“Some people do well on placebo”?

Many of you are aware that Kidney Cancer Canada has been advocating for sequential treatment right across the country. Our specific goal for 2011 is to open up funded second-line treatment for Canadian patients in every province.

Just this week we raised a case in Nova Scotia of a young man with four young children who will soon need second-line treatment. His province has publicly denied funding Afinitor, the first of the new targeted drugs to be approved after an initial treatment such as Sutent. We are all painfully aware that in just over a month, the free access program for second-line treatment will end, not just in Nova Scotia, but across Canada.

When we take a story to the media, we always encourage the reporter to speak to the Health Ministry and to speak to local oncologists. We are not making up the need for second-line treatment or the desperate situations our patients find themselves in.

And so what did the Drug Plan Manager have to say in Nova Scotia? Along with questioning whether the drug works (international clinical trials data was reviewed by Health Canada and resulted in Health Canada approval), the individual said, and I quote:

“Some people do well on placebo”.

For advanced kidney cancer, when a patient has already progressed on Sutent, a placebo is absolutely unethical to suggest. While we agree that there is a placebo effect for many patients taking sugar pills, we cannot take those kinds of risks with a life-threatening cancer. We cannot take those risks with a young father of four children.

I am shocked, and quite frankly appalled, that in 2010 we are even talking about cancer patients taking placebos. If that’s how the Nova Scotia government plans to save money, we have an even bigger fight on our hands. And fight we will.

Congratulations to Chris Patriquin for taking his story to the public. We need more patients in Nova Scotia to speak up and let the Drug Plan Manager know that they do not plan to rely on a placebo to treat their kidney cancer.

For more information, please see “Join the Fight” on our website, www.kidneycancercanada.ca

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2 thoughts on ““Some people do well on placebo”?

  1. Well said. There were a few things in that news story that irked me as a patient in a simiiar situation living in New Brunswick. Great to get the word out there though.

  2. I am editing a book on Psychological aspects of cancer. Can anyone guide me to academic articles on whether there have been documented effects of placebo on any human cancers, please?

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