The mainstream is calling it a milestone in the fight against prostate cancer and cancer in general.
I’m calling it a sham… and an expensive one at that.
Late last month, the FDA approved a drug called Provenge, a vaccine for prostate cancer.
Vaccine for prostate cancer, huh? So… it will keep you from getting the disease?
Well, no. Provenge is approved for the treatment of prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and isn’t responding to standard hormone treatment. It’s aimed at preventing the spread of prostate cancer in men who already have an advanced form of the disease.
Thing is, it doesn’t really even do that. According to Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, the drug doesn’t delay the progression of the disease and represents a "modest advance" in survival for patients with advanced prostate cancer.
So, what’s the price tag on a modest advance that doesn’t actually delay progression of the cancer?
Are you ready for this? A full regimen of the drug costs upwards of $75,000. And patients have to provide their own white blood cells, which are treated with the drug and then put back into the body.
Trials have shown that Provenge may add mere months (4.5 on average) to the life span of men with advanced prostate cancer — and they might spend those last few months feeling like they have the flu. One study showed that men taking Provenge had a slightly higher risk of having a stroke.
So, is it worth it? When you’re dealing with advanced cancer and have been told you don’t have much time and your treatments aren’t working, those 4.5 months can be precious.
But I can’t help but feel that this is a perfect example of Big Pharma taking advantage of people who are in desperate situations. Of course those 4.5 months are precious — every moment is precious when you feel like you’re on borrowed time — so they can charge any price they care to. Even for a drug that doesn’t do much at all.
Of course, the real aim doesn’t seem to be to help people with advanced cancer. Rather, it seems that Big Pharma wants to start getting Provenge into as many men as possible. It’s not approved for earlier stage cancer, and more trials are needed to get it there, but "experts" are already saying it "might" be useful in earlier-stage cancer. And with proper informed consent, doctors can use it in such cases. Ah, off-label use.
Oh, and it’s not sure insurance companies will pay for the vaccine. But desperate times call for laying down serious cash, all in the name of hope. And Big Pharma’s banking on that.
Ms. O’Brien has written for Nutrition & Healing, Healthier Talk and a variety of other natural and alternative health outlets. She believes in the power of natural medicine and her goal is to open people’s eyes to the benefits of alternative and integrative medicine.
Christine is passionate about helping people help themselves without having to turn to harsh drugs or invasive surgeries.
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