“There is no evidence for any benefit of that treatment.” On more than one occasion my suggestions in clinic have been met with that reply. I have felt like screaming: ” For heaven’s sake – each study takes up to a decade and nearly twenty years are needed to bring a cancer drug to market – at this rate it will take centuries to find a cure – that is simply not good enough”. But of course I don’t scream. I really rate my oncologist – he is doing his best for me and overall I have had a good deal from the NHS. Chemotherapy had a good effect – I’m still here. But I want so much more – probably just like many other patients diagnosed with metastatic spread.
No evidence then! But what constitutes evidence. Mainstream medicine requires the randomised double blind method in the context of a phase 3 clinical trial. In the alternative medicine sphere, trials are difficult to fund and very complex interventions are investigated. There is a dearth of randomised trials and therefore much reliance is placed on anecdotal reports.
So, the radio show I have highlighted really resonated with my thinking. It is a “must-listen” – if that is indeed a word. Over the last twenty years the drug companies have released medicines that produce on average a 2.7 month increase in life expectancy and for that they receive a perversely bountiful reward. In my book, paying tens of thousands for a medicine should give a really meaningful benefit and increase survival by years – not just a few months. Moreover the speaker calculates that to achieve a twenty year increase in survival it will take 1778 years at the current rate of progress. Truly abysmal! In spite of this dire situation, Pharmaceutical companies are generating obscene profits, often based upon discoveries made in our Universities which are funded by taxpayer money. They have over-generous profit margins and receive significant tax breaks from governments. Something must be done! The clinical trials system is failing patients diagnosed with the big C. The relationship between pharma and governments must be reviewed. Thinking outside the box is urgently required – to achieve better results faster and reduce suffering around the world.