A lifelong friend of mine—now 77-years old—has always had a sage’s knack for putting things into wisdom-oozing perspective, especially whenever he suspects . . . shall we say, truth-bending ulterior motives.
To this end, one of his favorite admonitions has ALWAYS been, “You can spray a turd with all the perfume you want, but when you step on it, it’s still going to smell like sh*t.”
Admittedly, I’m a tad biased. Even so, our history together has clearly shown that his record for accurately calling social plays has always been stellar. Let me explain.
This past Friday, I ran into another friend; at the age of 53-years, she’s a chronological young-un compared to my ancient butt. But intellectually and emotionally, she dwarfs most others, including ME.
Her only child, a 30-year-old daughter, widow—her husband died from stomach cancer 14-months ago—and mother to two young girls, has been diagnosed with TERMINAL pancreatic cancer.
I haven’t be able to shake the image of her pained face for the past two days. All I could do was put my arms around her and hold her for a few moments. Devastation does not begin to describe her emotional state.
Something’s set me off big time since my meeting with her (Shirley). I’ve had time to think—perhaps too much time—and I’m going to RANT for a bit. So if you don’t like rants, stop reading now.
Also, Cancer has been devastating my own family directly for the last 35-years, the past 3-years particularly, and I’ve suspected what follows in this post for at least that long.
But if you receive AARP’s Bulletin, turn to page 22. Two well versed analysts have pegged the problem precisely. In addition to adding my own thoughts, I’ve summarized their findings in . . . shall we say, less politically correct terms.
To start, I want you to know that I have ZERO respect for pharmaceutical cost-setting boards and the executives who provide them with the data they use to set cancer drug prices.
Every one of these people should have a brother who’s a pimp. This way each of them will always have someone to look up to!
I am not a medical doctor; I’m not even a medical researcher. But I am, in deed, a scientific RESEARCHER (physics and engineering) who’s damned WELL versed in the finer points of scientific investigation.
Over the past two years, there has yet to be a cancer drug approved that has increased a terminal patient’s life by more than 6-months. In fact, one drug has netted such patients as little as an average of between 14 and 16 DAYS!
Yet, the price tag for such drugs has averaged between $90,000 and $100,000 per year.
For the uninsured, forget it! And for those with even GOOD health coverage, the co-pays range between 20 and 30%. I’m not supposed to name the actual drugs, but I’m going to anyway.
To wit: the cost per treatment last year for a combination of Perjeta and Herceptin to delay the spread of advanced breast cancer was $188,000 per treatment. The length of the delay averaged 6-months.
My brother’s insurance paid about $10,000 a month for a lung cancer drug that netted him about 2 additional months before his oncologists placed him under final hospice care.
He entered hospice care weighing 190 pounds and died 8-months later weighing 76 pounds!
Avastin treats metastatic colon cancer at a cost of $10,000 per month while extending life by about 5-months.
If you’re a late-stage prostate cancer patient, you can possibly extend your life as much as 4-MONTHS by paying $93,000 for Provenge, an immunity therapy drug.
And for the pancreatic cancer patients, they can combine Tarveca and Gemcitabine at $15,000 per pop to net an additional 14 to 16-DAYS.
And there’s no need for skin cancer patients to feel left out, either. If you’re an advanced melanoma patient, you can receive 4 injections of Yervoy for a mere $120,000.
The real problem is so not much that the drugs are not as effective as we need them to be, as it is that patients are being ripped off by these companies. And they’re covering their tracks behind a haze of MBA-ish business mumbo-jumbo.
Right now, the pharmaceutical executives tell their critics that, including failed attempts, it costs between a BILLION and a BILLION and a HALF dollars to bring a cancer drug to market.
And while this sounds financially foreboding, there’s a technical term for it: A DAMN LIE!
A professor by the name of Dr. Ervin Miller taught me this about 100-years ago when I was a student at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.
He’s probably dead by now; he was about Moses’s age even back then, but I’ve never forgotten what he taught me about “opportunity costs.”
The simplest definition of an “opportunity cost” is that it’s foregone revenue from an alternative capital investment. In other words, if you choose “X” as a way to make money, then you forgo the income had you chose “Y.”
It’s a simple fact; you can’t use the SAME capital dollar in two different investments. DUH!
Well, the pharmaceutical companies claim that they can do this. In fact, about 35% of that BILLION plus capital investment is precisely “opportunity costs.” Pure baloney! It’s NOT a real cost and should not be treated as one.
Another 50% of their stated $BILLION plus research cost is nothing more than bait-and-switch carnival antics by flaming shysters!
The U. S. Government subsidizes close to 50% of all drug company research costs with taxpayer money. They grant myriad tax incentives through tax deductions and outright tax credits.
And there’s a ton more to it, too. The money lobby in this country has bought and paid full price for the U. S. Congress, some members of which are, at worst, criminally complicit, and at the least, too damn stupid to know what’s going on.
Delaware’s senior U. S. Senator lives across the street from me; He replaced the late Senator William V. Roth thanks mostly to Republican complacency.
And since I’m still not that comfortable with Tom Carper, I’m not sure whether he’s politically helpless, one of the cooks, or a charter member of the Congressional dummies’ club.
So, I’m going to stop here before my blood pressure goes right through the top of my head.