That’s my takeaway from this comment by Marijn Dekkers, “outspoken” head of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, in which he not only disses patients but claims to have cured cancer!

“If you have cancer, you get a pharmaceutical product, and your cancer goes away. You’re quick to call the doctor and [say] the staff at the hospital was great. But the pill that did it gets forgotten. We struggle with getting society to put value on what we do, and it becomes particularly important as we get under more pressure to develop the next pill” (read the WSJ article here).

This guy must be living on another planet. That planet, of course, is Planet Pharma where the drug industry rules, all cancer has been cured by the industry and where patients bow when they see a pharma CEO ride by in his open-air limo!

I’ve brought up the subject of pharma taking most of the credit for improving cancer survival rates when in fact most of the credit in those gross numbers is due to the fact that many people have simply quit smoking. Dekkers’ remark, however, is the first time I’ve seen the drug industry take credit for curing cancers. Perhaps he was making unsubstantiated claims about regorafenib, a colon cancer drug Bayer is developing. It’s hardly a cure. “The median overall survival of patients on experimental regorafenib was 6.4 months. That compares to five months for patients who were given a placebo” (see “Bayer, Onyx cancer drug shows modest improvement in survival“).

On Quora, I posted the question: “How close are the pharmaceutical companies to “curing” cancer?” (see here) and got some interesting feedback. Dan Munro (@danmunro), Founder / CEO – iPatient, had this to say:

“While curing a given cancer is clearly a worthwhile goal – it is often not the primary focus – and early detection is still the leading indicator of successfully treating all cancers. Some cancers are simply pushed so far into remission that you’re more likely to die of a different cancer or old age in your sleep. It’s not a technical cure – but it’s a practical one.

“The sad reality is this: The death rate for cancer (adjusted for the size and age of the population) has dropped only 5% from 1950 to 2005 (see here).  

“One weapon that will aid in their research for effective treatments was announced at CES earlier this month. Life Technologies Ion Proton Genetic Sequencer.”

So, (1) the reality is that the death rate for cancer hasn’t improved very much in the past 50 years, and (2) pharma’s little “pills” haven’t contributed much to that statistic. Shame on Bayer for taking credit where none is due!