Doctors and Drug Firms

Last year, when my wife was in the hospital after having a stage IV malignant tumor removed, the radiologist came into her room to talk about followup treatment. He talked about starting her on radiation and chemotherapy once her surgery incisions had healed enough to allow it. We in fact took his advice and did that. Then two weeks after she finished the first round of radiation and chemotherapy, she died.

Why do I bring this up? Well, prior to the doctor coming in to discuss that treatment plan, I had gone online and studied as much as I could about what to expect next. And part of that was reading about the chemotherapy drug that is most often prescribed for her particular cancer. I noted two things in doing so. One, the chemo drug had a lot of significant side effects associated with it, as I believe all chemo drugs do. And two, for patients in my wife's age group, the prognosis was poor and the chemo drug only extended life by one month.

While we would all certainly like to live an additional month, the risks from the side effects seemed very large to me. I thought that the risks might outweigh the benefits, and because of that, I wanted to learn more from the radiologist about those risks before making any decisions. Unfortunately, when I began to question the doctor about that, he became very indignant and adamantly insisted that she had to have that chemotherapy. There was no other option as far as he was concerned. He actually seemed very emotional about that. He went on to say that patients had lived for another ten years as a result of taking that chemotherapy drug.

That sounds good, doesn't it? Patients lived another ten years after taking that particular chemo drug! There was only one minor detail about that statement. That was in 2013 and the FDA didn't approve that particular chemo drug for her type of cancer until March of 2005. I suppose the good doctor was speaking figuratively.

Well, later I learned that doctors are reimbursed for prescribing drugs from the drug companies. And chemo drugs are a big source of that reimbursement. In fact, in my wife's case, the insurance company paid over $14,000 for her first (and only) round of chemotherapy treatment. I heard somewhere that a doctor who prescribes a chemo drug like that could receive something like $5,000 back from the drug company for doing so. Not a bad deal for the doctor, huh? Not such a great deal for the patient! No wonder he was so adamant about her doing that.

I was reminded of all that this morning when I read the following headline in the Wall Street Journal, Doctors Net Billions from Drug Firms. According to the article, in five months alone last year, doctors and teaching hospitals (my wife was a patient in a teaching hospital at the time) received $3.5 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal, critics say that this has compromised medicine.

And yes in fact, I believe it has. Big time. Just going on about my wife's situation. She took the chemo and the radiation and her quality of life was significantly lowered during the time she was going through that. All she could do was sleep 23 out of 24 hours a day during that timeperiod. Immediately after she finished that round of treatment, she ended up back in the hospital with no significant red blood cell count, no platelets and no white blood cells. The chemo had killed all of that.

Without white blood cells, the body has no immune defenses to fight disease. And that's exactly what happened. She got a blood infection and died because her white blood cells could not find the infection. While the official death certificate says that she died from cancer, the truth is, I believe, she died from chemotherapy. If she hadn't had the chemo, then her white blood cell count wouldn't have dropped like that and she would have fought off the infection.

Now, yes, she was going to die from the cancer anyway. We knew that. But she might have lived longer and with a better quality of life than she did with the chemo. We of course don't know.

And I'm not saying that chemo is always bad. I think for younger patients and healthier patients, chemo can help. So, I'm not suggesting that chemotherapy treatments be thrown out. But I am suggesting that they aren't always the right answer. And unfortunately, medical decisions don't seem to take that into consideration.

In fact, it appears that these decisions are being made by a medical establishment based on paybacks from drug companies. The decisions that get made are less of a medical decision and more of a financial decision. And that's not good for the patient.

So, to bring this around to eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, I will say that it's important to do so because once you get in the medical system, you may find that the advice you get and the decisions you make are less about your interests and more about the doctor's financial interests. So eat healthy. It may be your only chance at survival.