Don’t Believe the Hype
Conspiracy theories don’t add up
Hand in hand with the idea that there is a cornucopia of ‘miracle cures’ is the idea that governments, the pharmaceutical industry and even charities are colluding to hide the cure for cancer because they make so much money out of existing treatments.
Whatever the particular ‘cure’ being touted, the logic is usually the same: it’s readily available, cheap and can’t be patented, so the medical establishment is suppressing it in order to line its own pockets. But, as we’ve written before, there’s no conspiracy – sometimes it just doesn’t work.
There’s no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has a number of issues with transparency and clinical trials that it needs to address (the book Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre is a handy primer). We push regulators and pharmaceutical companies hard to make sure that effective drugs are made available at a fair price to the NHS – although it’s important to remember that developing and trialling new drugs costs a lot of money, which companies need to recoup.
Problems with conventional medicine don’t automatically prove that alternative ‘cures’ work. To use a metaphor, just because cars sometimes crash doesn’t mean that flying carpets are a viable transport option.
It simply doesn’t make sense that pharmaceutical companies would want to suppress a potential cure. Finding a highly effective therapy would guarantee huge worldwide sales.
And the argument that treatments can’t be patented doesn’t hold up. Pharma companies are not stupid, and they are quick to jump on promising avenues for effective therapies. There are always ways to repackage and patent molecules, which would give them a return on the investment required to develop and test them in clinical trials (a cost that can run into many millions) if the treatment turns out to work.
It’s also worth pointing out that charities such as Cancer Research UK and government-funded scientists are free to investigate promising treatments without a profit motive. And it’s hard to understand why NHS doctors – who often prescribe generic, off-patent drugs – wouldn’t use cheap treatments if they’d been shown to be effective in clinical trials.
For example, we’re funding large-scale trials of aspirin – a drug first made in 1897, and now one of the most widely-used off-patent drugs in the world. We’re researching whether it can prevent bowel cancer in people at high risk, reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, and even prevent cancer coming back and improve survival.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that we are all human – even politicians and Big Pharma executives – and cancer can affect anyone. People in pharmaceutical companies, governments, charities and the wider ‘medical establishment’ all can and do die of cancer too.
Also remember Cancer Research UK and other charities have seen loved ones and colleagues go through cancer. Many of them have survived. Many have not. To suggest that they are – collectively and individually – hiding the he cure’ is not only absurd, it’s offensive to the global community of dedicated scientists, to the staff and supporters of cancer research organisations such as Cancer Research UK and, most importantly, to cancer patients and their families.