Profiting From Cancer

Today the Leicester Mercury announced great news for men with advanced prostate cancer, as a drug called enzalutamide has been cleared for consumption in Britain. Treatment which will cost “about £3,000 a month and will be available through the cancer drugs fund for patients when other treatments have failed.”

At £250 a pill, the two corporate manufacturers of enzalutamide — Medivation and Astellas Pharma — will soon be turning a tidy profit. But sadly these rewards will be going to some of the very same individuals who worked at the top of a corporation that handsomely profited from drugs that have been proven to kill people. This is because until recently two members of Medivation’s board of directors served as senior executives at Merck (one as their president of Europe and Canada, and another as their chief marketing officer). Merck having in recent years…

killed 19 times as many Americans with Vioxx than the 9/11 hijackers did with their planes, according to David Graham, MD, of the [US Food and Drug Administration]. And it was intentional. Early clinical trials had alerted Merck executives to the fact that Vioxx caused coronary damage. Their response was to exclude from future trials anyone with a history of heart trouble. Once Vioxx was on the market, Merck suppressed indications that it was causing strokes and heart attacks at twice the normal rate.

But in the face of weighty evidence Merck failed to admit liability, and instead proposed a $4.85 billion settlement which was accepted in 2007.

If anything such vicious profiteering demonstrates the urgent need to bring giant pharmaceutical corporations under direct workers control through a process of democratically planned nationalisation — that of course needs to take place in both Britain and across the rest of the world. Only then will I feel safe in trusting my life to the pharmaceutical industry. Although in the meantime I accept that we can all benefit from scientifically developed and well-tested drugs like enzalutamide (that is if you have prostate problems anyway).

Democratically controlled scientifically validated medicine is the way forward for the treatment of cancer, not mega-doses of vitamin C, or the other much touted remedies of snake oil salesmen. One prominent example of a nonsensical cure-all for all manner of ailments being pomegranate juice, as brought to us by the misleading propaganda of the “not-so wonderful” Californian-based manufacturer POM Wonderful. Not-so-wonderful because last year they were ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to stop advertising their ludicrously expensive refreshments as being capable of preventing heart disease and cancer.

The two owners of POM Wonderful are Linda Resnick and her husband Stewart, with Linda unfortunately being privileged enough to reside on the board of directors of the prestigious Prostate Cancer Foundation (the largest of its type in the world). This is problematic to say the least given her pomegranate juice fixation, but no more so than the fact that the foundation was founded and is run by the former infamous junk bond king Michael Milken, who, as it turns out, is not entirely sold on science and has sworn by Deepak Chopra’s magical abilities to cure cancer!

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