Politics Magazine


Posted on the 26 July 2013 by Adask

A pill and a profit for every symptom  (courtesy Google Images)

A pill and a profit for every symptom
(courtesy Google Images)

As I bounced about the internet I ran into a story about a new cure for cancer that’s been discovered in Canada but largely ignored by the medical industry. The new drug is called “dichloroacetate”. It’s not a new substance, but has already been used for some time in other contexts and appears to be readily available. You can read an introductory article at “Dichloroacetate: University of Alberta Doctors Discover A Cure For Cancer“.

Unfortunately, dichloroacetate has a significant intrinsic problem:  it was researched and discovered by means of public funding.  That means no major pharmaceutical enterprise can claim a patent on dichloroacetate and use that patent to generate massive profits.

If no major corporation can get rich off selling dichloroacetate, that medicine will probably not be manufactured or sold.  People will die from cancer who might otherwise be saved, but no one in the pharmaceutical industry gives a damn.

Kimberly Carter Gamble explains in her 00:01:35 video:

For major pharmaceutical corporations, it’s all about the money.  And I understand that.  Corporations aren’t here to make the world a better place.  They’re here to make profits. That’s “natural”.

From a profit perspective, creating cures for diseases is bad business.  A better business model is based on discovering substances that reduce disease symptoms but never, ever actually cure that disease.  That way, customers who have the disease are compelled to come back month after month, year after year, to buy whatever medicine they need to suppress symptoms–but never effect a cure.

Again, the logic of that business model is natural and  hard to deny.

What’s unnatural is our government’s determination to support pharmaceutical corporations and protect their profits.  Why th’ hell should American taxpayers subsidize those greedy, self-serving corporations?  Why not subsidize independent researchers with public funds so as to leave the ownership of any newly-discovered drug that actually cures a disease to the people?

If we’re going to have government-sponsored health care, why not also have government-sponsored pharmaceutical research by private researchers?  Government doesn’t have to manufacture the drugs that our tax dollars might help to discover.  Government could license the production of those drugs to existing pharmaceutical manufacturers–but do so under terms that guaranteed that the drugs would be sold at fair (rather than exorbitant) prices.

I understand that it typically requires a massive research capability to discover, create and test a new drug.  I understand that the costs of such research aren’t easily granted to independent researchers.  But I also know that CBS recently reported that 16-year old Jack Andraka had found a new way to detect cancer.  17-year-old Angela Zhang recently discovered a possible cure for cancer.  A Canadian teenager recently discovered a possible cure for cystic fibrosis.

How do I know these things?  I know because I typed “Teen finds cure for” into my search engine, and Google brought back 6.5 million hits.  It appears that impoverished teenagers may be finding more cures than billion-dollar pharmaceutical corporations.  But that’s hardly surprising since big pharma isn’t looking for cures, are they?  In fact, it’s likely that, in order to ensure their profits, big pharma secretly suppresses any cure they accidentally discover.

Not all successful research requires billions of dollars.  Not every researcher is in it only for the money.  I know it may be unlikely, but it’s still possible for ordinary people to find new cures (not just ways to endlessly treat symptoms) for current diseases.

So, let’s suppose that thanks to public funding–or merely a reduction in massive government regulations that prevent private scientists from researching cures on their own–that we found a way to cure cancer in five years.  Let’s suppose that five years later, and another private researcher found a cure for diabetes.  How ’bout another five years and we cure cystic fibrosis?  If each step forward actually cured a disease, how long would it be before we’d effectively wiped out the vast majority of current diseases?  How long would it be before the costs of American health care almost disappeared?

The issue is not the cost of research.  The issue is who owns the patents on whatever cures are found by that research.  Insofar as we relied on public taxes to subsidize the discovery of cures for disease (not just drugs that suppressed symptoms) we the people would own those cures and they could be made available to all of us at minimal costs.

If we could get government regulations and big pharmaceutical corporations off our backs, we might extend our lives for another 10 to 20 years and see our health care costs cut to less than our auto insurance.

Anyone who’s serious about reducing American health care costs should start by eliminating all subsidies and regulations that favor major pharmaceutical firms that seek only profits of drugs that alleviate symptoms–and start supporting those Americans (even teenagers) who are actually seeking cures.

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