Tuesday, June 30, 2009


June 30, 2009

When I opened facebook this morning, I learned that a colleague of mine, Jeff Conant, had died from infection complications after his first chemo treatment for ALL. Shock, despair for his family (who I don't know too well, except from sitting in Viking stadium together when Davis and his son, Scotty, played JV soccer together), and sadness followed in rapid succession. The fast boil didn't come until a couple of hours later, when my feeder reader sent me this blog entry from the Wall Street Journal's
blog on health and the business of health by Shirley Wang:

Amid much discussion around comparative effectiveness of medical treatments and whether cost should be a factor in treatment decisions, a new article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute estimates it would cost $440 billion to extend life by one year for the 550,000 Americans who die annually of cancer, reports the WSJ.

The authors, from the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health, say that 90% of cancer drugs approved in the past four years cost more than $20,000 for 12 weeks worth of treatment.

Some drugs have limited upsides, and these shouldn’t be developed unless they will cost patients less than $20,000 for a standard course, they say. Two more recommendations from the authors: doctors shouldn’t prescribe cancer medicines for non-approved purposes, and new medicines with marginal benefits shouldn’t be used for those with advanced cancer.

(continued here)

If you have someone special who has died from cancer, re-read this last paragraph. Then scream. I'll have to think about what we should do after we scream. Any suggestions?


  1. That article is infuriating. We should all write letters to the author asking them to sit in a hospital room with the family of someone who is dying and ask them to then report back to us on how much extra time with our loved ones should be worth.

  2. "doctors shouldn’t prescribe cancer medicines for non-approved purposes"


  3. OMG, how horrible. I'de like to withhhold the Mercedes-like drugs from this person's loved one. Or atleast just pretend for a day. Unreal. This comes from someone who does not know... yet.

  4. Had a pharmacist ask me once if I still wanted the prescribed anti-nausea meds since they weren't on the "list" and I would have to pay full price. I was caught off-guard by the question. I believed that everyone expected me to do everything possible for my kiddo. This article is asking society to look at the value, in dollar amounts, of human life. I would ask what dollar value should be placed on a mom spending 3 more months raising her children, on a child reaching one more milestone, on a professor giving one last lecture...and on all of them, impacting so many more people. Some things in our lives should never be reduced to the bottom line, particularly healthcare and education. And though the initial investment is high, the return historically is higher. It is that initial investment...of time, money, passion...that use of something as it was never intended to be used....these are what help us to escape ever-increasing mediocrity and lead us to greatness.

  5. I'm screaming with you - loudly! While I agree with you that this school of thought should be 'unthinkable', it is not new. And, it doesn't just apply to cancer drugs.
    As Karen said, those who follow this thinking are those who haven't been there - yet. God help them.

  6. Dearest Vickie,

    Screaming loudly with you...Sometimes people are just beyond comprehension. Where is the basic human compassion? Hiding under the money? Truly, truly sad, infuriating, indecent, and beyond comprehension.


  7. Here's a verb...VOTE! Vote for healthcare reform and those who promote it. If we can spend $874,341,000,000.00 on war, we can afford cancer research and niche drugs. Ok, I am late to the survey, reminded by Vicki this Sunday in church, but the survey is "down". Sigh. Am I too late? Should I just write Chet? Buy more health insurance? Oh wait, I can't buy insurance because I'm obese. AUGHHHHHHHH!