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The Journal of Clinical Onchology has published a paper on the highly successful results of stage 1 clinical trials of a new drug treating prostate cancer. This is the commonest non-skin cancer in American men. The new drug, abiraterone, could be effective for over 80% of men with aggressive and previously drug resistant disease. Trials have also started to see if it is effective against breast cancers.

One patient in the trial reports:

"Last year I was in severe pain because of my prostate cancer, which had worsened and spread to my bones. Chemotherapy and other treatments had failed and news that I had very few treatment options available to me was devastating for my family. Fitness and travelling were always my main interests and abiraterone has allowed me to have a year so far of near normality. The changes in my life have been dramatic, from managing thousands of people in a major bank, to facing a very uncertain future, then to renewed hope thanks to this drug trial."

Clinical trials continue and it is likely to be three years before abiraterone is widely available. If it does prove to be so effective, why should good Republicans refuse to be treated with it?

Well the answer is that abiraterone was invented and developed under a socialized system of medicine. As Republicans and other opponents of universal health care will tell you, under such systems no useful treatments are invented as it is only under a for profit insurance system that progress is made. All socialized systems do is feed off developments in the best health system in the world, that of the USA.

More specifically, abiraterone was discovered at The Institute of Cancer Research which is a college of the University of London although is started as part of the Royal Marsden Hospital which specializes in treating all forms of cancer and in research into them.

The Institute's press release from which the patient's comments are taken also quotes Cally Palmer, Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust:

"The results of this study show just how important abiraterone is set to become in the treatment of men with prostate cancer and highlights the national importance of funding pioneering cancer research."

Let me expand that, the hospital is now known as The Royal Marsden National Health Service Foundation Trust. That's right, part of the system "where treatments are rationed and you have to wait months to see a doctor."

Originally posted to Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 04:47 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  TJ (8+ / 0-)

    The drug is under license to a US company for manufacture but is now owned by a now privatized company originally set up by the 1945 Labour government to exploit inventions resulting from publicly funded research.

    Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?

    by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 04:51:14 AM PDT

    •  Nice diary. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happy camper

      Good news for prostate patients, too.

      But... "to exploit inventions resulting from publicly funded research" is pretty much how medicine works in the US, too.  Big PHRMA likes to tell us how much they spend on R&D every year, but the government spends far, far more.  Drug companies "partner" with research universities that are getting government money for research, then once the development looks profitable, the drug companies take over.

      It's a racket, pure and simple; it's another Republican way of funneling public money into private profit.

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 05:14:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not entirely accurate . . . (5+ / 0-)

        it's probably more spot on to say that the government and industry focus on different stages of drug development.

        The government funds a considerable amount of basic research that never (directly) makes it to the clinic, while, for drugs that do - the bulk of the money comes from private sources (translational research - involving clinical trials, etc, is much more expensive than the basic research . . . )

        Overall, there is more private research dollars (if you count clinical trials) spent in the US than government $$s in the biomedical sciences.

        •  The problem with private (0+ / 0-)

          industry paying for clinical trials is that the people paying for the trials cannot be objective.  That's what worries me.  It wasn't too long ago that taxes (the FDA) paid for clinical trials, which encourages (but still does not guarantee) objectivity.

          I may be misremembering some things; my source for most of my issues with big pharma is Marcia Angell.

          Je suis inondé de déesses

          by Marc in KS on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 06:10:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There is a tremendous incentive for clinical (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Marc in KS

            trials to be "objective" - heck, if they're not, it's not like things can be swept under the rug when the patients start dying.

            Generally, the earlier a problem can be uncovered, the better.

            Of course, there are huge competing interests at work, for example, what is better - 1,000,000 to gain a moderate benefit while 10 put at substantially greater risk, and that type of thing.  Perhaps if clinical trial were publically funded, this type of issue could be addressed in a more open matter than behind closed doors in secrecy, which puts a huge taint over the entire process.

          •  Clinical trials are expensive. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy, ebohlman

            If the FDA pays for all clinical trials, there's going to be incredible political pressure regarding what drugs they should and shouldn't be looking at.  Currently, a failure of a drug during Phase III clinical trials is a tragedy for the drug company, the company's employees, and the shareholders.  A failure of an FDA-funded clinical trial -- or, worse yet, withdrawal of a drug some time after approval -- would be a political disaster.

            Worse yet, the FDA itself is subject to political pressure that drug companies are largely immune to.  Right now, NIH has proposed testing the efficacy of chelation therapy as an autism treatment, even though all double-blinded scientific studies to date have found that chelation therapy has no effect upon autism, and may even cause long-term damage in patients without heavy metal poisoning.  They're not doing that because they think it will work -- they're doing it because they're faced with incredible political pressure by the anti-vaccination lobby.  If the FDA not only is able to approve drugs, but also to decide which ones should be tested, then you can expect more such trials -- which will be repeated ad nauseum until some effect, however little, is found.  Not to mention the morality issues -- do you really want a Republican-controlled FDA deciding whether or not to test birth control methods or morning-after pills or RU-486?  Say what you will about drug companies, they're incredibly pragmatic -- they're not about to spend millions of dollars on something because they're being confronted by angry lobbyists.

            Finally, the FDA simply doesn't have the manpower to fund clinical trials or drug testing, nor does it have the skill.  Try to socialize the drug industry, and you're going to guarentee that all drugs in the pipeline today will be delayed significantly -- years, even.  That's going to hurt a lot of people who are currently waiting for effective cancer treatments and other types of medication, and it's not clear it'll do much good.

            The system we have currently isn't perfect, but neither is it as flawed as anti-pharma organizations would have you believe.  As far as priorities, fixing the drug approval process is, IMHO, pretty far down the list.

      •  It's not a racket (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy, lemming22, jenafer

        Because it's also a way of funneling public money into basic research that can be done in a neutral intellectual environment and be reviewed by other scientists who are also detached from immediate profit motive.  This ensures that the scientific fundamentals are sound and fairly free of bias (and I assure you, my colleagues and I take impartial peer review very, very seriously, so counterexamples are few and far between).  Most of the federally funded scientists I know are relentlessly ethical, and consider data practically sacred.  If private companies were the only source of funding for research this would likely not be the case (and I'd be looking for a job in a nation that does fund basic research).

        •  Oh, I'm not picking on (0+ / 0-)

          the researchers.  As you say, obvious cases of collusion are very rare.  I'm picking on the fact that more and more universities are getting in bed with big business, because of the money.  That's not a problem with the researchers at all.  They don't make these deals; the universities do.

          A problem today is that government funds for basic research are getting scarcer, proportionately.  Private industry is stepping in to fill the gap, but that creates conflicts of interests.  And I do think that the main reason public funds are drying up is that we've been under Republican administrations or Congresses for a long, long time, and it's intentional: if we constrain public funding, then it provides business opportunities instead of research opportunities.

          Je suis inondé de déesses

          by Marc in KS on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 06:05:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I work at a "business friendly" university (0+ / 0-)

            Every now and then I get to sit down and chat with some nice industry people and tell them what I'm doing.  There's usually some half-decent wine on hand, too.  Then they go away scratching their heads, and I keep on doing exactly what the NIH funded me to do on the strength of my application.

            There's not a whole lot of pressure to do anything you aren't interested in, except maybe to file IP disclosures.  It's really not that bad out here.

            Except the scarcity of funding.  That's bad.  But the NIH and NSF haven't lost as much as they could have, and actually that's due to pressure from business.  They know that if we didn't do the basic research they'd have to somehow do it themselves and they don't want to take that on, generally.  The applications don't come without the basic research.

  •  Plenty of ways to fund research (0+ / 0-)

    Right now in America, we have some research that's publicly funded, some that's privately funded, and some that's a mix.

    We need to ensure that we continue to fund high-level research as we move toward a system that actually works, but as this diary points out, single payer health care and high-quality research are perfectly compatible.

    Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

    by Actuary4Change on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 05:14:13 AM PDT

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