Is Big Pharma Hiding the Cure For Cancer?

The claim is becoming more and more common on the social sites I haunt: There is a cure for cancer, but Big Pharma is hiding it because they make far more money on ineffective treatments than they could from curing the disease. Could this possibly be true?

This is not a new claim. Thirty-five years ago my mother died of cancer. We received lots of snail-mail letters, some from complete strangers, telling us that doctors and drug companies didn’t want a cure, and were ignoring natural, 100% effective cures they couldn’t patent. Back then the popular woo was mustard plasters. You just had to travel to Mexico where a shaman would smear you with a magical mustard mix and cover it with a cloth. In a couple of days, it would draw the tumors out through your skin and you’d be healed.

Today’s miracle cures include hemp oil, laetrile, purple grapes, colloidal silver, cesium chloride, juice from various organic fruits and vegetables, coffee enemas, healing touch, and special machines that magically dissolve cancer cells, to name a few. These cures are breathlessly praised all over the net, in articles rife with exclamation points, on sites that look like they were designed in 1995 with Front Page. My personal favorite cure is maple syrup mixed with baking soda. But it has to be the right brand of baking soda, because, well, just because.

There’s no doubt that pharmaceutical companies have done rotten things. Some have hidden unfavorable test results. Some of their mood-altering drugs are no more effective than placebos. They’ve hidden or downplayed nasty and sometimes deadly side effects. They are quite capable of evil.

But they’ve also helped extend our lifespans and considerably improved the quality of our lives. For instance, I have Type II diabetes. Thirty years ago, it would have forced me to live with a very restricted diet and severely altered lifestyle. A hundred years ago it would have resulted in a nasty death. Today, big pharma’s drugs have reduced it to being a pain in the ass. It’s still serious, and requires care and attention, but it’s far less deadly than it was in the past.

I worked for a company whose sole client was a Big Pharma company, and learned a bit about how pharmaceutical companies work.

A drug company will sell a lot of drugs that net a decent profit and one drug that nets them billions. They have about five years to sell that one drug before their patent runs out and it becomes available as a generic.

They patent a drug as soon as they invent the molecule. The patent gives them exclusive rights to it for twenty years. It takes about fifteen years, and hundreds of millions of dollars, to test it, get it approved, and get it into production. (Most drugs will fail during the testing process and have to be abandoned.) That leaves them five years to reap huge profits before it becomes available generically. When that happens, the price drops dramatically. They can still make a good profit on it for a while – some people will still pay more for the trademarked version than generic one – but the monster profits are gone. And if/when it becomes an over the counter drug, the profits plummet even further. (How much was your last big bottle of generic ibuprofen?) This is why they’re always searching for the Next Big Drug.

When their primary drug’s patent expires, if they don’t have another Big Drug to replace it they are in serious financial trouble. It’s not uncommon for their Next Big Drug to be a minor variation of the Last Big Drug, but ideally, it should be something completely new and different, because that will be more profitable.

Imagine, for a moment, that a company comes up with a drug that cures cancer quickly and effectively with minimal side effects. It would probably be rushed though the approval process, giving them six or seven years of exclusivity instead of the normal five. It would sell more, world-wide, than any other drug in history. It would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars. Their corporate executives could use their stock options and bonuses to buy private islands, hell, whole countries, and personal private jets to get to them. The drug’s name would be a household word. And when the patent expired, they’d not only continue to sell it under a trademarked name that was now known to every human on the planet, they’d also have some new variation of it that would let them repeat the cycle. Meanwhile, their competitors would also be creating and releasing variations and improvements to it.

Do you honestly think any company would sit on something so vastly profitable?

What if the cure were something common, like a tincture made from dandelions and mud? Would the researchers who discovered it, knowing they would become world famous and have a secure place in history, sit on it? Wouldn’t pharmaceutical companies come up with some slight variation they could patent and sell in over-priced capsules?

The idea that a cure would be suppressed is even more ludicrous than the snake-oil being sold by the perpetrators of this myth. No smartenized person should fall for it.

 

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11 Comment(s)

  1. This is true for every single BIG story out there. Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Energy, Big Agra. Maybe not the patent part, but the main gist. Selling stuff is selling stuff. There is no such animal as Price gouging in a world where the government doesn’t intercede. When the government gets involved and grants monopolies to corporations, gouging may rears its ugly head.

    Every one of those Bigs has a fundamental mandate. Make sure Revenue exceeds expense by as much as possible. All of the bigs do it by getting you the consume to consume. You need to consume Gasoline to make Big Oil money. You need to consume electricity for Big Power. You need to consume drugs for Big Pharma. There is a grain of truth in Big Pharma not being interested in Cures. Big Pharma does have 1000s of little pharmas that want to be Big Pharma though. If they can create the cure, they can get to be Big Pharma.

    Now, if anyone reading this blog has a real idea on how to make electricity really cheap. You have made the machine that generates more power than it uses, but you can’t figure out how to make money with it because “Big Power” will clobber you. Dave and I can make it happen. I will check to make sure you haven’t deceived yourself before moving forward (The appearance of over unity is often caused by a failure to understand the box you have drawn). Make sure you can do real work with the power you think you are creating before getting in touch.

    If you can show the power company how to generate electricity without using coal, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, etc, they will be eager to buy in. If they can undercut the price of their competition THEY WILL. They just don’t listen to most people with Overunity schemes because they HAVE listened to people with overunity schemes in the past and discovered that all of them delude themselves.

    None of this means that the opposition won’t try and discredit you though. Edison fried an elephant with AC power…

    brad tittle | Dec 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. On the flip side though, there seem to be vast swaths of mostly smart people who think that Climate Change is all caused by Carbon Dioxide Emissions. These people are not idiots. They are so much not idiots that one wonders if they haven’t been touched by the MAN.

    Phil Plait posted yesterday that “15,000 papers published, only x disagree with climate change”. When I pointed someone to an article showing that that particular quote was wrong, they immediately told me “That guy cherry picked and moved the goal posts”.

    Once again I was dumbfounded. The goal post was provided by Dr. Oreskes was “No papers disagree with the consensus”.

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/monckton/consensuswhatconsensusamongclimatescientiststhedebateisnotover.html

    Dr. Peiser does the same query and find papers that disagree with the consensus. Not just one or 2, but many.

    It is a crazy world. …

    brad tittle | Dec 12, 2012 | Reply

  3. Exactly, Brad. I was going to include the following in the article, but didn’t because it detracted from the main points:

    When I was growing up and cars used carburetors, there were urban myths about people who had developed carburetors that could get 200 MPG. The oil companies bought up the patent and refused to let it come to the market. In one version of the myth they murdered the inventor.

    This ignores several things. Patents are public. Back then you could get the patent application, including all the plans, for a reasonable free. And if there were a way to get that kind of mileage, how likely is it that only one person in the world would have figured it out?

    Another thing that I just remembered and probably should have included: Scientists are very gabby, and while they might not give away specific details, they talk about what they’re doing with other scientists – including competitors.

    I spent two years as a computer guy on one of the biggest R&D centers in the world. I overheard lots of interesting things, and several times I heard conversations between a researcher at this R&D center having conversations with another expert who worked with a competitor’s company – usually to check their work and make sure they weren’t making any obvious errors. These were competitors they were talking with, and they did it as a courtesy to each other.

    So if one company had found a cure, but was sitting on it, which they could only do by keeping it secret, word would get out and a competitor would grab it.

    Dave Hitt | Dec 13, 2012 | Reply

  4. @”When I was growing up and cars used carburetors, there were urban myths about people who had developed carburetors that could get 200 MPG. The oil companies bought up the patent and refused to let it come to the market. In one version of the myth they murdered the inventor.”

    These myths were usually born from actual technical advances that didn’t return the theoretical potential due to some unforeseen limitation. Examples:

    Forced air (turbo/super charger)
    Water Injection
    Electronic fuel injection
    variable valve timing
    Improved lubrication (synthetic motor oil)
    Improved materials (engine)
    Lightweight materials.
    Reduction of drag coefficient.
    Computer controlled fuel delivery (air/petrol/mix/pressure/ignition timing/)

    We’ve done well on a few of those in the past three decades, but achieve nowhere near what they appear to promise on paper. In almost all of the above cases, big-oil/auto companies did procure the rights to the technology, create an implementation, and release it. It surprises me that these grandiose myths survive despite the technology behind their origin being fairly well understood.

    “A cure for cancer” is an impossible thing, because cancer is not a singular thing. I’m happy to see us knock out each type one by one. I don’t want to get overly optimistic, but it appears we’re making some progress on some forms. The “reprogram immune system cells with dormant HIV” article seemed neat. Perhaps it will cure 10% of cancers in the US, and we’ll end up with yet another myth.

    Durr Herder | Dec 25, 2012 | Reply

  5. And don’t forget the Retro Encabulator. That was some amazing technology.

    Dave Hitt | Dec 25, 2012 | Reply

  6. There was a lady in a neighboring congregation to the one I grew up in who purportedly had a brain tumor. The doctors swore she was going to die and that there was no hope (what do those doctors know anyway?). The tumor, I have been told was a varying range of sizes from golf ball to baseball. A few months lady, sister goes back to the doctor and the tumor has DISAPPEARED!! What a miracle? Of course, the cure was this special blood-type diet called “Eat Right 4 Your Type” (because spelling words with numbers = medically legit). By following the program she was able to cure her inoperable brain tumor by not eating tomatoes.

    So of course, she went from being a mere elder’s wife to the wise old woman of at least five congregations. As their official witch doctor, people would come from miles around to learn about this miraculous diet, and of course, buy the books and tapes from her (as she was now a distributor).

    My mom was a true believer, even though the book hits on some slight evolutionary mumbo-jumbo (people with certain blood types supposedly evolved in different areas of the world with different diets). One of the funniest things was she was trying to sell it to some guy at a convenience store once, and he said “you know, horses have over 30 different blood types, but they all eat hay.”

    Brian | Jan 8, 2013 | Reply

  7. If people don’t buy into drugs that can potentially solve their problems, the pharmaceutical companies can’t eat. Can you blame big PhRma though? Everyone is looking out for their own best interest which I disagree with but is that not the society in which we live? The goverment I feel is the only institution that can change the direction of medicine which is a business today. They should offer incentives to these pharmaceutical companies to initiate research that focuses on cancer treatment. It may sound a bit fuzzy but if money is the primary issue for these organizations, extending the patent if the drug makes it past clinical trials and becomes approved may be a viable solution. Just my 2 cents

    Alexander Oladele | May 21, 2013 | Reply

  8. “But they’ve also helped extend our lifespans and considerably improved the quality of our lives. For instance, I have Type II diabetes. Thirty years ago, it would have forced me to live with a very restricted diet and severely altered lifestyle. A hundred years ago it would have resulted in a nasty death. Today, big pharma’s drugs have reduced it to being a pain in the ass. It’s still serious, and requires care and attention, but it’s far less deadly than it was in the past.”

    Type II diabetes is preventable, curable and not appropriately treated in mainstream pharmaceuticals.
    100 years ago it would not have occurred. It is because of our lifestyle choices that this disease arose. Medications make people lazy, not account for what they do/eat, and are a cop-out for not taking ownership over your life.
    Yes, before medications for type II diabetes arose you would have to live an altered lifestyle- but that is the point! The illness of the diabetes is telling you something you are doing is wrong- your body is shutting down because of the food you are in taking and the lack activity you are displaying.
    Eating foods high in fat, sugar, and salt will destroy the cells in anyone… medications just gives us an excuse to continue.

    Ashley | Aug 31, 2013 | Reply

  9. Type II diabetes is preventable, curable and not appropriately treated in mainstream pharmaceuticals.

    Preventable? Probably.

    Curable? Occasionally. Very occasionally. Gastric by-pass surgery sometimes results in it disappearing, for reasons that are not quite understood, and there are a few cases of people who have been able to eat/exercise themselves to the point they no longer needed any meds. But for most of us, it’s something that can be reduced and limited by changes to diet and exercise, but not eliminated.

    … not appropriately treated in mainstream pharmaceuticals. Not true. It’s very well treated by mainstream pharmaceuticals.

    This sounds like a plea for alternative medicine. I prefer real medicine.

    Dave Hitt | Sep 3, 2013 | Reply

  10. If it were true and they were sitting on it…all of us who have lost someone because maybe they sat on it to make a dime… No force on earth would stop the armed revolt these executives would face when the word leaked out. There would be a line ten miles long for getting the opportunity to put your hands around their throats…because they would have sat on something that would have prevented deaths…

    That being said, this article makes a good point and I hope it’s true.

    Taco | Dec 5, 2013 | Reply

  11. Not if they don’t know the details.

    Floyd | Feb 15, 2014 | Reply

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