Would You Cure A Profitable Disease?

I just finished reading this article that was recently published in Diabetes Health:

It’s called “Would You Cure A Profitable Disease?” and it’s got some interesting insights worth reading. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on the topic.

Thanks for linking to this, Manny. As I read the article I kept thinking “but is it the Pharm companies business to cure diseases?” I don’t think so. I’m not really up to speed on my pharmaceutical history, but have they cured any other diseases?

I can understand why some people might develop a conspiracy theory around the idea that its better for them to keep people sick and dependent, but in order to believe that you’d have to believe that a cure for diabetes could be found “if they’d just try a little harder.” Given all the variations in this disease, I kind of doubt that it’s that easy.

The statement near the end of the article to the effect that if a pharm company did discover a cure, it would be able to charge what it wanted and would blow all of its competition out of the water makes a compelling case against the “don’t cure a profitable disease” argument. If Abbott could find a cure, Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, BD, would lose most of their diabetic supply business - a business coup for Abbott and a blow to the others.

It IS about the money, no doubt, but companies aren’t altruists. I’m not so cynical, yet, that I believe a company would make a conscious decision to keep people sick by blocking a cure. But to o the extent that it doesn’t make business sense to find a cure, fine. It’s their business, they have no obligation to find a cure. It’s not my place to tell them how to spend their money.

Unless I’m a stockholder. If all of their stockholders were diabetic, it might be different.

I saw that article a few days ago, and it made me cranky. I don’t necessarily think there is a cure that’s being hidden from us. I don’t think it’ll even be cured in my lifetime. However, whatever the time line is between now and a cure, I think Big Pharm has very generously extended it. I don’t find the argument that a cure would be anywhere near as profitable as all the medications and supplies to manage diabetes to be very convincing. They couldn’t charge whatever they please. They would have to set a price that would of course include a hefty profit margin, but they couldn’t just say, let’s charge $1M because people want this really badly and they’ll sell their youngest child to get it. No way could they charge as much as my diabetes care has cost in the 30 years I’ve had it - insulin, syringes, pump supplies, 2 pumps, doctor’s visits, hospital stays, all the pills I now take for my kidneys, my heart, my cholesterol, and all the treatment I’ve received for depression. I’m a walking goldmine for them, and there are so many others like me. They would much rather keep me alive and diabetic because they need me to pay for their Lexuses and pool service.

This is the part where I spare everyone my politically charged rant.

P.S. I don’t know if that’s the correct plural form of Lexus.

sorry in advance, this is long and I am cranky

C’mon Manny,

I found the article to be full of un-provable statements that seem designed to evoke fear and paranoia. Why would anyone compose such a piece? Could the stir of emotions cause readership and perhaps an increase in advertisement dollars? Isn’t that what a newspaper like “The National Enquirer” is all about? Are we all that naïve?

Let’s all jump on the bandwagon and hate pharm companies. It’s a popular sentiment, isn’t it?

As far as Salk being shunned by his peers, his research blew the lid off of dead virus vaccines and opened the door to a host of vaccines and therapies. More importantly, once the method was discovered, several parallel therapies were developed, independently, meaning: IF SOME COMPANY TRIED TO STIFLE THE VACCINE THEY WOULD HAVE MERELY GONE AROUND THAT COMPANY.

Today every major pharmaceutical are working on cancer vaccines, due to research that was born out of academia and is also public. Cancer is also profitable. No entity could stop the development of caner vaccines, none. Even if it were to become “illegal” in the US (a-la stem cell research) other facilities worldwide would take up the development.

Stop being afraid of shadows, diabetes is difficult and elusive and it is far easier to dream up conspiracy theories then to get off your ■■■ and do something, but it is also way less satisfying. If you have all that extra time I suggest we go do a JDRF walk for the cure or something that is actually beneficial.

To be fair, I don’t think cancer is as profitable because it’s not a chronic illness. No one is going to manage cancer for 60 years. Whether or not it’s more deadly than diabetes is debatable, but it’s certainly perceived as more deadly, and if we’re talking about immediate risks versus long term risks, cancer is far more lethal. I think it sounds a lot more awful to live with cancer than with diabetes too, but that’s just my perception. I’m not saying it’s necessarily justified, but I can see why there would be a stronger push to develop a cure for that.

I think the conspiracy theory regarding Big Pharm and a diabetes cure is far-fetched, but diabetes is a billion dollar business last I heard, and those companies’ ultimate goal is to make more money. Are they purposely hiding a cure or intentionally sabotaging its development? Unlikely. Are they investing more money into keeping diabetes managed as opposed to curing it? I don’t know, but that information can probably be found, and I’m inclined to think the answer would be yes.

I didn’t find the article alarmist, exploitive or sensational. In the very first paragraph the author describes the notion that pharm companies are hiding or delaying a cure as ‘paranoia.’ There is some manipulation in relating “The Story of INGAP” since it implies that the product was squelched, but waits to the end of the article to reveal that the product was picked up by another company.

I think the article addresses a legitimate issue - the fear that some diabetics have about the motives of pharm companies - without promoting the fear. (A fear that is no doubt also present among people with other chronic diseases.)

I don’t see anything in the article that bashes big pharm. It objectively explains their business decisions and raises the countervailing point that the pharm industry may not be the right place to look for a cure.

I also think such a conspiracy is unlikely.

If big pharm was conspiring to hide or prevent a cure of a disease, I think it would have been uncovered and revealed by the AIDS activist community by now. That is one relentless activist group and a good model for the diabetes community to follow if we really want to raise awareness and expand research.

Maintenance drugs for people with HIV/AIDS are very expensive. They have been developed based in large part because of the funding available to research cures. Those funds are available because of the active and loud advocacy of the HIV/AIDS community. Those activists would have yelled ‘conspiracy’ at the drop of a hat if there was even a hint of evidence that pharm was holding back a cure.

No need to apologize about the length or the crankiness, Joe. Discussions are meant for this, so diverging opinions and thoughts about a topic (like this one) can be presented.

I thought the topic was thought-provoking and that is why I linked to the article. I don’t necessarily agree with everything stated in the article, but I do feel it makes some interesting points. While the tone of the article does seem a bit conspiracy theory-ish, I think it is important to always open up to possibilities that go beyond our commonly accepted beliefs, simply because somewhere near the outside the space of truth we all hold dear and near us lies a ton of information that we can be exposed to if we let ourselves.

I do think a company where all stockholders are diabetic, as Terry stated, would be a very interesting scenario. As a matter of fact, imagine if that were the case… just for a second. Perhaps a lot of work, but not all that outrageous.

In the meantime, I agree with you that supporting initiatives such as the ones JDRF and DRI conduct is a great way to help a cure to be found: that is why I actively support their work and encourage getting the word out about what they are doing and raising funds for them, both here in the community as well as in the articles I write elsewhere.

I read this article in what was still known as Diabetes Interview magazine back in 2003 … many of the points are relevant, but I would remind everyone that the medical profession has not actually CURED or eradicated any disease since polio, which took place in the late 1940’s … they do not really have a good record of actually restoring people to healt to health … something to think about!

Absolutely. Profits can be made elsewhere from things that people want, rather than things that people are burdened with.

Hi everyone,
thanks for sharing this article…I was just commnenting to a friend the other night that Pharmecuiticals have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo as they are making lots of money. I have been cynical about this for years to be honest. I have worked in the medical field for a number of years and have seen it from various sides. Call me a cynic, but there you go!!! Profits before people. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly thankful for the wonderful things they have come up to make life with diabetes easier, that is for sure.


Conspiracy or not, do diabetes meds need to be so @$*% expensive?? I thought we’d come a long way from using pork and beef insulin, it’s now RECOMBINANT, it’s not like they’re having to slaughter animals just to get to the stuff. sigh Maybe it’s just me and my current joblessness talking, but I’m a bit frustrated by that, much less wanting to be cured.

Sorry about your joblessness. That’s one of the really frustrating things about this – employment based insurance coverage!

So, the responsibility of publically traded companies is to make money for their investors is a given, then this is not a conspiracy, it is the natural outcome of the system. We will build companies that work to build drugs and products that will be in demand so they can maximize profits.

Notwithstanding that they will be on a continuous improvement track to develop products we will want and purchase – better meters, smaller needles, etc.

There is another part of the system that increases the costs – insurance. We have become desensitized to the costs of things when we don’t have to pay the full price. Some of us never see the full price. Not saying we should abolish insurance, but the people who do have it demand whatever is available at whatever price… and do not demand pricing constraints from the suppliers – the normal dynamics of supply and demand are not having any affect on this industry (it’s an industry far more than a public service).

As more and more people live without insurance, there will be more and more demand for pricing that reflects the true cost of these materials and devices and services.

Not maybe a conspirace where people get together and plot the limitation of information and alternatives.

BUT, scientists and medical people tend to develop dogmatic ideas about any topic you can name – and they tend to resist new thinking. The new thinkers are legendary. Sometimes their breakthrough thinking is subverted and we never hear about it. Those that have prevailed have done so at great personal cost in many many cases. Copernacus comes to mind.

Fact is, we need each other in this type of forum to keep our eyes and ears open for those iconoclasts who just might have a fresh approach, who might deserve an audience and a chance to review their ideas.

Conspiracies might not be the danger. The real danger is that people are not willing to test their assumptions! Untested assumptions are the bane of all scientific inquiry – but they are the backbone of many institutions of higher learning – and many development labs in the healthcare industry. We do not know all of the people who have some piece of the puzzle for a cure that are being tried and tested by their supervisors, funders, and the medical community because they are going against the dogma about this disease, its causes, and potential solutions.

Luckily, sometimes, new thinking prevails and we get vaccines or solutions.

I’m involved with Rotary International. We have been working with the WHO, and local people to eradicate Polio for a long time. We are very close. Only a few areas in the world still have active virus. The only thing that is keeping us is that some regions believe that the vaccine is not going to help their children but will hurt them. Such regions will not let their children be vaccinated. Through patience and persistence and working with local leaders, we are slowly changing these mistaken perceptions. Such change is slow and exhausting.

My point? Misperceptions can cause people to reject a very logical and proven approach to a disease. We may be dealing with dogma and misperceptions in this difficult and pervasive disease that plagues you, me, and thousands of others. I’m not convinced that the pharmaceutical solution is correct for any type II treatment… I think they are on the wrong track for this.

OH BUT YES!!! I know about the profit thing going on and I lso know our disease keeps dr busy but please we don’t want to go on living with this!!!

Dear Manny.

There is a down side to Capitalism. Even more so when the people in charge become infinite in their greed. Never heard that Banting, Best or Collip ever became billionaires like many of the Wall street geniuses with the invention of financial engineering. As a former Engineer and knowing that most of them are or were honest and now knowing how honest Wall Street is I find the association of financial and engineering obnoxious…