Too often, as researchers of human disease, we lose sight of the people we are trying to develop treatments for. This is not to say that many funding mechanisms and societies don’t do a good job with setting up interactions between researchers and patient advocates. Surprisingly enough, one of the best meetings I ever attended was a department of defense, breast cancer meeting. It is a long story as to how and why the DOD is funding breast cancer but they are doing a wonderful job. There were many patient advocates in attendance. They asked great questions, were very informed and their presence was an inspirational reminder of why we were doing what we were doing. I remember the constant request of patients not only for new cures but for treatments that improved quality of life.
A recent blog post I read ( Medicine’s Big Mystery, What Does Treatment Cost?: Mimi Ferraro) made me think about the cost of the therapies we are developing. What good would these new therapies be if nobody can afford them or if only an elite few can receive them? I find it ironic that I probably couldn’t afford the very treatment I may someday develop. It reminds me of the antiviral therapies that have done so much for AIDS patients but are unattainable for most people in third world countries due to their cost.
Mimi makes a great point when she talks about stress and health. Many studies have shown that some form of positive thinking in the form of yoga, meditation, or many other mental exercises can improve therapeutic outcomes. Obviously the stress of massive medical debt must negatively impact treatment. It would be interesting to see a study of treatment efficacy where financial burden is taken into account. What if we took care of the sick among us? What if they could focus on healing instead of worrying if they can even afford treatment or may leave their family with massive debt?
Sometimes we focus on the end result, the cure… but lose sight of the patient. Sometimes we want to figure out a be all end all cure when patients would respond to treatment much better if we treated them holistically. Sometimes we forget not everybody can afford expensive therapies. How can we change this? I don’t have the answer but what if someone did? What if you did?
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