New Cancer Drug: $65K yearly, no benefit

October 30, 2015

Imagine this:


I advertise that I have a new treatment for melanoma patients. Melanoma is a deadly disease. If it has spread from the original spot on the skin to other areas of the body, the prognosis is very poor.


So I have this therapy. I conduct a study to see if it works. What I find is that when I treat melanoma patients, their tumors recede compared to those not treated. But overall, those treated don't live any longer than those not treated. In addition those treated have a whole range of side effects, from nausea and chills, to fever, flu-like symptoms and pain. Oh, and sometimes, herpes.


So I have this therapy that doesn't extend patients' lives. Suppose that I charge $65,000/year to treat each patient, and I present my treatment as a "breakthrough," telling them that it is a "tumor buster."


Now it is also easy to imagine the headlines of outrage at a natural "therapy" that costs a fortune and has no appreciable benefit. I would rightly be called a charlatan, and would likely be reported to various authorities.


Well, this scenario is exactly what has happened with the FDA's approval of Imlygic. It sounds perfectly high tech: it uses a genetically engineered herpes virus to "bust" melanoma cells. Cool. Unfortunately, it doesn't do anything to help people with melanoma live any longer, and it really does cost $65,000/year for treatment. Studies have shown that it does not extend survival.


Herein lies the grand double standard of conventional medicine and all those shrill voices who defend it: alternative therapies must show proof that they work, while yet another conventional therapy has gained FDA approval, will drain life savings, and will be prescribed by doctors, even though we have very strong evidence that it doesn't work.


There are great options for treatment of melanoma. It is one of the few types of cancer that is responsive to immune-based therapies. If you or someone you know has this diagnosis, talk to a naturopathic oncologist who understands the treatment options. And above all, consider not spending $65,000/year on a therapy that has been shown not to extend life.





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