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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Are the drug companies hiding a cure?   (June 6, 2007)

A while back, I received the following e-mail:

I was looking at different websites trying to find information on cures for Type 1 diabetes. Being a diabetic for 28 out of my 30 years of existance I'm often hopeful for news reports that come out stating that "break throughs" in diabetic care/cures were made. Yet when we hear these reports we often never hear about it again.

My question is this: Do the drug companies view diabetes as an endless "cash cow"? Are "they" working on a cure? With test strips costing $100 dollars a box and some insulins (Lantus for example) going for $80 a bottle I'm truly beginning to wonder. People complain about high gas prices, these people have NO IDEA what over paying is!!!

In your opinion do you believe there is a cure and the drug companies have made sure they don't come out?

My parents were told back in 1978 when I was diagnosed that a cure was 5 or at the very most 10 years away... well, I'm still waiting.

Thanks for your input!

I replied:

You seem quite convinced that the pharmaceutical industry has ulterior motives, and I doubt that I can dissuade you.

However, the problem is not the pharmaceutical companies but the big Not-for-Profits which have methodically misled the public with their pitches for money based on the logic that the cure is five years away.

Yes, the pharmaceutical companies indeed make a profit from saving peoples' lives but read Dr. Michael Bliss's book "The Discovery of Insulin" (reviewed by David Mendosa) about how people with diabetes died before insulin was discovered. And all the improvements in insulins (such as Lantus) have made it realistically possible for people with diabetes to have normal HbA1c levels -- something that was unheard of when the test first became available about 1980. And any time you criticize the cost of strips, try to remember what it was like to play with your urine, and make it turn pretty colors (see the photos of the Clinitest tablets at Once upon a time).

But the pharmaceutical and meter companies are not hiding a cure. I've worked for various companies for 8 years, and I never, never, never heard anyone in any company ever claim to have a cure for diabetes. Indeed, I've watched companies spend millions of dollars trying to find ways to prevent diabetes.

Finally, in my opinion, there will never be a "cure" for diabetes. Maybe we'll someday find ways to prevent the disorders we call diabetes, but fixing type 1 diabetes will be dependent on fixing the underlying autoimmune problems, and fixing type 2 diabetes will depend on changing people's lifestyles -- we gotta get away from unneeded snacks and video games and into exercise.

Stop and think it over -- would you ever want to go back to no insulins, urine testing, and early death? If not, why begrudge the money that it takes to bring these and many more innovations to the market?

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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