Saturday, August 20, 2016

Op-ed in N.Y. Times charges TV ads pushing cancer drug are 'misleading and exploitive."

Are cancer drugs on television misleading?

In a word, yes.

A recent op-ed piece in The New York Times by Matt Jablow, a public relations director for an insurance company, underscored that answer.

Ronna and Matt Jaslow
in Tuscany, where
she was diagnosed
with lung cancer.
Jablow's wife, Ronna, was found to have lung cancer in August 2013. The diagnosis, made when they were vacationing in Tuscany, was later confirmed at Johns Hopkins Hospital near where the Jaslow family lived in Maryland.

Over the next two years, she was treated with chemotherapy for the Stage 4 disease and, when it metastasized to her brain, radiation.

She also took part in clinical trials for Opdivo, an experimental immunology drug made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Opdivo purportedly helped a person's immune system identify and attack cancer cells.

It didn't work for Jablow's wife, however.

She died in September 2015.

Jablow was doing as well as could be expected, according to his article, until he saw a 90-second TV ad for Opdivo "that began with soaring music and shots of older people in warm sunlight, gazing upward at a building on which the words 'A chance to live longer' were superimposed. The voice-over said, 'Opdivo significantly increased the chance of living longer versus chemotherapy.'"

It would be "incredibly uplifting," he continued, "if it weren't so utterly misleading and exploitive."

To date, Jablow contends, "only about one in five patients with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer has seen any measurable response to Opdivo; and, in those patients who do respond, the median increase in life expectancy is only about three months compared with standard chemotherapy."

The hype, says Jablow, "far exceeds the reality."

So "it is shameful," he contends, "for Bristol-Myers Squibb to prey upon the fears and waning hopes of terminal cancer patients, and irresponsible of the Food and Drug Administration to let it."

Jablow notes that only the United States and New Zealand allow direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads, and that the American Medical Association has argued that they should be banned.

Information about cancer drugs, clinical trials and research can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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