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.


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!