Cancer Industry Lobbies for Profits that Kill

October 23, 2007 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

Send to a friend

* Required fields

  or  Cancel

 Cancer Industry Lobbies for Profits that Kill
Billions of dollars of profit are at stake. The new generation of biotech drugs is upon us. Will they help or will they kill? The answer, it appears, depends on the dose. More importantly, the answer depends on the moral integrity of oncologists that treat their patients. What should society do with doctors that put money in their pockets as a priority over the lives of their patients?

The case in point is a drug class known as ESAs (erythropoeisis-stimulating agents, Aranesp made by Amgen and Procrit made by J&J). These drugs are used for anemia during cancer treatment. Higher doses of these drugs are clearly associated with cardiovascular adverse events, enhanced tumor growth, and increased risk of death. The FDA, alarmed by the emerging risk, sought to stop oncologists from using high doses of these medications. The FDA issued a black box warning on the drugs and stated that the only dose that should be used was the lowest possible dose that would prevent the need for a transfusion, meaning that the risk of repeated transfusions is worse than the risk of the drugs. The FDA decree would knock out billions of dollars of biotech drug company profit including profits made by the doctors who use them. Not surprisingly, the cancer industry-for-profit scam system ignored the FDA warning and kept using the higher doses that injure the patients.

Last month the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed payment restrictions on the use of these drugs in keeping with the FDA warning. Since doctors were not able to act responsibly on their own moral fiber, it required the banning of payment by Medicare and Medicaid to put a lid on the dangerous scam. In response, Amgen and J&J have financed massive lobbying to have Congress force Medicare and Medicaid to pay for these drugs regardless of their dose. A House joint resolution (H.J. Res. 54) is sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), whose district includes Amgen's headquarters. It already has 26 co-sponsors. The resolution is adamantly supported by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (doctors for profit). A coalition of consumer groups is actively trying to defeat the resolution.

It is crystal clear that patients can no longer trust that an oncologist will make a decision that is in the best interest of their health. Patients should demand in writing full disclosure of all pharmaceutical company financial ties, consulting fees, kickbacks, speakers fees, and travel perks of their treating physician. It is a sad day in health care to realize that oncologists themselves are a new type of cancer.

Search thousands of health news articles!