Medicine, Money, and Mortality Rates

1

There’s an epidemic of irrational fear and hatred in America today in regards to modern medicine. The ideology is that “Big Pharma” is doing everything it can to keep us sick so they make a larger profit. There’s talk about some big conspiracy between “Big Pharma” and government to perpetuate illness so they can make more money off of the poor, unfortunate citizens.

We hear this often as a justification for turning to “supplements, complimentary, and alternative medicine,” or, as Mark Crislip puts it, SCAMS. This same ideology often fuels the anti-vaccination movement as well, because they are under the impression that vaccines are a massive, money making scheme.

Now, this isn’t to say that the pharmaceutical industry isn’t driven by money. Of course is, like every other industry. The thing is, so is the alternative medicine industry, and they aren’t helping you in the slightest.

Let’s look at the numbers and see for ourselves.

2

Follow The Money

The global pharmaceutical market is a roughly $300 billion per year industry. It’s anticipated to grow to $400 billion per year within 3 years.

The current development from the US pharmaceutical industry has over 5,000 new medicines and 3,400 new compounds currently being studied, more than any other region around the world.

It employs 810,000 people directly, and support 3.4 million jobs in the US alone.

In total revenue for all products, not just drugs, in 2013, the top 50 pharmaceutical companies reported $792 billion gross.

The alternative medicine industry is a $34 billion industry, with an expectation to reach $115 billion by 2015.

Only about one third of alternative medicine treatments being marketed have been tested.

The average profit margin for pharmaceutical companies is 16.4 percent.

There’s very little made public on the profit margins of SCAMS, however, consider that they don’t need to pay for testing, trials, or any of the safety protocols that medical companies do. The profit margin for TrueHope, a company maketing an alternative treatment for schizophrenia gives us a great idea of what that looks like, showing a profit margin of around 95%.

OK, so let’s look at vaccines in particular. The top 50 pharmaceutical companies bring in $791 billion per year (more than a trillion dollars for the industry). Of that, they can expect a net profit of $2.5 billion from vaccines. That’s a drop in the bucket.

Let’s compare with the cost of not having the vaccine. Before it was developed, we were looking at around 147,000 cases of pertussis per year. Let’s break down the costs of that.

8000 of those resulted in death. With the average funeral cost of $8,000, the total expense of those 8000 deaths would be around $64 million in that year.

Now, without death, the average cost per case for treatment would be around $6,000. That would equate to around $882 million dollars in treatments.

That would mean that a single vaccine, of the 14 or so standard childhood vaccines, if not provided, would equate to around $946 million dollars spent to the medical industry. That’s 37% of what the companies make from vaccines.

Spread that as an average across the 14 illness being vaccinated for, and you’d have a total of $13.2 billion in revenue for treatment of illnesses. That would be the medical industry is losing out on $10.7 billion in revenue thanks to vaccines.

3

A Bit About Death

People talk often about deaths attributed to medicines and hospital errors, and that they are a good reason why people should use alternative treatments.

Now, errors happen. It’s not a good thing, and it’s something that the industry is always working hard to prevent, but in the end, they do happen.

The deaths range from 210,000 – 440,000 patients each year.

That sounds like a lot, I know.

Consider, though the deaths prevented thanks to modern medicine and vaccines.

Measles used to kill 150,000 people very year.

Pertussis killed 8000 per year in the US alone.

There used to be countless things that could kill you that no longer do, in general, and we have modern medicine to thank.

For most of human history, the life expectancy was about 35 years of age. As late as 1900, it was 48 years of age. Today, it averages 77.7 years of age, much of which is due to advances in health and medicine.

4

The Corporate Trail

OK, let’s add to this a bit.

A large portion (70% or so) of the alternative medicine industry is owned by the major pharmaceutical industry anyway.

“Responsible companies put in very strict” manufacturing practices voluntarily, before the FDA acted, said NBTY’s president, Harvey Kamil. His company makes 50 billion capsules and tablets a year, plus extracts, aromatherapies and nutrition bars. It sells mostly to mass-market retailers who want to see certifications and “seals of approval” by the Natural Products Association and other such groups that set quality-control standards, he said.

The big exception, of course, is GNC, who reported $2.63 billion in revenue by themselves, making them “Big Pharma” themselves.

5

In closing, there are a couple important truths to understand here.

Yes, the pharmaceutical is a large, money making industry.

The alternative medicine industry is also a large, money making industry, with a far higher profit margin, and the majority of their treatments have no studies to show safety or efficacy.

Yes, people die from medical malpractice and mistakes, and this is something that needs to be improved upon greatly.

Countless more would die without modern medicine and vaccines.

How many of you would be expected to already have died before the invention of modern medical practices?

Another thing to keep in mind is that the people who work for and run these companies are all human beings. They have friends, families, spouses, children, all of whom they’d like to see live a long and healthy life.

These aren’t monsters who don’t care about the value of human life. These are employees and doctors who are in the business of saving it.

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References

“2014 Market Research Report on Homeopathic & Alternative Medicine Practitioners Industry.” 2014 Homeopathic & Alternative Medicine Practitioners Industry Statistics Market Research Report. Web. 21 June 2014.

Allen, ProPublica Marshall. “How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals?” NPR. NPR, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 June 2014.

“Alternative Medicine.” – RationalWiki. Web. 21 June 2014.

“Alternative Medicine Industry Market Research & Statistics.” Alternative Medicine Industry Market Research & Statistics. Web. 19 June 2014.

“Big Pharma Supports the Antivaccine Movement–the Real Conspiracy.” Skeptical Raptor’s Blog. Web. 21 June 2014.

“Complementary and Natural Treatments – Schizophrenia.com.” Complementary and Natural Treatments – Schizophrenia.com. Web. 21 June 2014.

“GNC Reports 8.2 Increase in Revenue for 2013.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 June 2014.

Helmuth, Laura. “You Used to Get One Life. Now You Get Two. #NotDeadYet.” Slate Magazine. Web. 21 June 2014.

Mahar, Maggie. “Who Is Making the Biggest Profits From U.S. Healthcare? You Might Be Surprised . . .” Health Beat by Maggie Mahar. Web. 20 June 2014.

“Many Vitamins, Supplements Made by Big Pharmaceutical Companies.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 10 June 2009. Web. 21 June 2014.

Nuwer, Rachel. “Alternative Medicine Is a $34 Billion Industry, But Only One-Third of the Treatments Have Been Tested.” Smithsonian. 8 June 2013. Web. 21 June 2014.

“Pharmaceutical Industry.” WHO. Web. 21 June 2014.

“SelectUSA.” The Pharmaceutical and Biotech Industries in the United States. Web. 18 June 2014.

“Top 50 Big Top Pharmaceutical Companies Deals | Current Partnering.” Top 50 Big Top Pharmaceutical Companies Deals | Current Partnering. Web. 21 June 2014.

Tuteur, Amy, MD. “Comment Navigation.” Longing for a past That Never Existed « Science-Based Medicine. 18 Feb. 2010. Web. 18 June 2014.

“Vaccines.” Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Vaccine and Immunization Information. Web. 21 June 2014.

 

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Bioethics and Ethical Philosophy student at Cleveland State University, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes. He writes about science, technology, politics, human rights, feminism, religion, and any other topic that catches his eye.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

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Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Bioethics and Ethical Philosophy student at Cleveland State University, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes. He writes about science, technology, politics, human rights, feminism, religion, and any other topic that catches his eye.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Fasting, Cancer, and Sensationalism

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A couple days ago, The Telegraph posted a story.

Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds

They make some pretty sensational claims in this article that go far beyond the data of the study that they forgot to cite.

“Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable”.”

“Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.”

“The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.”

The study they’re referring to, which, again, they never bothered to cite, is here.

Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression

And the case series report is here.

Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: A case series report

They appear to be quoting one of the scientists on the study by the name of Valter D. Longo. He appears to be fairly well respected, however, he also shows up more often than anyone should like in the “natural” community websites, being cited for various diet and nutrition claims. Now, whether that stems from him or from the sensationalism that comes from those “journalists,” I don’t know. He does, however, appear far too often to promote various alternative medical claims.

That said, let’s look at the study itself. The article really pushes the idea of this “breakthrough” that even treats the elderly and cancer patients! Wow. It must have been SOME study.

Nope. Not so much.

The study included 10 people. They had a median age of 61, ranging from 44-78 years of age. They were all receiving chemotherapy. There was no control.

If anything, this is a hugely preliminary study. There is no good way to account for noise.  Even then, the “even in the elderly” quote from the article, mentioned as an aside, and the chemotherapy patients, also as aside, as if the data points to ANY other person in any other situation is demonstrably false. This is the poorest kind of science reporting possible.

Now, let’s consider the findings. What if they do a larger, placebo controlled study, and find that the results show that it DOES help with immune function post chemotherapy? That would be fantastic, however, it should still be taken tentatively. Asking chemotherapy patients, who are already struggling for nutrition and energy, to fast for 2-5 days, is potentially dangerous. Even if we find the effect to be actually present, it would be far better to then work to replicate the effect with drugs, as opposed to fasting.

So, is it possible? Sure. Is it a miracle discovery? Not even close. It’s more of a “Let’s turn them off, then turn them back on again, and see if that works” type of idea.

Not matter how you look at it, though, whether the scientists are right, or the critics are right, I think we can all agree that The Telegraph is just…wrong.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Vaccines and the Herd Immunity

vaccine-bottle-syringe

I heard someone recently say that many parents don’t vaccinate their children, and those children are just fine. In the US today, that’s likely true. Herd immunity is the effect on the population when a large portion of the people are vaccinated. It means that there aren’t enough people to spread the disease. This is what protects those who can’t be vaccinated due to age or medical reasons, and now it’s protecting those who choose not to vaccinate.

The problem is that the herd immunity requires a large portion of the population to be vaccinated. As more people choose not to vaccinate, the herd immunity erodes and we see outbreaks of pertussis and measles, like we’ve seen lately. So, as the herd immunity erodes due to the erroneous ideology that vaccines are somehow harmful or someone’s “mommy instinct” knows better than decades of research, tens of thousands of studies, and the living proof of nearly eradicated diseases due to vaccines, and more people choose not to vaccinate, then more people will get sick, and more children will die.

Yes, children are dying, and the rates of those children dying will continue to increase as this anti-science movement takes our civilization further back towards the dark ages due to ignorant ideologies.

How long until we see polio again?

The majority of people who choose not to vaccinate do so out of ignorance. They don’t have the intent to misinform, though they do share their ignorance with others, as if it is knowledge. They’re misinformed by pseudoscientific parenting sites and people like Dr. Oz and Joseph Mercola and Jenny McCarthy. Those are the people who are to blame. Those are the people who should, without a doubt, be charged, at the very least, with thousands of counts of attempted murder. Those are the people who are responsible for so much pain, suffering, and death due to their quest to make money off of the ignorance others.

This is one of the few topics where I refuse to pull punches. I refuse to be nice about it. I refuse to stay silent while children die. I challenge every other rational person to do the same.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

5 Internet Argumentation Tips!

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 Image from xkcd

Debating topics on the internet is vastly different than doing so in person. It can, however, be a valuable tool for sharing knowledge and influencing minds, but it needs to be done correctly. Here are a few tips to help you make the most impact.

TONE

Tone is difficult in text. People are incredibly good at reading tone in someone else’s words dependent upon how they, themselves feel. The best is to ignore tone altogether. Don’t try to read the tone of what someone else writes. Just stick with the content of their words.

Always strive to keep your own words, and the tone you type them in, calm and even. Stay away from loaded language that can imply anything other than an even tone.

BUZZWORDS

Buzzwords are the bread and butter of the internet. They’re used to draw out emotional responses, often in otherwise rational people. Don’t use them. If you’re talking about GMOs, stay away from “shill” or “sheeple” or even “chemicals.” If you’re talking about religion, stay away from the common insults. Buzzwords are a terrible plague on our society right now. When your interlocutor uses them, dismiss them. They can only take away from the content of the discussion.

EVIDENCE

Understand the burden of proof, and when it lies on you, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, back up your claims with good evidence from reliable sources. Try not to use blogs as a scientific resource, unless they include a good set of reliable references (even if they’re entirely correct). Blogs are useful in political or social commentary that doesn’t rely as much on studies or physical evidence, but on opinion and analysis. Steer clear of YouTube.

When the burden of proof lies on your interlocutor, make sure they know it. Don’t start debunking their assertions until they provide evidence. Then, dismantle whatever evidence is unreliable or discuss any evidence that may be valid.

ASSERTIONS

If your interlocutor refuses to provide evidence, and only fires off more assertions, then the conversation is over. Don’t be upset about it or storm out with a “rage quit.” Just realize that they are so terribly uninformed that their worldview revolves around sound bytes, and not data. If you make an assertion, ANY assertion, be prepared to support it. Always.

HERD MENTALITY

This is very important. When you’re speaking on the internet, other people can usually see the conversation. They may be a point where you become outnumbered. This can go one of two ways. Either the conversation can continue to be a rational discourse, just with more people, or….it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you often see your opponents start to play off each other and cheer each other on. When this happens, the conversation is over. No amount of evidence, logic, or rational discourse will change the mind of someone who has cheerleaders.

Now, there are times where those same people will reflect later and have learned something, but in the moment, it’s no longer worth pursuing.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

The Decline of Evidence

bloodlab

There was a time, not too far in American history, that people understood the concept of evidence. Now, they may not have really grasped the scientific principles of evidence, but they got the concept. If they made a claim about science, and someone asked them to prove it, they’d point to X scientist or X scientific study they read about. What they didn’t say, typically, is “prove me wrong.”

Whenever someone makes an assertion, followed by a request to prove them wrong, the conversation is a non-starter. It’s nonsense. When you make a positive claim, such as “this is or is not true about the world,” then the onus is on you to prove your assertion. You hold the burden of proof. No one is under any obligation to believe you until you do so, nor do they need to prove you wrong. You’ve provided nothing to disprove.

Evidence, when it comes to a scientific claim, typically refers to a well formed,  peer reviewed study. At the very least, the assertion should be based on sound scientific principles that are known to be true, and it should be a falsifiable claim. There must be a solid way to test it. If your claim isn’t able to be tested and attempted to falsify, then you’ve said nothing of value scientifically.

Unfortunately, today, the concept of evidence has been skewed in the public view. The most commonly cited items as evidence in the public are YouTube videos and blog posts. These are not evidence. These wouldn’t even be accepted on a college freshman English paper as citations. If you’re making claims based on them, or worse, you’ve developed a worldview based on them, then you are devoid of intellectual honesty and any credibility whatsoever.

There’s also this strange perception of the peer review as “corporate science.” People often claim that all professional scientific literature is bought and paid for, biased, as if it’s some kind of conspiracy to keep “real” science (the YouTube version?) suppressed.

Let’s unpack this a bit. What would it take for such a conspiracy to exist? First, it would require millions upon millions of scientists to be in on it. That alone would be unwieldy, impossible given….humans. It would also require all universities and professors to be in on it. All regulatory agencies, medical establishments, and governments would also need to be working together. Do you see how crazy this gets?

Let’s look at some realities of how the scientific process works. There’s a specific reason that science, as a method of knowing, is seen to be self correcting. When someone puts forth a paper, it gets peer reviewed. Once it passes that process, which is often not easy, it gets published. This isn’t the endgame. This is the beginning. At this point, scientists from all over the world get to try and prove the results of that paper wrong. Doing so is one of the best ways to gain recognition as a scientist. This is especially true of a scientist can prove something well accepted to be wrong.

So, even if you provide a study as evidence of a claim, one solitary study doesn’t do it. That’s not how it works. Anything that can really be asserted in science with any certainty will have a large body of studies behind it. It will have been tried to be proven wrong many times without success.

We see this problem so often today as anti-vaxxers pull out the Wakefield study and anti-GMOers pull out the Seralini study. Not only are these singular studies, they’ve been discredited and retracted due to serious bias, dishonest practices, and poor methodology. That’s how science works.

So, when someone tries to first off a YouTube video, blog post, or a single poor study  as their primary source of evidence, you may need to explain how evidence works in science. They’re obviously doing it wrong.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Mark Crislip, As Always, Takes The Words Right Out of My Mouth

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The most recent episode of Mark Crislip’s Quackcast can be found here http://edgydoc.com/references/ Episode 136, at the bottom, Motivations, or you can download it on iTunes.

Mark describes the podcast as

A podcast review of Quacks, Frauds and Charlatans. Oops. Thats not right.   That should be Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine i.e. SCAM.

Now, this episode is perfect. As someone to regularly writes about and debates SCAMs, I get asked all the time why I can’t just let people believe what they want. Why am I so mad?

Mark really puts it well in this episode, so give it a listen.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.