between 1969 and 1982 Valium was the most prescribed drug in the United States. Valium's ambition-thwarting and addictive characteristics did not become a concern for many years after the Food and Drug Administration gave its seal of approval in 1963. Euphemistically referred to as "Executive Excedrin" and "Dolls," Valium was disproportionately prescribed to women. On their 1967 album, Flowers, the Rolling Stones sang about "Mother's Little Helper..."
She goes running for the shelter
Abuse of Valium began to be recognized in the middle 1970s. In 1981, the drug was linked with the growth of cancer cells in animals. In 1982, Tagamet, an anti-ulcer drug, ended Valium's reign as the most prescribed drug. Benzodiazepines remain the most prescribed anxiety drugs, partly because they start working as fast as one hour, slowing brain activity. They also are used for treating panic and phobia disorders and insomnia, calming patients before surgery and relaxing muscles.
Of a mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way
Gets her through her busy day.
On Valium's 35th birthday, five years ago, Sternbach reacting to some of the negative press Valium began to receive, said, "Not enough people kept in mind the suicides that were averted and the marriages that were saved because of this drug."
Warriors Drop Rumsfeld, Draft Howie
November 10, 2003
The Wonderland Warriors deactivated outfielder and current U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld and announced the drafting of Major Thomas D. Howie, a World War II warrior-hero.
Maj. Thomas D. Howie
Rumsfeld played two seasons for the Warriors and did a better than average job at the plate (.289 batting average in 797 at bats; 18 homeruns; 152 runs batted in.) On the field, the former U.S. Navy pilot committed 13 errors. In the locker room Rumsfeld, a former White House Chief of Staff and U.S. Representative from Illinois, did not enjoy cordial relations with his teammates. A former pharmaceutical company chief executive, Rumsfeld (who is both the 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense) might try to shop himself to the Heartland Capitalists.
Thomas Dry Howie, also known as the "Major of St.- Lo," was born April 12, 1908 in South Carolina. After graduating from The Citadel, he taught English and athletics at the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia. He left SMA in 1941 when he went to fight in World War II. In June, 1944 Howie was commander of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, of the U.S. Army's 29th Infantry Division. The 116th was a spearhead unit on Omaha Beach during D-Day (June 6, 1944). On July 17 during the battle of St.- Lo, an important enemy transportation center, Howie was mortally wounded by mortar fire. The next day, his troops entered St.- Lo as victors and carried Howie's flag-enveloped coffin to the St. Croix Church. Howie was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame on February 10, 2003.