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.