Why the 'Moon Shot' cancer research program is using a poor analogy
By Glen Wallace
A recent push by celebrities and scientists frustrated by the slow pace to finding a cure for cancer has led to the creation of the moonshot effort by the researchers and something called 'stand up to cancer' or SU2C by a collaboration of celebrities helping to fund groundbreaking cancer research. The moonshots title is given to the cancer research program to emphasize and describe both the nature of the effort to find a cure and to provide the hope that a cure can be reached just as we reached the moon despite the seemingly daunting nature of the task.
One problem with the moon shot for a cancer cure analogy is that when we got a man on the moon we could say "mission accomplished" just by that alone. Sure, we wanted to get the astronauts back alive and well, but once we got one of them onto the moon, alive, that alone was enough for we as a country to say that "we did it, we succeeded!" But you may be thinking "well, why couldn't we call one of our researches finding a cure for cancer as a success in reaching our goal?" The answer -- what good would such a finding be if we just stopped there and that cure never got to the patients suffering from cancer now and in the future? It's not enough just to find a cure, that cure has to get to the patients and heal them before we can say "yes, we did it, we made it!" Now you may thinking "of course a cure, if found, would find its way to the cancer patients, why wouldn't it?" I'll tell you why a cure might not reach the patients -- the researchers in the cancer cure moonshot program are not the ones who are going to manufacture and distribute any cancer cure. As our current system of mainstream AMA and FDA approved system of medicine is set up, the only way a pharmaceutical drug of any kind reaches a patient is if some for-profit drug company decides it is in there best financial interests to do so. When a cancer patient goes through chemotherapy, unless they are in some research trial, they will be buying that chemo either through their insurance company or directly out of their own pockets, but either way the patient is only getting the chemo because a drug company decided it was in their best financial interests to manufacture the drugs and will bill for their product and expect to be paid. And the compensation that the drug companies receive from drug therapies is very handsome. I believe I read somewhere that the average cost for an entire course of cancer treatment averages over a hundred thousand dollars. So if one of those moonshot researchers finds a cure that, for whatever reason, the drug company will not be able to profit from to at least the same extent as their current cancer drugs they sell, then why would they bother to manufacture and sell that new money loser just because it cures cancer?
While there may be a great number of non-profit charities trying to raise money to help fund some cancer treatment research trial, I'm not aware of a single drug manufacturer that is a non-profit organization. And that's where the patient gets their medicine from -- the drug company, that is only in it for the money, and not from the cancer research charity that cares so much for the patients. The refrain I usually hear at this point is "given that humans are running these drug companies and they already know the toil that cancer has wrought and many of them already know someone or even a loved one that has cancer then surely they would step up and say the heck with profits we're going to manufacture and sell this cure even if it bankrupts us." Maybe so, but keep in mind, for one, many of these drug companies are publicly traded corporations and as such have a legal obligation to look after the financial interests of their shareholders. While they may have a legal obligations to insure some degree of safety of their drugs, they otherwise have no legal obligation to act in the best health interests of the patients who consume their products. Additionally, many worker bees within some for-profit business act as a mere cog in the whole operation that limits their ability to see beyond the single specific task they have been assigned and as a result are unable to see the effects of their actions along with their other coworker 'cogs' working together in a business operation that as a whole behaves like a machine or robot that was designed from the ground up to achieve the single goal of reaping maximum profit for the owners of that machine. And the owners of that business machine may never pay much close attention to all the damage it has wrought in its path as that business robot machine stomps its way along, harvesting those profits. All that the capitalist owners of the business robot machine pay attention to is whether the robot is functioning properly and harvesting the profits or malfunctioning and not harvesting enough or any of those profits.
There are a variety of reasons why a cancer cure might not turn out to be profitable for a drug company. The most likely reason for non-profitability is that a drug providing the cure may not be patentable. Most whole herbs, for instance, as naturally occurring plants, cannot be patented. There is even one common substance found in the pantry of most households, baking soda, that one alternative cancer treatment doctor has touted as being able to offer outstanding results against cancer. But even if a drug company were able to patent a new cancer cure, eventually the patent protection for that cure would run out and which would grind to a screeching halt their patent protected monopoly gravy train the drug company had been riding for so long. Given the current state of affairs in the cancer treatment realm, there is this ongoing struggle where the land of milk and honey is always just over the horizon, where there is always hope to spur the struggle to find the next patentable drug before their current patents run out but never get to the promised land of a cure because then there will be no hope of and endless supply far into the future of the monopoly profits that patent protected medicines provide. A cure then, even if it was patentable, would effectively be a dead end for the drug companies that have for so long have been enjoying enormous revenues and profits from cancer treatment chemotherapy drugs.
This brings us to another problem with the moonshot analogy -- with the moon landing we could all be pretty sure that we were the first and no previous space program had sneakily snuck someone onto the moon and didn't tell anyone before the Apollo 11 program did the same. If someone did the moon landing previously we would surely all know about it. But with cancer cures, the picture becomes much more murky. All it takes is a quick internet search to reveal that there are numerous claims that many different cancer cures have already been found that either have been suppressed or ignored by the mainstream medical field. How can we be so sure that none of those claims are accurate? While some might argue that if any cure had already been found, then the mainstream medical establishment would have recognized it even if the for-profit drug companies decided not to manufacture it. Such an argument, however, makes the critical thinking error known as 'the argument from authority.' The argument from authority commits the error of attempting to substitute good reasoning and logic with the prestige of academic titles awarded to some group making a statement. But since there is not form of logic whereby a title such as Doctor or PHD can be used as an operator that creates a valid argument out of an argument that would be invalid without those titles in place, the academic prestige of someone presenting an argument is useless in determining the validity of that argument. Therefore the fact that the prestigious mainstream medical community has not accepted the belief that a cancer cure or cures already exists in no way impairs the degree of veracity of such a claim. But even so, I believe many prestigious doctors and other individuals within the mainstream medical field have already stated that cancer cures already exist but have either been ignored or worse, ridiculed until they either stop making such statements or they leave the field entirely. Please remember that the individuals that make up the medical field are humans and as humans they are still social creatures to the same degree as the rest of us despite all their years of rigorous analytical academic medical training. As an example, I used to work in a hospital radiology department as a clerical worker. As part of their training, medical residents and students would gather for weekly conferences in the radiology dept where one of the radiologists would go over cases with them to help the residents better understand diagnostic radiology. For a while, I was stationed with my desk in the hallway right where the residents had their conferences. My desk was facing a wall and the computer screens and x-ray film viewing lights were all against the wall right behind me. On many occasions there was a rather good turnout of residents to the point where it got rather crowded in that hallway with all those residents gathered in one location. Often the residents would arrive early for the conferences and would chit chat about things like who was getting married or what their future plans were for some social occasion -- rather ordinary mundane socializing. Sometimes, when it was all crowed, I still needed to get in and out of my desk. And you know what I noticed -- when it was crowded by my desk with the residents just socializing before the conference got started, it was a lot more difficult for me to get their attention for them to move aside for me to squeeze through to my desk than it was during the actual conference when the radiologist was showing and talking about the radiology images up on the screen. The point of that whole story is to illustrate and emphasize that the power of the social instinct seems to be no less strong in those individuals dedicating their careers to medical practice. The need for social acceptance among those residents is automatic and acts as a sort of glue binding them together that I had to struggle to break through to get to my desk. Their desire to socially connect eliminated the need to make a deliberate effort to maintain that connection once it had already started with another individual. However I believe they had to make more of a deliberate effort to listen to the radiologist and as a result, the residents could be more easily distracted to get their attention. If true, there may be some psychological factors at play in the medical field whereby the social influences that automatically occur, even if the individuals are not fully aware of, within the minds of practitioners of medicine that pushes them in some direction that supersedes any purely academic or intellectual reasons for move in some other direction. Therefore, a medical doctor may psychologically block from their minds some belief that the acceptance of which could result in ridicule from their academic peers who by default are also their social peers. Correspondingly, a doctor who may have vested herself in some belief such as 'no cancer cure already exists' may without realizing it lash out at someone who suggests otherwise and do the ridiculing out of some sort of psychological defense mechanism because the thought of being so wrong for so long about such an important matter may be too difficult to consider.
A third problem with the moonshot analogy and one that ties in with the first problem above, is that the entire moon landing program was entirely a publicly funded and run operation from start to finish. With Apollo 11 the orders and goals were clear and all parties involved were given all the funding and operational prerogative to reach the ultimate goal of landing a man on the moon. While despite what I have already written some may still persist with the belief that no cancer cure has already been found and if these moonshot researchers do find one then that treatment will surely get to the patients that need it. From that I respond -- well if you are so sure then it wont hurt to make it all legal and official. By that I mean let's write and enact laws that require what so many assume will happen anyway without the laws. That is, create, by law a medical system whereby the goal in medicine is to help the patient from a medical standpoint. We should make it illegal to withhold information about some medical treatment whether that treatment be for the common cold or a cancer. Require by law that if a cancer cure is found that everything that is possible is done to insure that it gets to every patient that needs it regardless of their ability to pay for it. And if a manufacture refuses to make such a cure, then take the next step in more closely emulating the moonshot analogy by instituting a publicly funded and run program to manufacture and distribute the cure. If ever there was an appropriate time for the refrain of "if we can put a man on the moon..." surely then this is it. If necessary, maybe we can put the whole cancer cure program under one program just like Apollo 11 where from the start of research to the discovery or rediscovery of a cure, to the manufacture and distribution to the cancer patients so the ultimate goal of curing those patients can be reached. Often times we hear people bad-mouthing government run programs, but we only need to remind those naysayers that the moon landing was a government program from start to finish to give the naysayers some serious pause. So let us create a program that is a much truer analogy to the original moonshot program where the goal, ability and funding to reach that goal of a cancer cure accessible by every cancer patient, is all provided under one program with all the focus and determination of the original Apollo 11 program.
Tags: capitalism, medicine, alternative medicine, cancer research, drug companies, alternative cancer treatments, medical industrial complex, big pharma, su2c, moonshots cancer, moon shot cancer, cancer conspiracy, cancer cure suppression, capitalism and medicine, cost of chemo, chemotherapy profits, nationalizing medicine, capitalism as an obstacle to good medicine, patent monopoly, medical profits from patents