Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Profit of Medicine

Bear with me here - this is a little off message as it doesn't have anything to do with vaccinations or anti-vaccinationists, but rather focuses on those who push the idea of alternative medicine, or more specifically alternative cancer cures.  Although on second thought I do find a lot of overlap between antivaxxers and those who place their faith in alternative medicine, so in essence this is probably focused on the same group of people.  Nevertheless, I found some of these numbers interesting and couldn't help but put this together to outline just how out of touch some people are about the world around them.

This post this began out of curiosity as so many antivaxxers claim that the only purpose of a vaccine is to generate profits for drug companies (aka: "Big Pharma"), or to individual doctors.  Aside from the fact there is much more money to be made by treating diseases such as polio, smallpox, or rubella than there will ever be by preventing these diseases, there is also the common sense aspect of this theory that fails to convince.  You see, to believe vaccines are merely a method to profit suggests that tens of thousands or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of clinicians, researchers, scientists, doctors, medical experts, federal regulators, and industry watchdogs are all somehow involved in some massive conspiracy and refuse to speak out because they risk missing out on their cut of that $23 vaccine given to a toddler.  To a reasonable person this line of reasoning doesn't even pass a smell test.

That aside, why is that that the proponents of alternative medicine never seem to care about the money being made by those who are so obviously anti-vaccine or pro-alternative medicine?  Why is there never a mention of how Dr. Blaylock profits from his many newsletters or his miracle brain repair pills.  Why does nobody seem to care when Andy Moulden (a man who doesn't even have a license to practice medicine) was offering his professional diagnostic service where he could tell you if a child had a neurological condition based upon a few photographs or a videotape?  Why the lack of concern when Dr. Tenpenny offers nutritional supplements that can cost more than $117 for a two month supply or when she offers a $200 "anti-flu" wellness kit which is nothing more than a collection of supplements and vitamins?

To make matters worse, why is the selective outrage non-existent when they find someone like Dr. Tenpenny offering vitamin D supplements for $14.99 when you can get a larger quantity of vitamin D elsewhere on the Internet for less than $5?  Shouldn't these people be outraged that a "doctor" would intentionally gouge people by marking up her products over 300%?  Why do they not seem to care when someone like Dr. Mercola offers a bottle 60 vitamin C capsules for $14.97 while you can head over to Walmart and get 100 tablets for under $7 or 70 vitamin C gummies for under $5?

Why don't they seem to care about antivaxxers making a living off of speaking tours and overpriced supplements?  Why don't they care about alt-med practitioners selling pamphlets or books or DVDs full of their opinions for $60 or $70 even though they don't ever seem to have peer-reviewed research to support their statements?  Doesn't it seem odd that I can download a peer-reviewed paper that involved thousands of hours of research by real scientists and doctors simply by searching Google Scholar and all of that data is available to me for free, yet antivaxxers want to charge me over $60 to watch a home movie of them giving a speech or $50 to get a copy of a PowerPoint presentation that they slapped together in a couple of hours?

The point is - if you are going to chastise someone for profiting from healthcare, why can't you apply this disdain equally?  The truth is, there is a lot of money to be made by pushing alternative viewpoints, and the benefit of doing so is that these people aren't required to provide evidence that their viewpoints are valid provided they include a nice disclaimer on their websites (which all of them do).

So should we place our trust in legitimate peer-reviewed studies written by teams of research scientists that will never directly profit from their research, or should we trust doctors who publish their own books and newsletters filled with unsubstantiated opinion, unscientific statements, and zero verifiable data?

So where does the hypocrisy end?  If we are really going to focus on the money, why can't we apply the same logic to those who seem to profit from alternative medicine?

For instance, what if we were to look at a doctor who claims he can cure cancer? For instance, what about Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski?

  • Total number of clinical trials filed by the Burzynski Research Institute: 61
  • Total number of Burzynski clinical trials with an unknown status and which have not had any updates in over two years (many of which were originally filed in the 90s): 50
  • Total number of Burzynski clinical trials which were withdrawn: 9
  • Total number of Burzynski clinical trials which have completed: 1
  • Total number of Burzynski clinical trials which are not yet recruiting and yet have been open since 2010: 1
  • Total number of Burzynski clinical trials with published results: 0
  • Total annual cost to receive antineoplastons treatment from Burzynski: $30,000 - $60,000 or more
  • Total per day cost for the Burzynski treatment program (not including other fees): $395
  • Total monthly cost charged by Burzynski including all medications: $30,000 or more
  • Total appraised value of Burzynski's home:  $4,351,310
  • Total real estate taxes paid by Burzynski in 2012: $86,560.53
  • Total number of peer-reviewed studies published worldwide showing antineoplaston treatment to be effective including all studies published by Burzynski at any point since he began his research: 0

I should probably point out the one Burzynski clinical trial that has actually been completed was originally started in 1995 and completed in February 2005, yet we still have yet to see any published data from the study.  Wouldn't you think a guy who claims he can cure cancer might be interested in actually publishing the data that might support his claims?  Guess not.  Either that or he isn't a very fast typist... because obviously eight years seems like a long time to actually release the results of the clinical trial.

Truthfully it probably isn't fair to mention that Burzynski lives in a multi-million dollar mansion because simply living in a nice home has no bearing on whether his work is credible.  In addition to that, perhaps we should actually feel sorry for Dr. Burzynski.  After all, his home has lost around $1.5M of value since 2010.  Then again his property taxes have dropped from a high of over $114,000 down to under $87,000 so perhaps we shouldn't feel too bad for him.

The reason I point this out is because it shows you how out of touch people are when speaking about the profit in medicine.  We expect doctors to make a good living.  We expect doctors to generally be considered upper income earners or in some cases even "wealthy" due to the amount of training and education required to become a doctor.  However we don't expect that they profit at the expense of their patients.  We don't expect them to charge thousands of dollars for medications which can be purchased in pharmacies for less than $180.  We don't expect them to charge patients to be part of clinical trials when most clinical trials are done at no cost to the participants.

So why don't those who believe big pharma is simply interested in making money, or those who accuse conventional medical doctors of only caring about the bottom line ever seem to step back and ask themselves how people like Dr. Mercola or Dr. Burzynski ever became multimillionaires while the traditional GP working in a clinic and giving vaccines to children will never have an income anywhere near that level?

Rest assured patients should always come ahead of profits.  Anyone with a conscious will agree with that statement, and I'm sure the vast majority of people working in healthcare today would overwhelmingly agree.  The truth is, as human beings we have an inherent desire to help others.  People want to leave the world a better place than it was when they entered it, and when push comes to shove most people will do the right thing.  Are there exceptions to the rule?  You bet - the will always be those who put personal greed and their ambitions ahead of others, but the question we need to ask ourselves is how often does this really happen?

It simply isn't logical to believe that hundreds of thousands of people are all putting personal gain ahead of the human race.  It isn't feasible to suspect people care more about their bank accounts than they do their fellow human beings.  It doesn't make sense to claim people are knowingly suppressing cures for diseases such as cancer when there is a very high probability that every one of us will lose someone we know to cancer one day.  Perhaps even scarier is the fact that males have a 1 in 2 chance of contracting some form of cancer in their lifetime and a 1 in 4 chance of dying from cancer while females have a 1 in 3 chance of developing some form of cancer and a 1 in 5 chance of dying from cancer.

So think about that for a second.  What alternative medicine proponents would have us believe is that there are hundreds of thousands of scientists and researchers out there who are all trying to prevent cures to cancer from seeing the light of day all the while knowing they have a very strong chance of one day suffering from cancer themselves.  These alt-med types actually believe these hundreds of thousands of people would put personal profit ahead of their own health and perhaps even their own lives.

Does this make any sense whatsoever?

This is perhaps one of the many reasons why it is so difficult to take the antivaxxers or the proponents of alternative medicine seriously.  If they lack the logic to think through even the most basic of their accusations... how can they be taken seriously when discussing more complex matters such as vaccine efficacy or the peer-review process?


  1. This is an interesting bit on the Geiers:


    1. I don't really find that surprising at all. In fact it seems to be quite a trend that the most vocal alternative medicine 'experts' are extremely wealthy people. Yet the people who treat these charlatans as if they should have monuments created in their images tend to think they are only interested in helping people and that they put the health of others ahead of personal gain.

      Meanwhile, you have MDs who give up their promising careers to give their time to organizations like Doctors Without Borders where they won't collect a salary for years all so they can offer medical care (including vaccines) to those who in areas where such care is non-existent.

      Perhaps I missed it, but I've never heard of a group of Chiropractors or supplement shills offering their services in a third world nation for free. The profit of medicine indeed.

  2. The Geiers live well in Florida; Mercola's mansion in the 'burbs of Chicago is also quite nice.

    So nice, it's in one of the 10 most affluent neighborhoods in the US.

    But, he's not in it for the money. Nosiree, he's an altruist who doesn't worry about profit margins, etc..

    1. One might think with all these millions one of them would step up to the plate and offer to fund a study showing the effectiveness or long-term benefits of the miracle pills they offer on their websites.

      Then again it is much easier to simply include a disclaimer that tells the buyer their products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure a disease. How convenient.

      Perhaps it is difficult to find the time to perform scientific studies or research when there are orders to fill from millions of idiots who think they can cure neurological disorders by taking massive quantities of vitamins.

  3. Sorry Mr. Hubbs, but I can't publish your comments when you are relying upon sockpuppet accounts, and I won't post profanity... so you lose twice I suppose.

    I did note however you weren't able to deny the facts surrounding Burzynski. That in itself is very telling, so it doesn't shock me that you would attempt to change the subject.

  4. Answer these questions, editor!

    1. Does Burzynski cure cancer that main stream can not cure?

    2. If so then why has in all this time, his Antineoplastons treatment not been approved by the FDA?

    3. Explain exactly why you believe that a billion dollar cancer industry and the FDA, would NEVER intentionally block the efforts of Burzynski to get his treatment approved? Do not forget the reality of the fact regarding that use of antineoplastons, would have the potential to wipe out the current cancer industry, and standard protocols of surgery, chemo, pharma drugs, and radiation.

    1. I'll humor you Mr. Hubbs - even though I know you will just ignore my responses and continue believing nonsense because you read it on the Internet. Here are your answers:

      1. No - and he has never released any of the results from his studies to prove otherwise. He has never published any research from his decades long studies nor has he written any peer-reviewed studies showing his treatments to be effective.

      Oh sure he claims he can cure cancer, and he has cited a handful of patients that appear to have benefited from his treatment program, but Burzynski is known to use common chemotherapy drugs just like traditional oncologists, which suggests his treatment programs offer nothing that isn't already available elsewhere. His track record of "cures" is less that impressive because not only does he not offer his data for review, but there are many known cases of patients who have engaged in the Burzynski treatments only later to have died.

      The fact remains - aside from him making some claims on the Internet, and aside from some cancer conspiracy theorists proclaiming his treatments to be cancer cures, there is zero scientific evidence to support this view. If he releases his data and actually completes a study by all means get back to me. Until then the burden of proof still resides upon Burzynski's shoulders... and it appears he has zero desire to share his "miracle treatments" with others as he continues to make prey upon those who are willing to try anything in order to keep living (all the while he makes millions from his never-ending "clinical trials").

      2. He needs to actually complete a clinical trial and publish his results before it can be reviewed and given FDA approval. He hasn't done so. Also, others have looked into antineoplastons and found no significant effects on cancer, so it appears it is nothing more than the modern equivalent of snakeoil.

      Show me a single piece of evidence or a single clinical trial that Burzynski has completed and published his findings before you spout off about the FDA withholding approval. They have of couse approved dozens of studies for him... some decades old, yet he never seems to complete any. Don't you ever wonder why that is? It isn't like he doesn't have patients or that he doesn't have money or that he hasn't had time... the only thing he seems to lack are results!


    2. (cont. from above)

      3. Because I have more faith in my fellow man than you do. I am not so cynical to believe there are hundreds of thousands of doctors, researchers, scientists, government agencies, regulators, and clinicians out there all involved in some massive conspiracy to prevent cancer cures from being well known.

      When you boil it down, most people are genuinely good and want to leave this Earth better than it was when they arrived. If there was a cure for cancer, it would be released to everyone throughout the world and nobody would be powerful enough to suppress it.

      Think of it this way Mr. Hubbs. The head of the CIA wasn't even able to keep his affair a secret, Anonymous and Wikileaks have been responsible for spreading a number of government secrets to the public, and whistleblowers have informed the media and the public of numerous illegal activites in corporate America as well as within our own government... so if these people aren't capable of hiding even the most mundane of secrets, how can you honestly think hundreds of thousands of people could all be involved in some massive coverup to hide a cure for cancer?

      The only way you could believe something this idiotic would be if you were a very dedicated conspiracy theorist - which you most certainly are. If the shoe fits Mr. Hubbs.

      By the way, if you are going to proclaim antineoplastons would "wipe out" the standard protocols of chemo and radiation, you might ask yourself why Burzynski still uses both chemo and radiation in his treatments. You clearly aren't even aware of the techniques he employs to treat cancer because you are so convinced that antineoplastons are a miracle you ignore the facts.

      Finally, you once again show your ignorance when you speak of cancer as if it is one thing. In reality there are more than 200 types of cancers, each of which is treated via different methods, and not all patients respond to treatment the same way. Therefore there will never be a single cure to "cancer" because even if we do cure certain types of cancers, chances are those cures will not translate to the other forms of cancer.

      Honestly Mr. Hubbs - what is it about this man that has you so convinced? It surely isn't the data, because he hasn't released any. It surely isn't the results, because there are more records of his former patients dying than there are of them living beyond a few years. It surely isn't the peer-reviewed science or the published clinical trials - because there aren't any!

      The only reason you believe this man is because you read about him on the Internet. You watched a movie that he paid to make about himself. You watched a few YouTube videos and read some second-hand accounts from former patients who may or may not still be alive. In short - you believe him because you choose to take his word for it, not because the data or the science drove you to this conclusion.

      I find that incredibly sad, but I've learned ignoring the data and tossing common sense aside is a common trait of medical conspiracy theorists... so I'm not shocked in the slightest to see that you are quick to believe something simply because you read about in on the Internet.

  5. There are for-profit minded people in all realms of career. While most of us want to believe everyone is in healthcare to primarily help people (and I emphasize on primarily)- its simply not true in both mondern medicine and alternative medicine.

    The research you get to download for free is because tax-payers paid for it already. One major reason an individual versus a university charges for their research is because an individual is not funded. They need to eat too. Now would I personally go off and drop $60 on a dvd? No. Because I know where I can get information free. But I compensate that with donations to non-profit organizations or independent researchers.

    Regarding peer-reviewed study with herbal medicine and alternative medicine. This is fairly common sense- I guess it just depends on how much you have. The concept of peer-reviewed study was strongly encouraged on developing modern techniques of Western medicine to authinticate its validty. Something that herbal medicine and most alternative medicine already has from thousands of years of practice (and yes peer revision was performed among herbalists and doctors in history). Herbal medicine was recorded over 5,000 years ago and the effectiveness & indications of usage of herbal medicine and alternative methods are recorded in their specific history. Also remember most modern medicine are derivitives of herbs, plants, trees, animals, ect. The concept of using herbal medicine was never vanquished- it transformed into isolation concept for patent purposes and monetary gain and in some cases faster effect- however yeilding higher rate of adverse effects.

    As for the different prices in vitamins & herbal supplements- come on now, there are different types of vitamin sources and herbal quality which are huge factors when considering prices. For example a vitamin synthetically made is cheaper than raw whole food. An herb with higher potency is more effective than one of the same type of plant with lower potency. This increases the price per gram. Now I know there are scammers out there. They are everywhere-with vitamins its fairly easy to understand if they are whole food or synthetically made. Herbs would take a lifetime of research to truely know what your buying. It would be easy to learn a few herbal qualities. But there are thousands of herbs out there. For the most part herbal quality is not a major issue as long as its organic unless dealing with ginseng, saffron, C. Sinses, & mushrooms. I'm sure there are other biggies, but these are the majors.

    Now there is one thing that modern medicine offers that alternative medicine does not. Surgery. A profit soley for those in that field.

    1. "One major reason an individual versus a university charges for their research is because an individual is not funded. They need to eat too."

      Sure they do, and I won't belittle someone for needing to charge a reasonable price for their product. However when the gouge people and charge massively inflated prices for supplements that we all know they had nothing to do with producing other than perhaps putting a different label on the bottle, then I'm going to call them on it.

      It is no different if you found a MD who was charging 400% more for a typical office visit... those types of people aren't offering a better service or a higher quality product, they are merely profiting.

      This is why someone why Burzynski sickens me, because he claims he needs to charge inflated prices for his treatments just to pay his expenses all the while living in a multi-million dollar estate and living the lifestyle typically associated with a celebrity. He has been shown to markup common medications by hundreds of percent and yet even with all of the extra revenue brought in by his overcharging he still has been unable to produce the results of a single clinical trial.

      That is quite a trick - convince people to pay to engage in a medical study, and then never bother to complete the study even after decades. It seems fairly clear this is a loophole designed so that he can continue to collect millions from patients while continuing to practice. It is unfortunate that the medical boards are so slow to react to this type of fraud.

      "Now there is one thing that modern medicine offers that alternative medicine does not. Surgery. A profit soley for those in that field."

      Well let me know when alternative medicine has a reliable and proven method to treat trauma or an appendix which is on the verge of rupturing, or a hernia, or the replacement of a heart valve, or the replacement of a kidney.

      You act as if alternative treatments can never be proven because there isn't any money in it... but that simply isn't the case. There are countless researchers and organizations out there that study alternative treatments on a daily basis, and many times they are able to show the effectiveness.

      This is why we have the old joke about what you call alternative medicine that has been proven to work. The answer? Medicine.

      Now if people wish to push their supplements and vitamins and alternative treatments by all means they have the right to do so, but I also have the right to ask them to prove those treatments are effective. If they are unwilling to unable to... it tells us everything we need to know.

  6. "You act as if alternative treatments can never be proven because there isn't any money in it... " Alternative medicine is already proven (at least acupuncture & herbal medicine)- as I explained in their specific history over thousands of years. And as for money? That depends if that person has marketing skills or not.

    "Well let me know when alternative medicine has a reliable and proven method to treat trauma or an appendix which is on the verge of rupturing, or a hernia, or the replacement of a heart valve, or the replacement of a kidney".

    Alternative medicine in the scopes of homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopath, are usually performed by one without skill in surgery.
    This is where modern medicine has theirs place. Like I said they have surgery which majority of what you mentioned above requires.
    Alternative medicine can be effective for certain types of hernias and various types of trauma. If the trauma requires surgery clearly a surgeon is required. But many traumas like hyperextension and flexion injury to the neck, sport injury leading to pain, plantar fasciitis, ect can be treated holistically. Only someone very skilled in their profession of holistic medicine could prevent heart surgery or kidney replacement. It depends on how bad the patient is and how skilled the practioner is. Alot of kidney replacements are with diabetic patients- something that a skilled knowledgable practioner could help manage to prevent further complications.

    If you want proof of effectiveness feel free to read the millions of pages out there- I googled some for you-
    Mechanism of Acupuncture Therapy and Clinical Case Studies
    By Lily Cheung, Peng Li, Cheng Wong

    You might really like the above^^

    1. Sorry Simone, but acupuncture is far from proven. Sure it has some effect, but when measured against an equal placebo and/or sham acupuncture the results are insignificant.

      Many of the studies you cite are not true comparisons because they treat the study group with acupuncture, and they simply don't treat the control group. In cases where they do, the treatment isn't equal or representative thus there is an obvious bias from the test subject as they won't feel as if they had any treatment.

      This is very timely... I'd suggest you review it in detail:

      SBM: Acupunture Doesn't Work

      Now I fully realize you can find "studies" that claim just about anything Simon, but you need to dig deeper. You need to look at methodology and the quality of the 'study'. You then need to determine if the results are peer-reviewed and you need to determine if the study can be replicated. You then need to determine if it is even a legitimate study published in a reputable journal, or was it merely something someone produced and self-published to say they had "published data".

      Sorry to say - there just isn't any good unbiased science proving most homeopathic remedies are any more effective than the simple power of healing touch. That isn't to say they don't do anything... but they aren't really any more effective than a placebo.

      Now if you wish to continue to believe you 'holistic practitioner' can prevent the need for heart surgery or a kidney transplant then by all means have at it... but meanwhile I'll continue to rely upon treatments that are actually proven and shown to work.

  7. The proof is in the testimonials regardng naturopathic treatment, and that have existed for decades. The proof is in the fact that something actually works, and no there are not millions of dollars available to patent and prove through FDA approved clinical trials that natural substances and protocols work, and that is the only evidence obviously that you would accept. So how much human suffering are you finding acceptable and advocating for here, just because you require that evidence; or you will poo poo like your denialist hero Gorski, on all of it?

    I once asked you the question, does Dr Burzynski cure brain cancer and other cancers that the cancer industry can not and has not cured? Indeed he does, is the correct answer. Your largely baseless acussations and slanderous condemnation of him, is again simply attrocious. If your child had incurable brain stem cancer, you would just let them die, rather than accept a proven treatment that would allow them to live. Just because you are that hatefully stubborn and in denial?

    1. Your level of proof is testimonials? Sorry Mr. Hubbs, but science needs a higher burden of proof than that, which is why the universally accepted form of evidence includes a peer-reviewed study.

      You can rely upon all of your old tired excuses, but if there isn't a study proving the effectiveness of a treatment, it is most likely because the treatment doesn't work.

      As far as Bursynski, the answer is no... he doesn't cure anything that typical oncologists can cure - or at least he surely hasn't proven he is capable of doing so. The man has collected MILLIONS from patients to perform his so-called clinical trials, and even after decades he hasn't provided results from a single one of them. Yet he lives in a multi-million dollar estate and lives a glamorous lifestyle all because people are quick to try anything at their time of need.

      I don't blame people for running to him when all else has failed, but I'm surely not going to give the man a medal for taking advantage of people.

      When Burzynski produces a single peer-reviewed study or after he releases the final results from any of his dozens of never-ending clinical studies that shows his treatments are unique and effective then come talk to me. Until then all you have are unsupportable claims that Burzynski himself is unwilling to support.

      The issue isn't a lack of funds - the issue is a lack of evidence. When will you stop giving him a free pass and start requiring the same level of proof from him as you do from vaccine manufacturers?


All comments are moderated and comments from obvious sockpuppet accounts as well as spam accounts that do not add anything of value to the discussion will not be published.