Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Of Cancer and Conspiracies

I was in a conversation with a some friends last week who claimed that the reason we don’t have a cure for cancer is because it would work against the interests of the medical and pharmaceutical industries to come up with one. They said that if they make so much money treating people for it, why would they want to cure it, and kill the goose that laid the golden egg?

I didn’t have an immediate answer for them then. It’s hard to come up with good answers for conspiracy theorists, but I do now, and it’s one word.


The medical profession did a full court press to prevent and eradicate polio back in the 50s and 60s, when they obviously could’ve salivated over the prospect of selling more braces and iron lungs.

And if it’s in their best financial interests to have more people get the disease so that they can treat it, wouldn’t they see the anti-vax community as their biggest ally?

But they didn’t salivate over those potential profits in the 50s and 60s. And today they’re strenuously fighting against the anti-vax community. Why? Because despite what my conspiracy theorist friends think, as much money as there unfortunately is to be made in treating diseases, they do actually want to cure them. This treatment thing is seen as a short-term not-quite solution to the problem.

Do pharmaceutical companies make a mint from the products they make? There’s absolutely no doubt about that. But that doesn’t mean that they want more people to suffer so that they can sell more of the product (you’re thinking of the tobacco industry). And to be honest, developing new drugs isn’t cheap…the costs have to be recouped somehow, otherwise the company goes bankrupt, and there goes any further research.

But the other issue is that too many people don’t understand that cancer isn’t like polio or the measles or smallpox. It’s not one disease that can be treated with one magic bullet. It’s more like a group of thousands of different diseases that behave similarly, but very differently; and have a seemingly infinite number of triggers and causes. Something that might cause cancer A to go into remission in Fred might not have any effect on cancer B in Sally. For that matter, what works on cancer A in Fred might not have any effect on that same cancer in Sue.

It’s not that simple. There are just way too many variables involved in the different forms of cancer for there to be a “one size fits all” solution. But if you don’t understand that, if you don’t understand how simple it’s not, you might think that there’s a conspiracy against finding a cure…despite the progress we’ve made in the last 70 years.

But I’ll tell you who we do need to worry about making a mint off of people’s suffering: those who offer false hopes through “alternative remedies” that prevent people from seeing real doctors for real treatments. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a special place in Hell for people who peddle those remedies, and set up websites providing “information” on them. Even worse are those who peddle this information and then falsely attach the American Cancer Society’s name to it, knowing that the average person won’t go to their website, Quackwatch, or Snopes to double-check it.

So no…there is no conspiracy to prevent a cure for cancer from being discovered.

And by the way…for a much better explanation of everything I’ve just said, check out Is There Really a Conspiracy to Suppress Cancer Cures?

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