Sunday, April 17, 2011

THE DEADLY LACK OF ‘CHOICE’

I have a neighbor who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996.  He was referred to an oncologist in Chapel Hill at UNC Memorial Hospital, where he told he had maybe 3-4 years max to live.  Because his cancer was so advanced, he was offered a chance to take part in a clinical trial for a new cancer med.  He accepted.  He continued to get worse.  Then the trial was suddenly halted because of some data-altering error.  The trial participants’ records were opened and he found out he was getting the placebo medication.  All the participants were given the option to begin taking the new medication and after much counseling and prayer, he opted to take it. 

He was 70 this weekend.  The cancer was arrested dead in its tracks and he has continued to take the trial med, along with a hormone therapy for 15 years.  His oncologist has repeatedly told him – one day this will just stop working.  But the idea was to buy TIME – time for new research and NEW meds to be developed.  I have no idea the status of his med – whether the FDA has approved it, whether it is still being tested.  But I do know that it takes YEARS for medications to become available to the public.

If you have ever read the insert for any medication, Rx or OTC, there is always the possibility for adverse reactions, or worse.  This is primarily to protect the manufacturer from lawsuits, which happen anyway, regardless of what the insert warns.  If it is found that people DIE from a medication, it is usually pulled off the market.  If three poor souls in 100,000 die, it is pulled off the market.  There is no way to know how many people that the med would HELP – only that three people died taking it.

I think ‘trial’ medications, and medications that have proven to be effective but that CAN have dire consequences should be made available to patients with the caveat that the patient be totally aware of the dangers and risks involved, is counseled by his medical provider, and signs a legal document stating that he knows and accepts these risks. 

My neighbor is alive and well today because he was given that opportunity in a controlled environment.  Perhaps there IS a system in place now that permits desperate measures for desperate people – there SHOULD be.

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In a related vein, Thomas Sowell said… [Delays in approving new medications by a government that ALSO provides all the health care]... “lowers the cost of medications-- if you count costs solely in money terms, rather than in terms of how many people literally pay with their lives when the bureaucrats are reluctant to buy new pharmaceutical drugs, while they can continue to approve obsolete and cheaper drugs for the same illnesses.”

This is an aspect of socialized medicine I’ve not heard debated, but it WOULD be a cost benefit to the government.  It will also be the beginning of the end of the best health care system in the world.

1 comment:

  1. A good portion of the blame can go to the blood sucking lawyers and the idiots on juries that award 100s of millions, I'm just glad they weren't around when we were wiping out small pox.

    Michael Gene

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