Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Search of a Strategy for Cures

In the past 75 years we have cured 4 diseases. None of these medical breakthroughs were expensive to accomplish. Virtually all of them occurred in spite of intense peer criticism and all of them involved the innovative use of existing, not new science. Most importantly, they were accomplished by maverick scientists following their own creative insights.

1- Alexander Fleming cured infectious diseases with his accidental discovery that something in molds killed bacteria. It took 20 years for him to motivate his peers and the drug companies before we finally had penicillin.
2- Salk cured polio with a simple vaccine that utilized a very low-tech heat killed virus. It cost him virtually nothing to make this finding. The Institute that was built to honor him has spent Billions of dollars since and has not cured one disease in its 50 year existence.
3- Leprosy was cured by an Israeli physician that used thalidomide (the drug that was banned for birth defects) on a leprosy patient. It emptied the Leper colonies.
4- Two Australian physicians fought the scientific community to prove that Peptic Ulcers were caused by bacteria and that simple antibiotics could cure them. Ulcer surgery is now very rare.

Organized science has not had anywhere near this success in spite of trillions of dollars spent during the same time frame. We still treat cancer the same as we did 50 years ago with drugs that are as bad as the disease. Alzheimer's disease remains untreatable and heart disease is still the major killer. These three terminal diseases are winning.

What is this telling us? First and most obvious is that we are doing something very wrong. Science has become a bureaucracy that has managed to escape any accountability for what it produces. We worship new technology for its own sake and have put all of our "Faith" in the elite "Thought Leaders" when we should be focusing on innovation and accountability.

We do not need to totally remake how we deliver health care (Obamacare) but we need to establish a system to cure the three terminal diseases that are both killing and bankrupting us. The current one has failed and in fact does not exist. This will solve rather than prolong the healthcare crisis.

1 comment:

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