This post this began out of curiosity as so many antivaxxers claim that the only purpose of a vaccine is to generate profits for drug companies (aka: "Big Pharma"), or to individual doctors. Aside from the fact there is much more money to be made by treating diseases such as polio, smallpox, or rubella than there will ever be by preventing these diseases, there is also the common sense aspect of this theory that fails to convince. You see, to believe vaccines are merely a method to profit suggests that tens of thousands or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of clinicians, researchers, scientists, doctors, medical experts, federal regulators, and industry watchdogs are all somehow involved in some massive conspiracy and refuse to speak out because they risk missing out on their cut of that $23 vaccine given to a toddler. To a reasonable person this line of reasoning doesn't even pass a smell test.
That aside, why is that that the proponents of alternative medicine never seem to care about the money being made by those who are so obviously anti-vaccine or pro-alternative medicine? Why is there never a mention of how Dr. Blaylock profits from his many newsletters or his miracle brain repair pills. Why does nobody seem to care when Andy Moulden (a man who doesn't even have a license to practice medicine) was offering his professional diagnostic service where he could tell you if a child had a neurological condition based upon a few photographs or a videotape? Why the lack of concern when Dr. Tenpenny offers nutritional supplements that can cost more than $117 for a two month supply or when she offers a $200 "anti-flu" wellness kit which is nothing more than a collection of supplements and vitamins?
To make matters worse, why is the selective outrage non-existent when they find someone like Dr. Tenpenny offering vitamin D supplements for $14.99 when you can get a larger quantity of vitamin D elsewhere on the Internet for less than $5? Shouldn't these people be outraged that a "doctor" would intentionally gouge people by marking up her products over 300%? Why do they not seem to care when someone like Dr. Mercola offers a bottle 60 vitamin C capsules for $14.97 while you can head over to Walmart and get 100 tablets for under $7 or 70 vitamin C gummies for under $5?
Why don't they seem to care about antivaxxers making a living off of speaking tours and overpriced supplements? Why don't they care about alt-med practitioners selling pamphlets or books or DVDs full of their opinions for $60 or $70 even though they don't ever seem to have peer-reviewed research to support their statements? Doesn't it seem odd that I can download a peer-reviewed paper that involved thousands of hours of research by real scientists and doctors simply by searching Google Scholar and all of that data is available to me for free, yet antivaxxers want to charge me over $60 to watch a home movie of them giving a speech or $50 to get a copy of a PowerPoint presentation that they slapped together in a couple of hours?
The point is - if you are going to chastise someone for profiting from healthcare, why can't you apply this disdain equally? The truth is, there is a lot of money to be made by pushing alternative viewpoints, and the benefit of doing so is that these people aren't required to provide evidence that their viewpoints are valid provided they include a nice disclaimer on their websites (which all of them do).
So should we place our trust in legitimate peer-reviewed studies written by teams of research scientists that will never directly profit from their research, or should we trust doctors who publish their own books and newsletters filled with unsubstantiated opinion, unscientific statements, and zero verifiable data?
So where does the hypocrisy end? If we are really going to focus on the money, why can't we apply the same logic to those who seem to profit from alternative medicine?
For instance, what if we were to look at a doctor who claims he can cure cancer? For instance, what about Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski?
- Total number of clinical trials filed by the Burzynski Research Institute: 61
- Total number of Burzynski clinical trials with an unknown status and which have not had any updates in over two years (many of which were originally filed in the 90s): 50
- Total number of Burzynski clinical trials which were withdrawn: 9
- Total number of Burzynski clinical trials which have completed: 1
- Total number of Burzynski clinical trials which are not yet recruiting and yet have been open since 2010: 1
- Total number of Burzynski clinical trials with published results: 0
- Total annual cost to receive antineoplastons treatment from Burzynski: $30,000 - $60,000 or more
- Total per day cost for the Burzynski treatment program (not including other fees): $395
- Total monthly cost charged by Burzynski including all medications: $30,000 or more
- Total appraised value of Burzynski's home: $4,351,310
- Total real estate taxes paid by Burzynski in 2012: $86,560.53
- Total number of peer-reviewed studies published worldwide showing antineoplaston treatment to be effective including all studies published by Burzynski at any point since he began his research: 0
I should probably point out the one Burzynski clinical trial that has actually been completed was originally started in 1995 and completed in February 2005, yet we still have yet to see any published data from the study. Wouldn't you think a guy who claims he can cure cancer might be interested in actually publishing the data that might support his claims? Guess not. Either that or he isn't a very fast typist... because obviously eight years seems like a long time to actually release the results of the clinical trial.
Truthfully it probably isn't fair to mention that Burzynski lives in a multi-million dollar mansion because simply living in a nice home has no bearing on whether his work is credible. In addition to that, perhaps we should actually feel sorry for Dr. Burzynski. After all, his home has lost around $1.5M of value since 2010. Then again his property taxes have dropped from a high of over $114,000 down to under $87,000 so perhaps we shouldn't feel too bad for him.
The reason I point this out is because it shows you how out of touch people are when speaking about the profit in medicine. We expect doctors to make a good living. We expect doctors to generally be considered upper income earners or in some cases even "wealthy" due to the amount of training and education required to become a doctor. However we don't expect that they profit at the expense of their patients. We don't expect them to charge thousands of dollars for medications which can be purchased in pharmacies for less than $180. We don't expect them to charge patients to be part of clinical trials when most clinical trials are done at no cost to the participants.
So why don't those who believe big pharma is simply interested in making money, or those who accuse conventional medical doctors of only caring about the bottom line ever seem to step back and ask themselves how people like Dr. Mercola or Dr. Burzynski ever became multimillionaires while the traditional GP working in a clinic and giving vaccines to children will never have an income anywhere near that level?
Rest assured patients should always come ahead of profits. Anyone with a conscious will agree with that statement, and I'm sure the vast majority of people working in healthcare today would overwhelmingly agree. The truth is, as human beings we have an inherent desire to help others. People want to leave the world a better place than it was when they entered it, and when push comes to shove most people will do the right thing. Are there exceptions to the rule? You bet - the will always be those who put personal greed and their ambitions ahead of others, but the question we need to ask ourselves is how often does this really happen?
It simply isn't logical to believe that hundreds of thousands of people are all putting personal gain ahead of the human race. It isn't feasible to suspect people care more about their bank accounts than they do their fellow human beings. It doesn't make sense to claim people are knowingly suppressing cures for diseases such as cancer when there is a very high probability that every one of us will lose someone we know to cancer one day. Perhaps even scarier is the fact that males have a 1 in 2 chance of contracting some form of cancer in their lifetime and a 1 in 4 chance of dying from cancer while females have a 1 in 3 chance of developing some form of cancer and a 1 in 5 chance of dying from cancer.
So think about that for a second. What alternative medicine proponents would have us believe is that there are hundreds of thousands of scientists and researchers out there who are all trying to prevent cures to cancer from seeing the light of day all the while knowing they have a very strong chance of one day suffering from cancer themselves. These alt-med types actually believe these hundreds of thousands of people would put personal profit ahead of their own health and perhaps even their own lives.
Does this make any sense whatsoever?
This is perhaps one of the many reasons why it is so difficult to take the antivaxxers or the proponents of alternative medicine seriously. If they lack the logic to think through even the most basic of their accusations... how can they be taken seriously when discussing more complex matters such as vaccine efficacy or the peer-review process?