Monday, June 8, 2009

It's All about the Money, Honey......

This is just the kind of thing that drives me absolutely crazy.

Here's an article (from Forbes magazine, no less) that talks about a root that is used in traditional Chinese medicine that has been shown to have very specific immunosuppressive properties, which seem to make it an ideal candidate to be developed into a drug to combat autoimmune diseases. Unlike the immunosuppressive drugs that are currently on the market, this compound (derived from the hydrangea root) targets very specific cells within the immune system, leaving the rest of that highly complex system intact. This would apparently greatly reduce the risk of serious infections and other potentially deadly side effects which are seen in many of the immunosuppressive and immunomodulating therapies that are currently marketed as MS drugs.

Sounds great, right? So, what's the problem? Well, as the article states, "Because the compound is now in the public domain, the pharmaceutical industry has not shown interest in further developing it therapeutically, researchers said".

That pretty much sums up the warped state of the medical research model in the United States. Over 70% of all medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies, whose primary motivation in funding such research is to develop profit-making drugs. Nevermind that this compound might prove to be more effective than the outrageously expensive and sometimes highly toxic therapies currently on the market. The fact that the compound holds no profit potential means that it is most likely DOA, as far as its ever being developed into a therapy that will reach the consumer market.

Of course, we could take matters into our own hands and just try taking hydrangea root capsules, but at what dosage? How will it interact with the other drugs that many MS patients commonly take? Also, will unrefined hydrangea root have the same effect as the compound discussed in the article? There's a good chance these questions will never be answered, because Tysabri gets charged at nearly $4000 per monthly dose, the interferons go for about $1500 per month, Rituxan costs about $20,000 for a six-month dose, and a bottle of hydrangea root capsules sells for $3.75.



  1. We have a new Hydranga planted in the yard, shall I dig up the root and eat some. Or pull out my house-wife/witchy skills and dry it and brew a tea? IF (big if)they research it and FDA takes their years to approve to market and IF it works, it'll be too late for me.

  2. Unfortunately there are many things we'll never see because there is no money to be made. So we continue to live in this jail cell that is MS.

  3. It is possible for treatments like these to be studied in the absence of a profit potential, particularly if there are strong grass-roots efforts behind them. Low-dose naltrexone is one example where people with MS have pushed for and raised money for research including human clinical trials -- see for more information. If anyone is interested in seeing a particular therapy move forward, I'm sure the LDN folks would be happy to describe how they did it. Another approach is to contact the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM -- part of the NIH) that also funds trials on a variety of therapies that would not be financially worthwhile for a company to support. See for a list of MS clinical trials funded by this group.

  4. This exactly what my husband and I have been trying to explain to a rightwing friend of ours. She can't seem to understand (or doesn't want to understand) that our current for profit system is for the birds.

    If there is no profit margin in a drug, it will NOT be developed. Just as anything that might be a cure must be stymied.

    Where's the profit in a cure for MS. There's nothing in that for the shareholders.

  5. Actually, they've reversed the effects of m.s. through stem cell injections. The stem cells promote the growth of glial cells which in turn produce myelin. Though I am a sceptic, this actually seems true. Talk to your M.S. doctor about it. Here's the link: