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Herceptin House of Mirrors

Friday, September 22, 2006 | Read Comments

Herceptin House of Mirrors

There's a lot of hype about Herceptin these days. Without any sense of genuine skepticism, many doctors and non-profit cancer organizations (which take money from drug companies, by the way) are touting Herceptin as a "miracle cure" for breast cancer. Patient advocacy groups, spurred on by the cancer non-profits that are really just front groups for Big Pharma, are demanding their governments pay for Herceptin for all breast cancer patients, and some doctors are even touting the drug as prevention for breast cancer -- meaning they think that women who don't even have cancer should be taking it!

All of this ignores the simple fact that the drug is practically worthless. In one study, it only prevented recurring breast cancer in 0.6 women out of one hundred. You read that right: Less than one in a hundred women received any sort of benefit from it. But who said drug marketing was ever about honest science anyway? It's about hyping up the miniscule benefits, glossing over side effects and parading around as if the drug is God's gift to mankind.

It's all great theater, but bad medicine. In this cartoon, I'm attempting to capture the circus atmosphere surrounding Herceptin by presenting a "House of Mirrors" where all things are distorted. One mirror that makes things look larger is for showing drug benefits, another mirror that makes things look smaller is for showing drug side effects, the drug marketing mirror is trying to attract as much attention as possible, and the scientific skepticism mirror is out of order. That combination of mirrors seems to accurately describe the circus atmosphere surrounding Herceptin today.

Genentech, of course, is the pharmaceutical company hawking the stuff.

What goes unsaid in all this is that simple things like vitamin D show vastly stronger anti-cancer effects than Herceptin. Vitamin D supplementation (or simple sunlight on the skin) slashes recurring breast cancer rates by around 50 percent. And it's free if you get it from sunlight, because your skin generates it in response to ultraviolet light exposure. Of course, that's why you'll never see it marketed or written up in the press. Nobody makes any money from medicine that's free. So they have to hype up the drugs that are patented, no matter how lousy their performance or safety.

Almost everything you read about cancer in the mainstream media is pure nonsense. It's all driven by drug companies looking to boost profits by convincing people to take drugs or submit to cancer procedures that are far more likely to harm them than help them. No wonder Western medicine is such a failure. America continues to have the highest cancer rates in the world.

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