The Blame Game: Science & Big Pharma
A while back, I wrote about how it’s sometimes OK to blame our disease. I feel like the topic of blame comes up a lot when it comes to chronic illnesses. It seems only natural right? Our lives have been completely and unexpectedly altered. It seems natural to want to assign blame to someone or something for having this disease, I understand. While I mentioned before that it’s OK to occasionally blame the disease, there are many occasions where I think it’s important to not assign blame. While blame is often levied at numerous entities, today, for the sake of brevity, I want to focus on one area and hopefully tackle others another day. Today, I want to tackle the myth that science/"big pharma" aren’t doing their best to find a cure.
OK, before you yell and scream at me, yes, I understand there are predatory practices related to some pharmaceutical companies. I know that, at the end of the day, they are still a business beholden to shareholders to make money. However, the amount of hate and vitriol thrown at pharmaceutical companies is a bit over the top at times. They didn’t cause you to get this illness, they aren’t preventing you from being cured either. While it seems easy to say that there is “no money in a cure,” that’s just incorrect. You’d have to actually believe in a conspiracy of all of the pharmaceutical companies banding together and agreeing to not cure anything. That’s not the case because, as we’ve established, these companies are still out to make money and they are very much competing against one another.
The first company that comes up with a cure for MS or any other disease can patent that and make all of the profits for that disease. There are plenty of illnesses that need treatment and cures; it’s not as if curing one disease will mean there is no money. It will only make more money for one company. Not to mention, the notoriety of curing a disease would be a boon to business for anything else they want to sell. Also, while it doesn’t seem like it, there have been cures in our lifetime, and we have numerous vaccines that now prevent deadly illnesses. And please don’t forget that many people who work for these companies are directly affected by the diseases they work on.
Another aspect of this is that while pharmaceutical companies are working on treatments, an enormous amount of work with regard to diseases is done at academic institutions. Universities across the world have their own labs with scientists working on diseases. That’s actually where a bulk of the work happens. I even have first-hand experience with this, as my ex-wife is a microbiologist who worked in a lab on Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterial pathogen responsible for such things as pneumonia and meningitis. Before working on that, she studied cholera at another university. Many of these labs are funded by government grants, so if anyone is hampering finding a cure, it’s those in government seeking to cut science funding (which, sadly, is happening a lot these days.) Believe me, all of those independent scientists working in academic institutions really want to find a cure. The pride, prestige, and money for one of them discovering something that leads to a cure is enormous.
Don't fall for another business' propaganda
A lot of the hate for science and pharmaceutical companies is due to another booming business, the selling of “alternative” treatments. Remember, it’s “alternative” because it’s not accepted and proven by science. Alternative medicine is a massive industry that is very much part of the reason there is a scary, growing distrust of science and medicine. I’m sure many people will chime in and say this or that has cured me, and hey, I’m glad you feel good, but that doesn’t mean you’re cured. Feeling good doesn’t mean you are disease-free. MS patients, with their wildly unpredictable symptoms, can be an easy target too because severity is extremely varied from person to person. There are people that may only ever have one relapse or even have a relapse and not know it because it wasn’t so severe, so it’s easy to convince people that this or that “cured” them. Since these alternative treatments don’t utilize any actual science or testing, it’s very easy to trick people. This industry is quite lucrative, and they use a portion of that money to keep actual science down, because that’s how they make money.
The reality of all of this is that it’s really hard to cure a disease. When you look at a disease like Multiple Sclerosis, which they don’t even know the cause of the disease yet, which makes it very hard to cure. In the near 20 years I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve already witnessed numerous advances. We finally even have our first treatment for Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. That’s a pretty huge accomplishment, but we have it now. There’ve been many people who have had Progressive MS and dreamt of having a treatment, not even a cure, in their lifetime, and it’s here. Science, much of it not at a pharma company, is constantly working hard at a cure, but it’s not easy. As more and more science funding gets cut, it will become even harder. Even so, remember, there is still a lot of money in a cure, please don’t think there isn’t.
Doing our own research
I know this article is the equivalent of saying “roast me.” I also know that some people won’t even read it and will just pile on with negative comments without actually thinking about it. I don’t even know if my editors will even want to publish it. All of that is OK though, because it needed to be said and I had to use whatever tiny bit of influence I have to get it out there. I’ll sleep much better knowing that I wrote this. If you don’t believe anything I’ve said, that’s fine. We should never believe what one or two people say on the internet without actually doing the research on our own and that’s what I hope to encourage (just please remember that just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true).
MS has been with me my entire life
Please also know that I do not work for a pharmaceutical company; no one has enticed me to write this. This is based on my education and my experience after living a life with Multiple Sclerosis. My entire life has been touched by this disease, first with my grandfather when I was growing up and then myself. This disease has been with me, in some way, my entire life. It’s easy to blame someone or something for our disease, but the reality is, it’s no one’s fault, it just happens.
How many specialists did you see before finding "The One"?