Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Legalize Drugs Now!

Got your attention? Think I'm going to talk about marijuana? Not on your life. I want to talk about real drugs; experimental cancer drugs to be exact. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that cancer patients cannot have access to experimental cancer drug therapies that have not been approved by the FDA.

For an agency supposedly chartered to protect the health and safety of the public, I can think of nothing more reprehensible than forbidding access to any medication to patients who may likely be dead before the medication is approved. Who's life is it, anyway? The state's? But then it's because the FDA ought not to exist as an agency, that the government has no business regulating healthcare or any other industry. Seeking justice after crimes are committed? Sure. Clogging up the system with bureaucratic red tape in the name of preventing as-yet-uncommitted crimes? That does one thing. It kills people. Literally.

Pharma companies are rued for making too much money on drugs, and cancer drugs are among the most expensive. As Stella Daily explains to us on ReasonPharm, that is due to very explainable reasons. Cancer is fragmented; it's not a single disease, but rather 300 separate individual, somewhat-related diseases. Compared to the market for cholesterol lowering drugs like statins, cancer is microscopic. But it still costs a fortune to develop any drug, and cancer is one of the tougher disease areas for which to develop. Most cancer drugs today are successful if they can extend a patient's life for a year or two, and most are targeted at late stage cancers. A cure is viewed as an almost unattainable holy grail. Compared to other diseases, cancer drug therapy is in the dark ages.

Pharmaceutical companies need one thing desperately to find new cancer cures: profits. Given small markets, large up front investment costs, and stunningly long approval times, rational companies seek greener pastures than oncology. That's not what I want. I want cancer to be profitable, because profits draws profit-seekers. And it is profit-seekers, the Atlases of the world, not bureaucrats, that discover life-saving medications. If people value their lives, they'll want the same thing.

This one is a matter of life and death, and also, it's personal. You see, I'm a cancer survivor. I'm a number in a box. 2001; Hit "Go"; Select "Incidence Counts"; white male; cancer type: testis. It was summer, so I'm guessing I'm around number 3,000 out of 6,596 diagnoses that year. 6,000 - 7,000 patients per year. That is hardly a market that will justify drug research. Luckily, early diagnosis, surgery, radiation therapy, and five years of monitoring have left me "cured". My chance of recurrence in my lifetime is probably less than 1%. But if it should happen, then between now and then I want drug companies working round the clock seeking huge profits on new cancer drugs. I titled this post "Legalize Drugs..." What I really meant was "Abolish the FDA"; it's the same thing really. I want the FDA gone, out of the way, so that these companies can work as quickly as possible and make as vast sums of money such that the best and brightest are drawn into the area of research. Any thing else is less than "life-saving".


Galileo Blogs said...

Well put, and I am glad you are a survivor of your cancer.

As you say, the FDA must be abolished, period. As I learn more about the FDA I am concluding that all they care about is power as such. Thus, they keep drugs away from terminally patients, as you report. They even keep a superior sunscreen out of the hands of Americans for more than a decade, probably out of unwillingness to bother with something so beneath them in importance. That sunscreen does a better job of blocking UV-B rays which increase the odds of getting melanoma. Europeans, Australians and others in all parts of the globe have had this for those ten years, while Americans have not. I wonder how many Americans needlessly died from melanoma in those 10+ years?

In another very recent case, an FDA advisory panel contemptuously tells all Americans not to use cold medicine on their under 6 years old children. It appears in doing so they are making children out of Americans since their concerns stem from the fact that some Americans cannot follow the directions printed on the medicine packages. So, if some Americans can't get it right, the FDA will take that choice away from all Americans in the same manner as a scolding parent would take a dirty lollipop out of the hands of a toddler.

The FDA itself is a cancer, a cancer attached directly to the minds of Americans such as Craig Ventner, who decoded the human genome and now promises to make drugs tailored to our individual gene patterns. I can only imagine what kind of regulatory rack they will put him on before he can offer *individualized* drugs for Americans.

No, I can imagine it. From what I know of the man, he won't even bother developing such drugs. Instead, he will pursue another area of research that is still less regulated, an area where the cancer hasn't yet spread too deeply.

When the cancer spreads far enough, there will be no place left to go for the minds of those like Craig Ventner. For those brilliant creators, I commend to them the only anti-carcinogen that stands a chance of beating the cancer: Atlas Shrugged.

Stella said...

Thanks for giving your perspective as a cancer survivor on the issue. I wish more people understood why patients NEED pharmaceutical companies to profit from their work.