Best Healthcare In The World Blah Blah

One of the arguments we always heard during the healthcare debate was that America is the driving force behind every major medical advance in the universe, since forever. Indeed, Tennessee’s ownJunior Senator Bob Corker had the nerve to tell Canada’s former Public Health Minister that Canada and France weremooching off of American innovation: we’re the ones coming up with all the technological breakthroughs, whichthey benefit from! And dammit, it’s unfair! It’sour money paying to develop cures for cancer! Parasites!

Oh yes, that was embarassing.

I thought of that when I read about a Cleveland researcher’s struggle to get funding to start clinical trials of a promising breast cancer vaccine:

With additional funding, the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute immunologist could begin testing the vaccine in two groups of humans: women with advanced breast cancer and healthy women with a high risk of developing the disease.

The cost to just make the vaccine is an estimated $1.8 million, a small part of the $6 million for all of the costs associated with conducting a clinical trial approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Tuohy said.

As 2010 wound down, however, Tuohy’s hope that he would be able to secure sizable grants to cover those costs vanished into thin air.

The National Cancer Institute — which the year before provided him funding — and Susan G. Komen for the Cure had rejected his grant proposals, ending any chance that human trials could be launched before the end of 2011.

Why is this happening in America? Because, the article tells us, competition for cancer research funds is “stiff.” Only 12% of the grant proposals NCI receives are awarded funds. Komen funds fewer than 80 grants of the 1,400 proposals it receives. And Dr. Tuohy is developing apreventative vaccine, whereas the medical community is focused more on treatment for existing cancer. Apparently prevention goes against the grain in the medical community.

This is the greatest healthcare system in the world? Bah. A paltry $6 million to test a promising breast cancer vaccine? We can’t do this because why? With all the money we spend on crap at the Pentagon we can’t scrape together $6 million for a preventative breast cancer vaccine? The Armyspent $7 million sponsoring NASCAR driver Ryan Newman last year. We can do that but we can’t fund clinical trials for a breast cancer vaccine? (On a related note: did you know the Dept. of Defense has a Breast Cancer Research Program? I didn’t either. But no, they rejected Dr. Tuohy’s application, too.)

So now citizens are pitching in. People, this story just restores my faith in America, it really does. Folks all around the country are holding fundraisers to help Dr. Tuohy, in what has to be the medical research equivalent of a pickle jar by the cash register. They’ve held garage sales, races, concerts, you name it. They’ve kicked in big money and little money. A sample:

Earlier this year, Judy Fitzgerald, a retired middle school teacher who lives in Portsmouth, R.I., sent Tuohy a check for $702, money raised from a 1950s-themed dance and items sold at a crafts fair.

These people are my heroes. You’d think our government or fucking GlaxoSmithKline or whatever would be able to cough up $6 millioni dollars for clinical trials — hell, maybe WellPoint CEO Angela Braly could dip intoher $13.2 million annual compensation, after all, isn’t a breast cancer vaccine a lot cheaper in the long run for insurance companies than cancer treatment? But whatever. Free hand of the market, yada yada.

So once again the people step in when others have failed. It’s not the most seamless or efficient way of doing things but we stumble along and eventually we get there.

The article has lots of links to donation pages if you’re interested in getting involved.

9 thoughts on “Best Healthcare In The World Blah Blah

  1. i’ve been saying for years that BigPharma has no vested interest in CURING diseases, just treating them. WAY more money in that…

  2. As you point out, US Healthcare is NOT the top of the pyramid and the quality of care and medical innovation have long been surpassed by other countries.
    Student Readiness to learn: As far as innovation, one only need look as far as the international tests for areas such as Science, Technology, and Math. Not only have many European countries overtaken us, but even areas considered 3rd world has passed us.
    In the development of researchers: While getting a grant for research from the NIH has always been a highly competative venture, for a couple of decades it has been increasingly difficult – leaving many worthy research ventures to die for lack of funding (especially note that many of these may be basic research, just to discover how things work, which may provide for a treatment for a disease in the far future but have not immediate application and thus absolutely not interest to big Pharma). Lack of funding also means lack of salary for faculty, decrease in qualified teachers, and a general feeling of “why would anyone want to spend years on a PhD only to enter the dismal competition for grants?”.
    In the dissemination of research, studies have been done comparing the number of scholarly articles in major medical journals coming from various areas. Not to mention the areas of specialization for the articles. USA is slowly dropping out of the sci-tech publishing.
    Canada stealing from us, indeed!

  3. my barefooting danish e-pal(older gent) made a 3 week trip to USA. NYC first, but he did get a lung infection from the flight + did spend a day or so in the hospital in NY. NOW he is having an issue about his danish system paying for it and his meds were $111!! he speas of the danish care he gets. nursing + dr visits at his HOME. paid for by the taxes. no worry about BILLS! he did say the US hospital cleaner, but that breeds worse bugs.

  4. I was in Norway a few years ago and our first day in Oslo my friend badly twisted her ankle — tore a ligament, actually. It was awful, but her pain meds were $6 and she wasn’t charged anything for x-rays, treatment, crutches etc. at the time. When she got home she got a bill for $250. She was pissed about that $250 but I was like, duuuuude can you imagine how much that would have cost in the States? Plus we were in and out of the emergency care clinic in 2 hours. I’ve spent hours at the ER at home.

  5. pansypoo:
    Your Danish friend said the U.S. hospitals are cleaner than his house? And that’s the Danish gov’t’s fault?
    I lived in Copenhagen for about a year back in the ’80s. They all complained about taxes but in that good-natured way we all complain about stuff (like the DMV, post office, etc.) There really is no place on earth I’d rather live than Scandinavia. I call Norway the promised land.

  6. I have some friends who’ve told me how difficult it is to fight for any sort of grant money, especially if you haven’t previously been awarded grants. Sort of like trying to get a job if you don’t have prior experience…but how do you get prior experience if you can’t get hired…

  7. As a Canadian, thanks for that blog post, Southern Beale. As a Londoner (the one in Canada), thanks doubly, because did yousee how many times London was on that list? Damn, we actually do something right around here…
    I actually used to live two doors down from the original house in which Sir Frederick Banting lived and had the laboratory where he discovered insulin.
    I’m skeptical of the idea that a breast cancer vaccine could work, because I readRespectful Insolence a lot — written by an MD/PhD surgical oncologist/researcher specialising in breast cancer — and cancer is way more complicated than people think. As humanity’s understanding of cancer (especially breast cancer) grows, we’re also finding out how much more we don’t understand. But IANAD, even if my mother is undergoing treatment for breast cancer right now…

  8. no, the hospital was cleaner than DANISH hospitals. he has had some health issues from his asthma. but at least they did treat him. need to ask if he went to the emergency room. he found there was a LOT of waiting in NYC.

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