Are Healthcare Non-Profits On Our Side?

OK, this is going to veer off the political path a little. But it does talk about politics of a kind. Money politics. And it is probably going to upset some of you, especially if you happen to work or have worked for a healthcare non-profit. I’m talking about places like the American Cancer Society, or The Heart Association, or The Alzheimer Association. You get the idea.

A long-time reader of this blog recently wrote in to suggest that doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and even these non-profits really don’t want to find a cure for the disease they are “researching” (in the case he was talking about it was cancer). And he’s dead on right. Look at it. Today, there are all sorts of drugs out there relating to “living longer” with different types of cancer. They don’t treat the disease. They slow down the progression of it. But there are reasons why they don’t want to actually cure it and eradicate it.

Money.

Pure and simple, and I’m going to use cancer as an example, but we can talk about any healthcare problem from AIDS to zygomycosis. It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same in this discussion.

First of all, you have specialized doctors. In the world of cancer, they are called “oncologists”. They specialize in the treatment of cancer. I will say the cancer survival rate has gone way up in the last 50 years or so, but the costs have been rather large. In fact, we are spending in excess of $2 trillion a year on cancer research.

You have universities and hospitals all researching how to deal with differing types of cancer. They all receive federal grants and monies from the non-profits to pursue those aims. You have pharmaceutical companies in a “moon race” to find the magic bullet that is going to “cure cancer”, but all they have really been able to do is find ways to slow the progression and extend the lives of cancer patients from a few months to a year or two. And you’ve got the non-profits themselves that raise money from people like you and me using all sorts of emotional ploys to get the money.

And it’s all about the money. At over $2 trillion a year, no one group is going to be able to fund all of the research that’s going on. It’s been that way, by the way, for the past 40 years. Think about it. We’ve increased the funding over time, but that’s in the neighborhood of some $40 trillion that has been spent on cancer research. Our federal debt is only $32 trillion!

And do these groups that I’ve been talking about really WANT to find a cure? What happens if someone finds that “magic bullet”? Yes, they save lives, win the Nobel Prize for medicine and become a hero the way Jonas Salk became a hero. But to the millions of others that work in the cancer industry, they lose their livelihoods. Oh, most will be able to find work elsewhere. The non-profit folks can move over to another disease. The drug companies can pretty much do the same. But the oncologists that have spent their lives on cancer? Where do they turn? Private practice?

And it’s the case with every single disease out there that has a group of people fighting for it eradication. Millions of people working to basically get rid of a disease so they can be unemployed. And the cost to the American public is incomprehensible.

So, what’s the solution? I have no idea. Because frankly, I too want to see an end to the diseases, especially cancer. But I can tell you one thing I would do that may be able to help in the short term. Let’s get Congress to ban all of those pharmaceutical ads on TV. You can’t go out and buy those drugs without a prescription anyway. So, why advertise to the consumer? So we can go to our doctor, who has years more experience in medicine than we do, and ask for a drug we saw advertised on TV, like we’re buying a new brand of cold cream? I asked my doctor about the advertising, and he said that it’s one of the banes of his profession and not one doctor he knows personally likes it. So, let’s get rid of it. Let them advertise to the people that can actually prescribe the medicine being advertised and spare us the boring ads!

Tomorrow…back to politics…I promise!

Carry on world…you’re dismissed!

Another Biden Slip Up…

Even when Joe Biden wants to “do the right thing”, he screws things up. That has become painfully evident in his first year and a half in office. And the latest screw up is probably something you know very little about…but you will.

Now, we all know very well that Biden’s eldest son, Beau died of brain cancer back in 2015. He was a very promising politician who had served as Delaware’s Attorney General. He was thinking of running for the US Senate (in daddy’s footsteps). But he suffered a mild stroke, and it was found that he was suffering from brain cancer. It would eventually end his life.

It was cited by Joe Biden himself that Beau’s death was the reason he didn’t run for president against Donald Trump in 2016. And since that time, Joe Biden has had a very personal reason for defeating cancer, and he’s been very public about it. I think anyone of us that has lost a family member or a friend to cancer can understand his sadness. I know I can, having lost my youngest brother to cancer just a few short years ago.

Joe Biden is also fighting hard to lower drug costs for senior citizens. He wants to be able to have Medicare and Medicaid negotiate lowered drug prices for it’s members. And while that seems like an admirable thing to have happen, it does have an unintended consequence. It is going to put cancer research back at least a decade.

That’s because in order to lower drug costs, you have to slash R&D budgets for the big pharma companies. And while cancer research is front and foremost for a lot of these companies because they realize that if they are the ones that can find the magic bullet to defeat cancer, it’ll be bigger than Viagra. Unfortunately, if Congress forces these companies to negotiate drug prices, there will be what one study from the University of Chicago a 31.9% reduction in R&D costs. That would take about $18 billion off the table for cancer research.

Cancer takes the lives of about 600,000 Americans each and every year. It’s the number two overall leading cause of death in this country. And it is exceedingly expensive to try and find a cure. Operation Cancer Moonshot was begun with the 1971 National Cancer Act. And Cancer Moonshot has a goal of reducing cancer deaths by half by 2045. That’s a huge undertaking!

But Biden’s willingness to get a win, and lower drug costs for seniors on Medicare and Medicaid means that he is going to have to put Cancer Moonshot on the back burner…maybe forever. And Beau Biden’s death will just meld into the memories of the other millions of people that have succumbed to the disease.

Carry on world…you’re dismissed!