We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, February 16. 2016
He is deeply involved in holistic and alternative medicines. That, in itself, is no big deal. I know plenty of people who use these approaches, as I have from time to time (despite being the son of a doctor). My father once told me, "If it works, it doesn't matter what it is. Even placebos have a place in medicine." Of course, he wasn't all that thrilled about me seeing a chiropractor, but I figure that was just professional jealousy kicking in.
What the CRO said to catch my attention was this - "there is no incentive for the medical community to cure cancer because they make far more money by just treating it." From someone as highly educated as he is, I was shocked.
It's not like I haven't heard this comment before. I just never heard it from a person capable of thinking deeply about an issue like this.
His premise is based on the existence of one thing called 'cancer' which must be somehow curable. I tried to explain to him there is no single thing called 'cancer'. There are forms of cancer, and they are all quite different. In addition, we all have some form of 'cancer' within us, it's really just a question of whether the deadly or invasive form has been activated. Furthermore, the term "cure" isn't perfectly applicable. There are many ways of dealing with disease, such as prevention (one example is vaccines - the HPV vaccine should reduce the rate of cervical cancer over time) and altered diets and behaviors (there is evidence that healthier eating habits, reduced sugars can help slow some cancers from spreading - and even ending smoking or drinking can help). But even treatment is a form of 'cure' (many lymphomas are now 'cured' if caught early and treated aggressively). Regardless of how you approach the issue, strides are being made to find a 'cure'.
The idea that you "make more from treatment so you're not looking for a cure" is like saying "the attempt to cure the disease generates so much revenue, they aren't really trying to cure it." In other words, the money generated from 'curing' it isn't really an attempt to 'cure' anything. Which is a nice bit of circular logic I guess only a lawyer can get away with.
The truth is, many cancers may be 'curable', but because all cancers are such complex diseases there is no magic bullet. This, of course, makes Obama's State of the Union call a bit outlandish, and it also tends to forget that we've been trying to find a cure since 1971, when Nixon was the first president to declare "war" on cancer. This doesn't mean we should stop trying simply because we haven't cured all forms yet. However, it does mean we should keep everything in context. We've 'cured' several forms, we've made tremendous progress, and there is no value in ignoring everything which has happened to improve the lives of those with various forms.
If treating diseases generates so much money that 'curing' them isn't a goal, then I'd like to know why we do have so many curable diseases today? Treating diseases like smallpox, polio, and a host of other diseases generates plenty of money - why did we 'cure' them by finding vaccines?
In a way, the logic employed by my CRO friend is an application of Bastiat's "Broken Window Fallacy" - the idea that breaking windows makes us wealthier by keeping the glazier at work, and money changing hands. It's a logic that ignores the massive costs of lost value and misallocation of spending. Cancer's costs on productivity far outweigh the revenue any treatment can generate. 'Curing' all its forms is a goal simply because the overall gains in productivity will be greater than the revenues generated by simply managing it.
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All of what you wrote about the difficulties in curing cancer are true. In addition, cancer is our own tissue. It is harder to find treatments that kill cancer cells but are not too toxic on normal cells. Also, cancer cells often develop the ability to grow in spite of the chemo, radiation, etc, that is aimed at it. It develops resistance. In the case of brain tumors, many drugs do not penetrate into the brain. I don't believe your friend understands what the therapy development process is like. Few oncologists who are directly treating patients are involved in drug development, so there is no financial incentive to block a promising treatment. Doctors also develop and die of cancer, as do their loved ones. I have never understood how people come up with your friend's argument.
Everybody has areas of ignorance. Often, people can be most certain or vehement about things they know little about. Ignorance simplifies things.
I have cancer, it is not an aggressive cancer that will kill me tomorrow or maybe even next year. It is no fun. I told my wife after my CT scan last week in preparation for my visit with the oncologist that I hate this, the consultations the CT scans and blood tests. Why? Because they aren't going to cure it, the operations are debilitating at best and bring me constant pain even from the one I endured 11 years ago. I'm ready to quit. I feel mostly good considering my age and what I've been through the last 11 years or so. But having to get the tests and talk with the oncologist and no options is sapping my quality of life. I am pretty sure I will die no later/sooner whether I see my doctors or not and I'm tempted to walk away. My wife won't let me. In the last five years we lost her dad, then her mother, then her brother, her ex mother in law, her mother in law's sister and brother and there are a couple of family waiting in the wings with cancer too.
IMHO there is very little progress dealing with cancer in the last 50 + years. The medical community will brag about progress and people living past five years etc, But almost all of the so-called progress is more about discovering it earlier thus starting the clock ticking earlier so that it appears the treatments allow you to live longer. Don't get me wrong, the treatments 'seem' to work to give us more months/years with our loved ones BUT do they? You can't cure lung cancer (smokers cancer) but you can radiate the crap out of it and poison it and it 'seems' to help until that day when the doctor tells you it is growing faster, and metastasizing far more than it was and there is nothing we can do... Did the patient really live longer? Was their life any better? They probably died as quickly as they would have without treatment (many people will disagree) AND their quality of life sucked while they were waiting to die. They spend a couple hours a day hooked up to a poison IV. They go through a series of radiation treatments that depending on the type of cancer can have some painful and uncomfortable side effects. So what should you do? I will add that every cancer is different and some can indeed be treated. But there are many that are an outright death sentence. So what should you do?
In my 72 years I have seen many people die from cancer. One of my aunts had multiple cancers and for a few months her entire abdomen had been opened up to remove some cancer and left unstitched/unrepaired for months. I'm not sure why or what it gained her but here quality of life sucked. Another shirt tail relative had lung cancer/brain cancer and didn't discover it until two weeks before he died (at home without needed care). I think that is a better way to go. He probably had that lung cancer for years would his life have been better mainlining poison and being irradiated. I consider him to be one of the lucky ones. He was working and enjoying his life right up until he died and never was bedridden or sick. He also never went to the doctor in his long life so that is why it was discovered so late.
The only treatments they really have for cancer is slash, burn or poison. If your cancer cannot be cut out or if it is not one of the less aggressive ones that lends itself to radiation or chemo than you are gonna die from it. It may be not too bad/painful/debilitating or it may put you down and make you suffer bad enough to need constant serious pain killers. What should you do? I'm leaning towards walking away from treatment and when it gets unbearable to take the long sleep.
I'm very sorry you are dealing with this, GWTW. I would suggest that you keep in the back of your mind, "Hospice sooner rather than later." They are specialists at handling all symptoms and helping the family, too. And you can talk to hospice without signing up, and can revoke them if you want to if you have signed up. (And you might not meet the criteria yet, or want to try something else.) Some doctors are better than others in recognizing and accepting when that transition should be considered. I hope you have a doctor you can take your questions to, and who can give you enough information for you to feel like you can make good decisions. The loss of control is hard for most patients. I hope saying all that isn't too forward of me. I have enjoyed your comments and insights, and I'm truly sad that you have such a struggle on your hands. And your poor wife, with al of her losses!
In the past two years, I have lost my mother and several cousins to cancer.
Thank you. I was on a rant on a subject that is close to me and probably shared too much personal info. Please understand that I am lucky my cancer is slow, my prognosis is I have time, could be a few years could be more. I don't feel any symptoms and my symptoms are from two previous operations on the cancer. My intent was to express the frustration that most cancer patients feel with the lack of any real success in dealing with cancer. Some small successes that are great for those they help. But so much seems to be little better than 25 or 50 years ago. Not ranting against doctors and others who I believe are doing their best but just frustration coming out.
Cancer is a very personal subject. How much you choose to share or not is up to you. You have every right to feel frustrated and angry, since you're dealing with something many of us may never have to.
I agree with everything you wrote - but I'll simply add one item. Most cancers today, that is the large increase in them, are the result of the increased life span many of us are lucky enough (or unlucky enough, I guess) to experience.
I'll opt for the bright side, the one my 80 year old father espouses, that "every day above ground is a gift."
He does not have cancer, though he has several other age-related issues he is dealing with.
Has progress been made? Earlier detection has led to better treatments, and expanded more opportunities. My sister-in-law was recently diagnosed with a cancer which, 20 years ago, was a death sentence. Today she is cancer-free after about 2 years of treatment.
Is her clock ticking? Perhaps yes. Some 20% of her kind of cancer is diagnosed as metastatic several years after patients are declared "cancer-free". But she has an 80% chance of not being metastatic.
In addition, just the progress made in prevention, from cessation of smoking or the use of various vaccines to reduce diseases which are carcinogenic, represent gains against this dreadful problem.
Ultimately, from what I've seen in people who have cancers, the one defining point is attitude. I can tell as frustrated as you are you have something to live for and love and that has probably given you the will and desire to carry on.
I applaud and appreciate what you've shared, and tip my hat to your courage and willpower. People like you are an inspiration for those of us who have not faced much adversity (but undoubtedly will at some point).
I hear that argument a lot, and it's always from highly educated people who should know better but have fallen in with shady "alternative medicine" and got the idea that anything can be cured by some herbal potion from an obscure area of India, China, or south America, but that doctors don't want to prescribe those (despite knowing all about them obviously) because they get massive kickbacks from "big pharma" who wouldn't make any money out of the "cure".
I think it's the educated man's alternative to the "evil banks" meme that's so popular among the young and stupid.
I agree, though I rarely hear it from educated people.
I have never thought of banks as 'evil' though my mother's idea of an insult was to call me a 'banker' to which I said "thank you."
But you're right. "Big Pharma" and "evil banks" are definitely similar.
I do believe there are "banksters" and there is some kind of nefarious goings-on with "big pharma" (no caps). Only insofar as how they have infiltrated the political system to get what they want out of it.
Beyond that, I have no gripes about what they do.
I have cancer. I have Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. I take Sprycel everyday, and it keeps it in check. My blood work looks normal now. I'll take it until i die. BTW, the price for one month of Sprycel is over 10 grand.
that price would mean a death sentence here... I've not checked but I can tell you now that medication won't be allowed to be prescribed here because of the price, it won't be on the government list of medicines approved for prescription to patients.
And anything not on the list you can't get, even if you pay for it yourself (a lot of the things on the list you already have to pay for yourself, at least in part).
Thank you government controlled healthcare...
It's true that there is a tension between the long-term profit motives of the pharma corporations to generate treatments rather than cures, and the desire of the rest of the human race to simply be cured. A cure is bought and paid for once, while a treatment can be taken for the rest of a person's life.
To address this problem, the federal government recently created the Cures Acceleration Network, part of the National
Center for Advancing Translational Sciences:
It's more a question of where basic research resources are being directed to and what information that research eventually yields rather than some big pharma company inventing a cure and then hiding it.
I do not perceive that tension. I know it's easy to believe that profit motive creates the incentive to 'hide' a cure which is a one-off payment, but consider the relative disruption in every industry which tries to fight that kind of activity.
IF a company invented a 'cure', then chances are the knowledge is going to spread quickly and easily. If I am a small pharma company seeking to make money, then developing and offering this 'cure' is my ticket to riches (and my ticket to being hailed as the great benefactor to all society - pick your incentive).
Trying to suppress this 'cure' would only create a market demand for it to be released somehow. The only way which it can be suppressed is not by "Big Pharma" - but through the cooperation of "Big Pharma" and the FDA. Because "Big Pharma" would lose in the market to the small guy with the cure.
"Big Pharma" has to rely on paying off politicians, bureaucrats and the FDA to find a way to kill that small company.
Has it happened? Doubtful. Probably one of the best examples of this kind of thing happening in the past is Tucker's auto company.
I think we can all agree this is not profit motive creating tension, but rather political maneuvering to preserve a static condition which benefits existing profits. The profit motive, or "creative destruction" as Schumpeter called it, would incentivize firms to create and market that cure ASAP.
So I find it unbelievable that something like this can, or would, happen. Not impossible, just highly improbable. After all, even though autos did a good job with Tucker, they all eventually added his innovations....it's hard to keep progress at bay.
Even the early attempts by the FDA to prevent AIDS/HIV alternatives from being explored, and its wholesale support of AZT was undermined by public pressure seeking 'the cure' (Dallas Buyers Club type situations forced the FDA's hand, in a real situation where profit motive WAS creating tension with the support of government). It failed.
Still, many so-called examples of this kind of thing happening are mostly smoke and mirrors with anecdotal evidence to support outlandish belief. I remember the 150 mpg car of the 1970s, which turned out to be fraudulent. It was a great concept, but the science didn't support it. People still believe it was created and GM and Exxon conspired to kill it. I consider that very unlikely....a car like that would fly off the lots, so there's no incentive for auto makers to be in cahoots with the oil industry. The profits of the oil business are, sometimes, at odds with those of the manufacturers, and that's a good thing.
Any attempt by government to 'prevent' this sort of thing from happening sounds to me like an attempt to find a way to actually make it happen and open new conduits for corruption. Still, market forces make it relatively difficult, if not impossible, for a real 'cure' to be created and withheld.
Laetrile? It was a great story, but not enough evidence to support its grand claims.
If there are real examples of corporate power withholding great advances from the public due to profit motive, I'd like to hear them. In almost every case, if there are any, it's unlikely to be corporate power alone - it will absolutely require political support. Even then, I'm willing to bet those products eventually found their way to market.
Cancer may never be "cured". It can often be halted, only to come back in some other form - some friends of mine on are on their third and even fourth cancers.
Type One diabetes is a disease many believe can be cured, whether through new pancreas or stem cells, but financial incentives keep a lot of businesses filling orders.
"there is no incentive for the medical community to cure cancer because they make far more money by just treating it."
This is projection from subconscious knowledge that alternative medicines are bogus. Alternative therapies are frauds designed to make the fearful and sick destitute before their deaths.
Here's the distillation of all we know: Modern medicine has made living better and dying harder.
A lot of women before me participated in a drug trial decades ago, and that drug saved me in 2010. After that I spent five years in a drug trial for a breast cancer vaccine, that I hope will save more women. You better believe I'm going to die hard.