Friday, February 11, 2011

I hate pharmaceutical companies

Wow, that is a bold title. But, perhaps, just once, a statement as strong as that might just capture the attention of somebody that can figure out how to make the difference. The irony is that it isn't the pharmaceutical companies. It is the system.

Believe it or not, in the United States of America, potentially life saving drugs for children with cancer disappear everyday. They vanish because there is no profit potential. Drugs that can save lives are shelved because they won't save enough lives for pharmaceutical companies to make a profit. So, the drugs are shelved until they can be sold off or until they can find another use for them. Unfortunately, research based upon those drugs is, for all practical purposes, wasted.

It is a sad and horrible situation and one that we have fallen victim to time and time again.

Think I am making a bigger deal of this than it really is?

Did you know that in the last 25 years only one drug has been approved by the FDA for a childhood cancer indication? One drug! And, the only reason that one got it was because it was also used for adults with cancer.

It isn't that powerful drugs haven't been brought forward. They have. The problem is that there is no incentive to make the drugs available for children. First there is a huge risk factor. We are talking about kids with cancer and we are talking about strong drugs which most likely have risky side effects. The problem is that, if a child dies during the course of a treatment with a particular drug, it is a public relations nightmare. It can not only kill a drug but it can also kill drug companies.

It isn't that the drugs are bad. It is that the cancers are and, in this day and age, many of the best drugs to defeat the cancer are incredibly toxic. Some kiddos die from the treatments they receive. As much as I hate to say it, it is a reality. It is horribly sad. But, what only make a tragic situation worse is that it also keeps many drug companies from pursuing pediatric indications.

Nobody wants to be the manufacturer of drugs that kill children - even if it saves far more lives.

The other major problem is the monetary factor. As much as I would love to blame pharmaceutical companies for being money grubbing, the fact of the matter is that they are in the business (like most other businesses) to make money. They aren't "not for profit". They have to make money. The problem for us is that even though childhood cancer is the number one killer of children by disease in the US there aren't enough of them to turn a profit for a drug company. Their simply isn't.

If the cure for all childhood cancers was discovered tomorrow as a shiny white pill. If it had no side effects and cured all childhood cancer patients immediately it still would not turn a pharmaceutical company a profit unless the drug had another indication in either a more prevalent cancer (like breast, lung, or prostate) or another disease entirely. Yes, the cure for childhood cancer would have to be supported either philanthropically or by a tiny upstart pharmaceutical company who had their eyes on tiny successes. Honestly, from a business perspective, the value of the cure for childhood cancer to a pharmaceutical company would be less about the amount of revenue it generated and far more about the amount of goodwill it could generate.

It is sad. But true.

Here again, I sit with no real answers but with a mountain of frustrations after watching no less that 5 promising drugs become unavailable, simply because their is no profit motive outside of childhood cancer to carry the drugs forward.

This is a case were children with cancer need strong governmental incentive for drug companies to get involved with childhood cancer. I don't know what the specifics of the incentive are but I do know something must be done or we will likely look back in the next 25 years to still only find a single drug with a pediatric cancer indication.

I understand the problem. I just don't know how to fix it. Do you?

It just feels like empty purpose.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is no money in health. By now though, with a title like that, you've probably been