Jun, 28
2012

Confusion Abounds

Michael Smith Blog - Know The Cause One of Doug's favorite sayings is an appropriate title for this post. I was trolling through Yahoo! news this afternoon and found two articles with seemingly conflicting conclusions on the same disease - prostate cancer. Never mind the fact that cancer in general is poorly understood, and even after decades of research, billions of dollars and countless lives have been lost to this disease, modern medicine seems to be no closer to finding a cure than they were when they started. The fact that these two posts showed up in the same news feed on the same day underscores the confusion that still surrounds disease. 



The first article, entitled "FDA Reviews Two New Drugs to Prevent Prostate Cancer," talks about two drugs already approved to treat enlarged prostate. These two drugs on review are offered by our friends GlaxoSmithKline and Merk. (Glaxo isn't exactly on the top of my list of reputable companies. Recent studies have shown that men taking the two drugs on review have a 23% reduction in low growth prostate tumors. Other issues aside, 80% of the tumors the drugs prevented were considered non-threatening. The study itself admits that:

"Some recent studies have suggested prostate cancer is over-diagnosed and over-treated in men - even in men with low-grade tumors. Treatment for the disease can include surgery to remove the cancer, radiation therapy or chemotherapy."

As a man, if I was recommended by a doctor to undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and then later found out that the disease for which I received those treatments for was considered "over-diagnosed and over-treated," I might be a little bit upset. I can't help but think this attempt on the part of GlaxoSK and Merck is just another sign of a system that over-treats its clients in the name of cash.  

The second article is simply titled "Prostate Cancer: Watching and Waiting May Be Best." Does anyone else feel like the term cognitive dissonance applies here?

I'm not trying to talk down to researchers or Doctors. I have no doubt that the research they do is solid. I have questions about drug companies and their motives. I have a problem when the bottom line comes before the health of patients, and it is frustrating when so much of the confusion in medicine is the result of drug companies perpetuating misinformation to chase a profit.