Cancer drugs and why doctors are now deciding how much your life is worth...

The Good Life Letter 

Friday 7th October 2011

  • What has made Ray fume about cancer doctors this week?
  • Could you ever put a price on life?
  • Cancer drugs aren't the answer - so what is?

'Don't Give Out Cancer Drugs If It's Just To Extend Life' - is it me or is that the dumbest headline ever?

Apparently a group of 'experts' have stated that patients with terminal cancers should not be given life-extending drugs.

Now excuse me, but isn't that the ONLY reason to be given these drugs?

When we are in our twenties and immune to life's aches and pains we care nothing for a few weeks at the end of our days.

But what price would you put on a last fortnight that allowed you the chance to make peace with your loved ones, and prepare them for what is to follow?  And that assumes that the diagnosis you were given was correct in the first place.

Often we hear that some poor soul is told they have a few months to live, and they have little chance that expensive drugs will work for them; then they self-finance the treatment and are still alive years later with their condition improved.

The cynic might well argue that such decisions are never made on a clinical basis, but a fiscal one.

And do you know what?  They would be right.

The facts are that our health service would sooner see our GPs doling out statins to all-comers with little consideration for the side effects or alternatives rather than allow some end-of-life dignity.

I am no fan of allowing the drug companies to dictate the actions of our doctors, but there are some conditions where clear benefits are shown.

We all face a time when our lives begin to wane, where a potentially fatal health condition is present, and then we are right to expect all the stops to be pulled out.

Who would accept seeing their parent deteriorating if there was even a slight hope of recovery due to a newly discovered compound or practice?

What right has anyone, at that stage, to say that an intervention is costly and merely gives false hope?

This approach is basically putting a price on life - and that is just plain WRONG.

The drugs don't always work

The problem that these experts have is that each condition is subtly different, and each patient unique which adds an element of variation into the population.

The laws of statistics say that where there is a normal distribution some will perform as expected, but others will overachieve, and the rest underachieve.

This is the basis of averages.

When the experts look at the likelihood that a drug will work they only look at the average and make a decision based on that.

How does that leave those who would have been so much better off with it?

With a healthcare system based upon money rather than care of life the health professionals are making a mistake.

Their time would be better spent attacking the drug companies who make new discoveries SO expensive.

For instance, a new drug with proven benefits for prostate cancer sufferers has been launched at a cost of £35,000 per patient per year - that's just greed.

Any new drug has a shelf-life, but it also has a huge captive audience.

If these new drugs were launched at a sensible price in the first place more people would be put on them and they would make their money just the same.

Here's a bit of Ray mathematics if that is too difficult for our drug overlords to comprehend;

If you sell one drug for £10 you make £10, but if you sell 10 drugs at £1 you also make £10.

Does that help?

Why there is no magic pill

Not one of the Good Life readers would ever advocate the overuse of any drug; in fact I know from my mailbox that many of you don't want to take anything made by the big pharmaceutical companies...and I'm with you on that one.

The problem is that come the final throw of our dice  who can say they won't be looking for a bit of help?

In accepting that we all have to face an end to our days you might argue that when your time is up you should go gracefully.

Well I don't intend to, I came into this world kicking and screaming (and some say that is how I lived it too!)...

...I shall go out the same way.

I know that medicine is advancing at a rate of knots, often at the expense of proven older remedies - but science has given us much, albeit at a cost.

When is the cost too great though? The right of a medical accountant to dictate when my life is beyond economic repair is abhorrent.

Making a difference

Sorry that today was a little heavy, but I couldn't believe my eyes when the news feeds began to buzz with this story.

Of course the real story is the one that concerns the many years before that last chance saloon moment.

It is now that you can protect yourself from the impact of cancers and the like.

Eating well, exercising appropriately and enjoying the comfort and love of family and friends are the real tonics - not the contents of a test tube.

Enjoy a happy and healthy start to the rest of your life, make the most of each and every opportunity...and have a flutter on an £6.4 million lottery jackpot to brighten your days, grab a bit of that rollover - I'm in! 

Yours as always,



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