Change is the cornerstone of the medical field. Every year reveals new methodologies and redefined techniques, with progress winding its way through every specialty. Physicians must constantly adapt to advancements.
One core principle, however, is immune to time – the Hippocratic Oath. Few texts prove as enduring as this ethical code, which stands as a universal guide for healthcare professionals. Its central message (as shared by the Encyclopedia Britannica) remains just as crucial today as it was when it was first inscribed in circa-400 B.C.:
I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.
This is the foundation of modern medicine – and yet the quest for well-being has recently shifted into a quest for profits, especially within the field of cancer treatments.
Cancer isn’t merely a disease. It’s also an industry, defined by an endless search for profits. That search has recently proven fruitful, with the BBC reporting drastic in-the-black postings for the healthcare sector. In 2013 alone, pharmaceutical companies averaged a staggering 19% margin rate. Compare this to their nearest competitors:
Only finance can keep pace with the medical field – and even it can’t deliver the same individual results, with GlobalData noting substantial earnings from the top companies:
The treatment of cancer generates massive end-of-year results for pharmaceutical companies – and physicians.
According to a study by Macmillan, there are approximately 2.5 million individuals living with cancer in the United Kingdom:
The Institute reports that these numbers have grown considerably within the last five years, with almost 1,000 individuals diagnosed with cancer every day. These individuals seek treatment – but may sometimes be led astray.
According to a report by Joseph Engelberg (Professor of Finance, Rady School of Management), Christopher A. Parsons (Professor of Finance, Rady School of Management), and Nathan Tefft (Professor of Economics, Bates College), the medical industry has experienced a rise in profiteering. Pharmaceutical companies – in order to push their most viable drugs to the forefront of patient care – offer physicians incentives. These incentives lead to increased prescriptions. The study found:
Sample Size: 334,086 Physicians
Those Receiving Incentives from Pharmaceutical Companies: 179,432
Those Not Receiving Incentives from Pharmaceutical Companies: 154,654
Top Brand Prescription Rates from Those Receiving Incentives: 1.20 per patient.
Top Brand Prescription Rates from Those not Receiving Incentives: 0.48 per patient
Average Prescription Rates: Doctors in the top 20% payment distribution prescribed approximately twice the rates of doctors in the bottom 20% payment distribution.
The difference proves shocking, and also highlights a pressing concern within the cancer industry: are physicians letting their financial goals compromise their patients’ care? Are certain treatments heavily promoted, while others are ignored? Is there a conflict of interest?
The answer to all of these questions is the same: yes.
The BBC reports that UK company GlaxoSmithKline is under investigation for bribing physicians to promote specific drugs while the American Society of Clinical Oncology recently highlighted the income increases achieved by doctors who prescribed unnecessary chemotherapy. This is a worldwide issue – and one that demands a resolution. A greater understanding of complementary and alternative therapies is now required.
According to Cancer Research, there are more than 200 available treatments in the UK. Of these, however, patients may only be aware of a few – with physicians more likely to prescribe profitable medications. The value of complementary and alternative therapies isn’t always made clear.
These therapies – which may include medication or lifestyle changes – are used in tandem with conventional medicine. They’re meant to bolster a patient’s general well-being.
These are practises or products that don’t adhere to the treatment approaches of conventional medicine. They emphasise biological-based therapies.
Too often are complementary and alternative therapies dismissed, providing no tangible profits for physicians or pharmaceutical companies. Their importance, however, can’t be denied – and may provide cancer patients with the results they need.
There are many complementary and alternative therapies. Among the most effective, however, are Cannabidiol treatments, Tetrahydrocannabinol treatments, the Ketosis Diet, and Juice Fasting. Let’s examine them.
Cannabidiol – more commonly called CBD – is a concentrated cannabis compound (typically administered in intravenous form). It contains up to 40% of the total cannabis extract, making it a powerful substance. Due to its unique formula, which contains neuromodulatory lipids, it penetrates both the central and peripheral nervous systems. This, as the British Pharmacological Society discovered, allows it to counter many health concerns, including:
It also serves a treatment for cancer. According to a study conducted by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, CBD delivers potent results in the fight against tumour cells (particularly those found in the breasts). It serves as an antineoplastic agent, increasing the reactive oxygen levels and limiting apoptosis. This targets, reduces, and even inhibits cancerous cells. It also encourages autophagy, which improves the deconstruction process – allowing membranes to disintegrate safely rather than developing infections.
Despite this, however, CBD remains an uncommon treatment. Highly diluted oil extracts, the Metro reports, only became available in July 2015, and just one intact strand (Sativex) is legally sanctioned. This is an option that’s too often denied.
Tetrahydrocannabinol – typically referred to as THC – is a psychoactive isomer, derived from cannabis. Delivered most often through vapour form, this extract directly impacts the body’s neurological and physical functions. While high concentrations may prove toxic, a controlled introduction instead yields many healthcare rewards. A report from the American Academy of Neurology noted that this by-product is particularly effective in treating:
It also offers cancer relief. THC serves as a natural autophagy-inducer. According to a study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Investigation, it helps to stabilise membrane degeneration. Cancer is formed by the presence of impaired cells, with improper structural breakdowns causing infections within the body. THC counters those infections.
The study reports that this substance activates natural endocannabinoid processes (which affect the entire central nervous system), helping to secure cell structures and actively reduce the presence of tumours. It inhibits the formation of pro-apoptotic growths and induces both TRB3 and p8 regulations.
This treatment isn’t made readily available to the UK, however, due to its Schedule 1 classification (which, under the law, severely limits its usage). The only option to consider is the aforementioned Sativex. The Independent Business Times reports that this drug demands only £7,500 per person per year – which is considerably less than the £30,000 per person per year required by most prescribed treatments, as estimated by the National Health Service. Fewer recommendations are given.
Ketosis is not a drug. It is instead a lifestyle change, with individuals redefining their eating habits. According to News Medical, it was first introduced in 1911, with French scientists seeking anticonvulsant therapies for epilepsy patients. They theorised that a regimen of low-calorie vegetarian foods could lessen the body’s spasticity, providing the benefits of potassium bromide (a popular treatment at the time) without the debilitating mental effects:
The ketogenic diet was then formed, stressing the necessity of organic foods (such as beef tallow, avocado, fish, veal, and celery) and high levels of hydration. It helped to regulate the body’s blood sugar and triglycerides, as well as promote healthy cholesterol.
It now has a direct impact on cancer. According to a study commissioned by Redox Biology, ketosis lowers the overall amount of mitochondrial oxidatives in the blood (these glucose-based substances accelerate cancerous growths, increasing metabolisation rates and weakening cellular structures). This both slows and inhibits the formation of tumours.
Despite this, however, the ketogenic diet is not a commonly recommended option. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, it suffers from both a lack of referrals and a lack of funding – with physicians investing their time (and their prescriptions) in other methods.
Juice fasting – also known as juice detoxing and juice cleansing – is a dietary change. During extended periods (up to two weeks), individuals consume no or extremely limited solid foods. Instead, they receive their daily nutrition from liquid sources such as freshly squeezed fruits, freshly squeezed vegetables, and water. The purpose of this is to flush toxins from the body, decreasing caloric intake and increasing mineral absorption.
Fasting is a plant-based diet. Because of this, it delivers key health benefits, with a study by the Karger Institute showcasing the immediate effects of a one-week cleanse:
This method also proves viable as a complementary cancer treatment. According to a Stem Cell study, fasting protects against homeostasis. By eliminating toxic ingredients – such as sugars, fats, and carbohydrates – it allows the body to enter a state of constant renewal, using plant fusions to increase overall immune responses, improve marrow production, and stabilise HSC renewal processes. This reduces the chance of developing cancerous cells.
Fasting, despite its dietary and cellular values, isn’t a recognised form of treatment for cancer. It’s instead deemed a CAM (Complementary or Alternative Medicine) option and is, therefore, neither regulated nor advocated by the National Health Service. This significantly reduces its chances of being recommended by physicians.
These – along with other alternative options – are often overlooked by doctors, offering none of the profits of their traditional counterparts.
In February 2015, The Express released a shocking report about incentivisation within the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) organisation. It noted recent updates made to the Quality of Frameworks, with the institute actively promoting the use of controversial statin drugs – urging physicians to prescribe these drugs in greater amounts, with four out of ten adults suddenly eligible for them.
Despite concerns from the medical community, NICE maintained these Framework changes… and offered cash incentives to doctors willing to follow them. This created an immediate conflict of interest.
It also highlighted the dangers of incentivisation within the medical community. By condoning – and sanctioning – this process, NICE sent a clear message: focus on prescriptions, not patients. The statin drugs were highly concentrated, with each dose increasing the risk of diabetes, muscle pain, cataracts, and even memory loss. Could physicians stress the dangers of these potential side-effects, however, when faced with cash rewards?
Many critics didn’t believe so. In the same Express article, Oxford Professor Kim McPherson said: “This is shocking. Incentivising doctors to dish out drugs to patients who may not benefit and, more importantly, may suffer side effects is wrong and unethical.” The line between medicine and finance begins to blur.
Within the world of cancer treatment, that line proves even more distorted – with pharmaceutical companies influencing both physicians and the National Health Service. The Telegraph recently conducted an undercover investigation, highlighting the ease of gaining NHS acceptance of certain drugs (it took only a stay in a five-star Baden-Baden hotel to sway the representatives).
This must change!
The medical community can no longer maintain its incentive-based platform. All treatments – including CBD, THC, Ketosis, and Juice Fasting – should instead be presented to patients, offering them full access to potentially life-changing information. Profits shouldn’t dominate prescriptions.
Cancer is a pandemic. By emphasising information about all available treatments, however, it’s also a preventable one. Those seeking care must be able to trust both their physicians and national services. Eliminate incentives, increase awareness, and push forward with alternative research.
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