Lee Euler, Editor
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Big drug companies bribe cancer doctors — click here
Is your cancer doctor being bribed by the big drug companies?
A cancer doctor told us an incredible story about drug company tactics. Dr. Frank runs an outstanding alternative cancer clinic in Austria. It's featured in Andrew Scholberg's Special Report, German Cancer Breakthrough. I've visited Dr. Frank's clinic myself, and it's definitely on my "short list" of places to go if I ever get cancer myself.
Here's what Dr. Frank told us: A salesman from one of the best-known drug companies paid him a visit a few years ago. The sales rep pulled open his laptop computer and asked Dr. Frank, "How many patients do you have?" The sales rep entered the information into his laptop.
A few minutes later, he gave Dr. Frank a business proposition: "Okay. If you give every patient a high dose of chemotherapy, after one year you'll get $3.7 million Euros back." That was more than $5,000,000.
The drug company was willing to sneak this 3.7 million Euros to Dr. Frank under the table — with no taxes or reporting.
When Dr. Frank replied, "I don't need your money," the sales rep shook his head in disbelief. "Every hospital works together with us. You're from a different planet." He was still shaking his head as he walked out of the clinic.
Dr. Frank — like most alternative doctors — uses low-dose chemotherapy when he uses chemo at all. Alternative cancer clinics get better results with low doses than mainstream cancer doctors get with high doses. What's more, the patients feel fine — with no misery, nausea or hair loss. We explain how low-dose chemo works in German Cancer Breakthrough and in our report on Mexican alternative cancer clinics, Adios, Cancer.
Dr. Frank told us, "Now I understand why so many doctors give high dose chemotherapy." It was crystal clear to us, too. After all. . .
Would $5 million get your attention?
I think it would. My colleagues and I haven't come across another smoking gun like Dr. Frank's, but I'm confident they're out there, if more doctors would spill the truth. Meanwhile, there's plenty of public information about legal profiteering by cancer doctors right here in America. I wouldn't be surprised if the money changing hands legally above the table is matched by big sums under the table like those offered to Dr. Frank.
America has a different system from Europe. The bribes are in plain sight. In America, so-called community based cancer doctors sell chemotherapy drugs directly to the patients at enormous mark-ups. There's no middle man, no pharmacist involved. Community based doctors are those who treat the patients in their own offices, on an out-patient basis.
The oncologist buys the drugs directly from the drug maker at anywhere from 20 percent to 86 percent off and sells them to the patient for full price.
The whole business is called the "chemotherapy concession" -- sort of like a medical McDonald's franchise. Most of your cancer doctor's income comes from being a pharmacist, not from giving medical care.
The system was actually conceived about 20 years ago as a measure to save money (try not to laugh). It was thought that treating people as out-patients would be less expensive than a hospital stay. Good plan, but it failed to take into account the greed of the drug companies and many doctors.
The most recent figures I can find show the median income for an oncologist in a large practice was $274,000 per year. ("Median" means that half of these cancer doctors make more than $274,000.) Oncology is one of the highest-earning specialties. By comparison, oncologists who work in academic institutions, where they don't get a percentage of the drug profits, earned an average of $142,000.
So an oncologist can make an additional $130,000 by also being in the pharmacy business. And of course that's just a median figure. Depending on the size of the practice, an oncologist can make several hundred thousand dollars a year from selling chemo drugs.
They can make these stupendous sums of money because there's practically no limit to how many patients an oncologist can treat at once by IV (called "infusion"). They have what's called an "infusion room" with comfortable reclining chairs and maybe a television to watch while the patients receive chemo drugs intravenously. A cancer doctor can treat a large number of patients at the same time.
The opportunities for corruption are just about unlimited
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that "private-practice oncologists typically derive two-thirds of their income from selling chemotherapy." (JNCI 2001; 93:491) Nationwide, cancer specialists as a group are pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars every year from sale of the drugs. That's being conservative. The figure may be in the billions.
This set-up plainly leads to decisions that don't benefit the patient.
And get this: the drugs you're prescribed depend on whether the doctor is getting a percentage or not.
Many cancer doctors prescribe the most expensive drugs, in larger doses than needed, to patients who won't benefit from them and would be better off with another treatment. And I'm not talking about another alternative treatment. I mean these patients aren't getting the right conventional treatment. Instead, they're getting the treatment that profits the doctor most.
Here's glaring proof the drugs aren't needed
Studies show that when cancer doctors treat patients in a hospital setting — where the doctor doesn't get a cut of the drug profits — they prescribe far less chemotherapy than do the cancer "entrepreneurs" working out of their own offices.
Neil Love, M.D., surveyed breast cancer oncologists and found huge differences between those in private practice and those who don't personally profit from the drugs. 75% of the first group prescribed intravenous treatment, and quite often these doctors prescribed one of the most expensive breast cancer drugs on the market.
The second group of doctors, those who don't get a share of the profits, prescribe IV chemo only 13% of the time and NONE of them prescribed the expensive drug. The second group almost always prescribed a less expensive drug that you take by mouth. They went with this option 84-88% of the time. (Retrieved from http://patternsofcare.com/2005/1/editor.htm)
There's more evidence. A 2001 NIH study examined the records of patients with late-stage cancer who had only months to live. One out of three of these "hopeless cases" were given chemotherapy even when chemo was useless and inappropriate for their condition, according to this study.
That's a shocking admission, coming from the ultra-mainstream National Institutes of Health (NIH). If you're one of my regular readers, you know I'm always harping on how useless chemo is for late-stage cancer patients. If the cancer has spread outside the original site, then conventional, high-dose chemo does NOT increase survival time. And of course it destroys the patient's quality of life — for nothing... no gain at all.
Now comes the mainstream NIH agreeing with me that at least one-third of these late-stage cases are receiving inappropriate treatment. Chemo shouldn't have been prescribed. (And let me add this: there are some exceptions where conventional treatments can be helpful -- ALWAYS seek a doctor's advice, preferably one of the doctors we recommend in our Special Reports.)
There's also evidence that drug companies offer discounts to get doctors to prescribe their products, out of the many different competing drugs from which a doctor can choose. If one company gives the doctor 50% off retail, another will come in and try to get his business by giving 60%. A major drug-maker was accused of doing exactly that in a Minnesota lawsuit.
So don't be too sure your cancer doctor is picking the "best" chemo drug for you or your loved one. The doctor may be picking the one with the fattest margin.
"A two percent chance to live? Doc, I'll go for it."
I don't know why I should be fair to conventional cancer doctors, but I will be. There are a couple of words to say in their defense. Some of the useless treatments for late-stage cancer are due to pressure from patients who want the doctor to do something, anything to buy them a few more months of life.
These patients are willing to gamble that they'll be in the tiny group (two or three percent) who actually respond to the treatments. It's a long shot. But their fear and pain give the doctor an excuse to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on treatments that will almost surely fail.
One last thought about the "honesty" of conventional doctors
Much of the money for all this comes from Medicare i.e. from all of us who pay taxes. In an effort to get the situation under control, a few years ago Medicare started cutting back on reimbursements to oncologists for chemotherapy.
How did the cost-cutting work out? Not very well. I'll tell you what happened, and leave you one last thing to ponder if you still believe in medical doctors.
A new study in the July issue of Health Affairs found that oncologists got around the cost-cutting measures by simply treating more patients with more expensive drugs. Oncologists have a large number of chemo drugs to choose from, and it was easy to shift to the most costly ones, the ones where the doctor made more money.
Plus, they started giving chemo to more patients. Analyzing the records of 222,478 lung cancer patients, the Health Affairs study found that — following the new cost-cutting measures -- 18.9 percent of the patients were given chemo. Before the new regulations, only 16.5 percent were treated with chemo. By giving more expensive chemo drugs to a larger number of patients, the oncologists defeated the government's effort to save money and made sure they didn't have to take a pay cut.
Dr. Mireille Jacobson, one of the study's authors, said the changes in the law "actually increased the likelihood that lung cancer patients received chemotherapy." The doctors needed the money.
Even the staid New York Times observed, "Many doctors ended up prescribing chemotherapy for more of their patients, to make up for lower prices."
What can you do?
The only solution I can offer you is the one we're always talking up in these pages and in our books and reports: Go to an alternative doctor. We're always on the lookout for new clinics and doctors, and we publish the information in our Special Reports.
While we can't guarantee the quality of their services, we do the best job we can at scoping them out ahead of time for you. We've visited the clinics ourselves, talked to the doctors, and interviewed patients. In addition to German Cancer Breakthrough and Adios, Cancer (on Mexican clinics), we publish a report on American alternative clinics called Cancer Breakthrough, USA.
In general you can't get as wide a range of treatments at the American clinics (because of our laws), but in spite of that, you can still receive excellent treatment at certain places here in the US. We name them and describe them in the Special Report.
The Mexican clinics are your best nearby choice if you want access to nearly every type of therapy. And let me add that these clinics are perfectly safe and secure. They're located in areas where you don't have to worry about the drug-fueled violence you hear about in the news. Mexico doesn't always have a positive image among Americans. So this might surprise you: these clinics are on a par with the best German and American clinics we've seen. Some of them are better.
The German clinics are a fine choice, too. The treatment costs about the same as the Mexican clinics, but of course the travel is more expensive. We're super-impressed with the work they do. And they're located in beautiful areas, so it's like being on vacation while you receive treatment.
Health Disclaimer: The information provided above is not intended as personal medical advice or instructions. You should not take any action affecting your health without consulting a qualified health professional. The authors and publishers of the information above are not doctors or health-caregivers. The authors and publishers believe the information to be accurate but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. There is some risk associated with ANY cancer treatment, and the reader should not act on the information above unless he or she is willing to assume the full risk.
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