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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

    ''Once you tell people there's a cure for something, the more likely they are to pressure doctors to prescribe it.''
    -Robert Ehrlich, drug advertising executive.

    "Opinions are like sphincters, everyone has one." - Chris Rangel

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    Wednesday, June 30, 2004

    Sued Again, Naturally: George Harrison's doctor is being sued again. The ex-Beatle's estate sued him for taking advantage of Harrison's celebrity. That suit was settled out of court. Now, a Florida woman, whose husband died of pancreatic cancer, is suing him for misleading advertising (via the same attorney):

    In January 2002, Mr. and Mrs. Ryan received a marketing kit from Drs. Lederman and Silverman which touted body radiosurgery as having a success rate of more than 90 percent, the lawsuit said.

    In a video sent to the Florida couple, the lawsuit claims, Dr. Lederman said, 'We're seeing tremendous results; results in many hopeless cases.'

    The media kit video included patient testimonials, which are illegal under New York law, said Matthew Lifflander, an attorney representing Mrs. Ryan.

    That does seem beyond the pale - direct marketing to desperate cancer patients. George Harrison and celebrity play a role, too:

    The Florida couple decided to move to Staten Island to pursue the treatment in April 2002. When they arrived in Dr. Lederman's office, they saw autographed photographs of George Harrison, who had been treated by Dr. Lederman, which made them believe they were seeking the best possible treatment, the lawsuit says.

    Is it really the doctor's fault that they were so easily star-struck? No, but institutions do like to brag about the celebrities who come to them, knowing full well that a certain segment of the population will be impressed.

    But here's the meat of the matter. The over-selling of what is in actuality an experimental therapy:

    When Ryan's son asked Dr. Silverman whether body radiosurgery would prolong Ryan's life, Dr. Silverman said he could live one to 10 years longer and would have a 'good quality of life' after the procedure, court records say. The doctors told Ryan's family members that radiosurgery is a 'non-invasive technology that is highly successful in treating selected primary or metastatic cancers,' records state.

    Body radiosurgery is a highly directed form of radiation therapy. Its advantage is that it concentrates the radiation in the area of the tumor, hopefully sparing adjacent healthy tissue. Who knows what the doctor actually said to the patient. There's often a marked difference between what is said and what is heard. Desperate hope has a way of filtering out the bad and only letting in the good. But here's how

    Stanford describes their radiosurgery:

    In a recently completed study at Stanford University Medical Center, patients were treated with radiosurgery at a "low," "middle," and "high" dose.  In 100% of patients treated at the "high" dose, all patients had their pancreatic tumors controlled for the rest of their life. 
    But, if you have the stamina to slog through the study, you find that the "rest of their life" was a median of eight months. Their tumors may have not gotten any bigger, but they all died anyway. No doubt to a radiation oncologist this is success. The therapy worked. The tumor didn't grow. But, of course, to the patient it's a dismal failure.

    posted by Sydney on 6/30/2004 08:43:00 AM 0 comments


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