Tag Archives: breast cancer

The Race for the money

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The Business of Breast Cancer

Just look at the market: one in eight American women will get it — based on current US populations, that works out to 19,337,500 potential customers. 192,370 new customers just this year who will spend the Medicare average of $31,735, or more, to treat it.

The CDC says $7 billion was spent on treatment of diagnosed breast cancer in 2007, but that number doesn’t come close to the total amounts spent on living with it or fearing you’ll get it. Eight in eight American women (154.7 million) are aware that they could be the one in eight.

Breast cancer is a multi-billion dollar business. For every positive test, someone profits. Those companies want you to survive for as long as you possibly can pay — for every death, those who profit suffer, too. Callous as that sounds, it is true.

Here are some figures to give you an idea of the scale of the efforts towards early detection and a cure:

Research Spending:

Then there are those who wish to influence your government to either find a cure, help those who suffer or pad their profits (please note: large lobby groups do not break out their spending by initiative, specific cancer, etc., but their influence is clear):

2008 Lobby Spending:

  • National Breast Cancer Coalition: $174,619
  • Medical Equipment & Supplies: $6.3 million
  • Big Pharma: $29.2 million (not breast cancer specific)
  • Insurance: $46.8 million (all companies)
  • Health Professionals: $95.2 million

In addition to hospitals, imaging centers, physicians, surgeons, radiologists, rehab centers, hotels near treatment centers, airlines, ambulances, family counselors, book publishers, vitamin firms, alternative treatment practitioners, wig, hat and pink paraphernalia stores, here are some lists of just some of those who are sucking on the money tit.

Drugs: $36.7 billion
This is a list of annual sales of drugs used to treat breast cancer. It is just a partial list and many of these drugs are also used for other diseases. It also doesn’t begin to list the drugs and the profits required to live with the pain, suffering and side effects.

  • Femara (Letrozole): $1.1 billion (Source: 2008 Novartis Annual Report)
  • Aromasin (Exemestane): $465 million (Source: 2008 Pfizer Annual Review)
  • Arimidex (Anastrozole): $1.9 billion (Source: 2008 AstraZeneca Annual Report)
  • Tamoxifen (generic): $1.1 billion, estimate (Source: 2008 AstraZeneca Annual Report)
  • Fareston (Toremifene): $2.9 million (still in testing: Source GTx, Inc. news release)
  • Evista (Raloxifene): $1.1 billion (2007 – Source: Eli Lilly press release)
  • Herceptin (Trastuzumab): $1.4 billion (Source: Genetech web site) –  note: annual treatment expense: >$100,000
  • Lapatinib (Tykerb): $162 million (recently approved: Source: 2008 GlaxoSmithKline Annual Report)
  • Ixempra (azaepothilone B): $500 million, estimated (Source: FiercePharma.com/Bristol-Myers Squibb)
  • Xeloda (Capecitabine): $1.2 billion (Source: 2008 Roche Annual Report)
  • Aredia: $21 million (Source: Healthcare Sales & Marketing Network/Barr Pharma)
  • Pamidronate (generic): $553 million, estimate (Source: AccessMyLibrary.com)
  • Paclitaxel: $1.6 billion (Source: Bristol-Myers Squibb10-K filing)
  • Adriamycin (Doxorubicin): $550 million (Source: EvalutatePharma.com)
  • Pamidronate (Darbepoetin alfa): $550 million (now generic. Source: AccessMyLibrary.com)
  • Aranesp (Darbepoetin alfa): $4.1 billion (Source: 2006 Amgen Annual Report)
  • Epogen: $2.5 billion (Source: 2006 Amgen Annual Report)
  • Procrit/Eprex: $3.3 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/Johnson & Johnson)
  • Aredia (generic/Pamidronic acid): $21 million (Source: Healthcare Sales & Marketing Network/Barr Pharma)
  • Epirubicin (generic): $68 million (Source: Healthcare Sales & Marketing Network/Teva)
  • Faslodex (Fulvestrant): $250 million  (Source: 2008 AstraZeneca Annual Report)
  • Lupron, Eligard (Leuprolide): $1.8 billion (Source: Mongabay.com/Abbott)
  • Gemzar (Gemcitabine): $1.3 billion (2005 – Source: Eli Lilly press release)
  • Neulasta (Pegfilgrastim): $3 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/Amgen)
  • Neupogen (Filgrastim): $300 million (Source: AccessMyLibrary.com)
  • Docetaxel (Taxotere): $2 billion (Source: MedicalNewsToday.com/Sanofi-Aventis)
  • Vinorelbine (generic/Navelbine): $26 million (Source: EvalutatePharma.com)
  • Zoladex (Goserelin Acetate): $1.1 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/AstraZeneca)
  • Zometa, Zomera, Aclasta and Reclast (Zoledronate): $1.2 billion (Source: EvalutatePharma.com/Novartis)

Mammography Equipment: $610 million (US only). Source: Global Industry Analysts, Inc.
Price range: $58,000-$76,000 each. Doesn’t include CT’s, ultrasounds, new digital breast imaging equipment, or mobile devices.

Breast Implants (not just breast cancer):

  • Allergan: $310 million (source: 2008 Annual Report)
  • Mentor Corporation (Johnson & Johnson): $328.4 million (source: Bloomberg)

Miscellaneous:

  • Breast Cancer Postage Stamps: $34.5 million (since 1998)

Why Breast Cancer?

breastfeedinglargeWhy make curing breast cancer a priority when only 1% of the cases affect men? Fair question.

Irony.

Cancer of the most beautiful and natural symbol of unconditional love, the source of mother’s milk, is caused by the chemical pollution man dumped on mother earth during the last century. That’s right, man. With hubris and ignorance, driven unabashed by greed toward  innovation without regard for risk, we poisoned our wives, our children and ourselves.

The last century’s men also invented industrial poisons that have, and continue to contribute to, many other deadly cancers. I could pause now and list how the innovation also led to improvement to lives, but that is well known. I could pause now and list the toxic chemicals or cite the proof – document links follow for you to come to your own conclusions.

These self-inflected toxins are still in the water we drink, the foods we eat and the air we breathe. For the generations alive right now, it is too late to simply remove them. Just as it is too late to reverse the effects of damage to our ozone that causes skin cancer. While we owe it to earth’s future to stop and begin to undo the damage we caused, the only way to save ourselves is to find the cures.

Let me say that again, the ONLY way we can save ourselves is to find the cures.

Much good work is being done. Governments around the planet fund most of the research – by a huge margin. But, as you might suspect, most of the research funding decisions by government involves politics. In what district is the research facility? Which pharmaceutical company will profit from the research, and how much did they contribute to my campaign? Will the findings be bad for business? Does the university have a proven (code for conservative that follow private patents) approach? Did we fund it last year and did I get any grief?

This is where organizations such as Susan G. Komen Foundation come in. Funded only by contributions and non-pharma sponsors, they have invested more than a billion dollars in research and training researchers since 1982. Their decisions, under the direction of Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr Eric Winer and a Scientific Advisory Board, to fund research is non-political. While they support many established programs of research, they also look, and often fund, emerging research that has promise outside the mainstream. This includes smaller research programs that don’t have the political clout to gain favor in Washington. Programs that innovate in ways that don’t always involve patents lasting long enough for Wall Street.

It may well be that these boutique programs find the magic to un-do what we’ve done to ourselves. Programs that allow some of our most brilliant researchers to follow paths that may lead to the cure instead of giving in to the financial realities of entrenched research paths. Programs that sustain paths of research that would be otherwise abandoned. Programs that don’t just sustain lives, but cure cancer (there will be a story in a few days about those who profit by sustaining lives, but for marketing reasons don’t want a cure).

This is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. For those of you reading the Dew who may wonder why we care, this is why: I want my wife to live, my daughter cured and I don’t want my granddaughters poisoned. Irony. Hard to appreciate, but real. Volunteer. Donate. Care. Support. Get involved. But don’t just stand there complacent. You’ve been poisoned already.

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