Here’s the debate: “They’re never going to cure diabetes, because there’s too much money in it.”
Diabetes is big business, and as the drugs and medical devices have become more sophisticated and expensive each year – and as more people are diagnosed each day – diabetes itself becomes an even bigger business. In the United States, about $200 billion a year is spent in direct costs for diabetes, including hospital and emergency care.
Hence the conclusion: In the view of frustrated patients, family members, and loved ones, there’s just too much money to be made in this disease for a cure to ever be found. Powerful corporate interests will see to that. Even worse: Conspiracy theorists believe that the companies that profit from diabetes are actively thwarting a cure. Or as one person told me, “Eli Lilly has the cure in its vault, but it won’t let it out.”
On one side of the debate, James S. Hirsch, author of Cheating Destiny: Living with Diabetes, America’s Biggest Epidemic (see link below to purchase book), discussed the myth that the diabetes industry does NOT want a cure on diaTribe.org, 31 May 2017. It’s a very interesting read. His takeaway:
Here’s the truth about type 1 diabetes. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly destroys a body’s insulin-producing beta cells. A cure, at minimum, requires “re-educating” or “re-wiring” that immune system – an inscrutable ocean of white blood cells – so it doesn’t turn its deadly fire on its own body. Even if that hurdle is cleared, the body would still have to restore or replenish the beta cells that have been destroyed. We don’t have a cure because the immune system is too powerful, too complex, too resistant to human intervention, for mere mortals to master.
That doesn’t mean we give up. The search continues and breakthroughs will occur. But until then, we should continue to support initiatives, therapies, and products – even those tainted by profit – that allow us to live better, healthier lives.
Hirsch cites writer Elisabeth Rosenthal who recently published “American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back” (see link below to purchase her book).
Her premise: Health care in America has been compromised by corporations that have their put their financial interests ahead of all else. Profits trump patients.
“If you’re a pharmaceutical company and you have a problem like diabetes,” Rosenthal said, “if I invented a pill tomorrow that would cure diabetes – that would kill a multi-billion- dollar business market. It’s far better to have treatments, sometimes really great treatments . . . [that] go on for life. That’s much better than something that will make the disease go away.”
She appeared to be saying that this multi-billion-dollar industry preferred treatments over cures to maintain the viability of the industry, and that the companies were aligned against “a pill . . . that would cure diabetes” because that pill would jeopardize their business.
In other words, they’re never going to cure diabetes, because there’s too much money in it.
Rosenthal offers a mini-profile of Denise Faustman, a controversial researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital who is trying to cure type 1. In 2001, Faustman reversed type 1 diabetes in mice by using an inexpensive vaccine, but when she sought funding for human trials, pharmaceutical companies rejected her request because, she said, the companies couldn’t make money from her proposed cure. Faustman also sought grants from the JDRF, which was founded with the specific mission to cure type 1 diabetes, but the JDRF has also repeatedly turned down her applications.
During the 2000s, the JDRF began “venture philanthropy” efforts, in which the nonprofit formed partnerships with companies to develop therapies designed to ease the burden of the disease. If successful, these investments could also generate revenue for the JDRF, which could then be used for additional ventures and partnerships. But according to Rosenthal, these investments betrayed the core mission. “Fund-raising, rather than curing disease,” she writes, “often seemed like the first metric of success.”
Read more: Author Advances Damaging Myth About Diabetes