The Business of Breast Cancer
March 1, 2013

The Business Of Breast Cancer

Earlier this week, the FDA approved a new treatment for breast cancer called Kadcyla. This sounds like a great thing, and maybe for some it is. I have a little bit different take on it.

I watched one of my grandmothers die from breast cancer. It is slow, and painful and undignified. Her breast cancer metastasized into lung cancer, which is even more painful and nasty to watch. She refused chemotherapy because she also suffered from macular degeneration, and (rather stupidly, I think) thought it was better to die than be blind.

Kadcyla is supposed to be a new miracle drug for people with a certain type of breast cancer, approximately 20 percent of the disease’s victims. But it doesn’t promise you a cure, it only promises you a little more time, three to six months.

It also comes with a hefty price tag, more than double the current treatment for this particular variety of breast cancer. Kadcyla is estimated to cost almost $10,000 dollars a month, with a full nine month course costing $94,000 dollars. The current treatment, Herceptin, brings in around $6 billion a year right now for pharma giant Roche. Kadcyla will at least double that.

I guess, watching my grandmother go through all that pain and suffering, I gained an appreciation for quality of life. Kadcyla might extend my life by three to six months, but what will those three to six months look like? Will that be an extra half a year of my daughter watching me waste away? Another three months of excruciating pain and loss of dignity as someone else has to feed me, clothe me and wipe my bottom?

And what am I doing to my family? Leaving them with an astronomically high medical bill, that’s what. And may I take a moment to quote Dr. Park from this week’s episode of Monday Mornings, “No honor, you! Shame!” These drugs are supposed to be healing people, they are supposed to help the suffering. $10,000 a month is adding to someone’s suffering. That kind of price tag makes sure that either you will go broke trying to buy those few extra months, or only the very rich victims of breast cancer will survive.

So my choice, should I have to make it, is going to be similar to my grandmother’s. If I have to decide between $10,000 dollars a month to extend my suffering, or quality of life in my last days, I am going to choose quality of life. I have a much better use for that money than lining the pockets of an already multi-billion-dollar industry. I have a bucket list of places to see, and things to do that seem much more important than supporting the business of breast cancer.

Image Credit: AXL / Shutterstock

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