FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them

Cancer kills. Every American knows that.

What every American doesn’t know: Cancer is also helping some Americans become exceedingly rich. And these Americans will do most anything to keep their windfalls coming, even prey on the fragile psyches of the families cancer strikes.

Top cancer treatment centers, the consumer group Truth in Advertising charges in a new report, are “deceptively promoting atypical patient experiences through the use of powerful testimonials.” Back in 2005, U.S. cancer centers spent $54 million showcasing these deceptive testimonials. By 2014, that annual outlay had more than tripled to $173 million.

One typical testimonial in this advertising barrage features an effusively grateful patient named Carl, a pancreatic cancer survivor. The ad never mentions that pancreatic cancer five-year survival rates run just 8.5 percent.

“Any cancer center can find a patient who has beat the odds,” notes the new Truth in Advertising report, The Deceptive Marketing of Hope. “But using that atypical experience to play on the hopes and fears of such a susceptible patient population has real consequences.”

Cancer patients deciding where to go for treatment, for instance, may be so impressed by a testimonial that they stop looking for treatment alternatives and travel out of state, ignoring “closer, better, or less expensive options” much closer to home.

Misleading marketing is working exceedingly well — for the top brass at the for-profit cancer centers that now dot the American health care landscape, outfits like the Cancer Treatment Centers of America chain. This company has relocated its headquarters to Boca Raton, a prime South Florida wealth magnet.

The CEO who engineered this relocation, a former luxury hotel executive, celebrated the move by picking up a new $2 million waterfront home.

The company’s current chairman, Richard Stephenson, has found the cancer treatment business particularly rewarding. This Illinois mega-millionaire, Johns Hopkins University biomedicist Steven Salzberg points out, has used “the profits from his cancer hospitals to support his favorite right-wing causes.” In 2012 alone, Stephenson poured $12 million into the Tea Party.

The bad actors pumping out misleading cancer treatment ads also include, somewhat surprisingly, many of the nation’s most prominent cancer-treatment not-for-profits. The most celebrated of these, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, shelled out $11.7 million last year marketing testimonials from survivors like “Joanne S.,” a stage-four lung cancer patient. Such patients overall have a 4.7 percent survival rate.

Misleading cancer patients pays quite handsomely for nonprofit executives, too. Memorial Sloan Kettering CEO Craig Thompson pulled down $6.7 million from his day job in 2016 and nearly another $600,000 last year serving on the corporate boards of two pharmaceutical companies.

Outrageously excessive executive pay, numbers like these suggest, amounts to an economic “carcinogen” — a cancer-causing agent that first takes hold in the for-profit private sector, then spreads throughout our body politic, corrupting everything it touches.

The best way to protect against this corruption? We could start by leveraging the power of the public purse against enterprises that pay out excessive executive rewards.

Lawmakers, for instance, could deny subsidies to companies that pay their top executives over 25 times what their typical workers are making. A move along that line would have stopped the Cancer Treatment Centers of America chain from qualifying for $2.4 million in state and local government subsidies when the company relocated to Boca Raton.

America’s big-time corporate execs currently average over 350 times what average workers are taking home. We may not ultimately be able to vanquish cancer. But we can certainly vanquish the CEO pay excess that so exploits cancer’s victims.

More articles by:

Sam Pizzigati writes on inequality for the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970 (Seven Stories Press). 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 22, 2019
Michael Hudson
U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses
Evaggelos Vallianatos
If Japan Continues Slaughtering Whales, Boycott the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Mike Garrity
Emergency Alert For the Wild Rockies
Dean Baker
The U.S.-China Trade War: Will Workers Lose?
Jonah Raskin
Paul Krassner, 1932-2019: American Satirist 
David Swanson
U.S. Troops Back in Saudi Arabia: What Could Go Wrong?
Robert Fisk
American Visitors to the Gestapo Museum Draw Their Own Conclusions
John Feffer
Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Landscape of Anguish and Palliatives: Predation, Addiction and LOL Emoticons in the Age of Late Stage Capitalism
Karl Grossman
A Farmworkers Bill of Rights
Gary Leupp
Omar and Trump
Robert Koehler
Fighting Climate Change Means Ending War
Susie Day
Mexicans Invade US, Trump Forced to Go Without Toothbrush
Elliot Sperber
Hey Diddle Diddle, Like Nero We Fiddle
Weekend Edition
July 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
It Was Never Just About the Chat: Ruminations on a Puerto Rican Revolution.
Anthony DiMaggio
System Capture 2020: The Role of the Upper-Class in Shaping Democratic Primary Politics
Andrew Levine
South Carolina Speaks for Whom?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Big Man, Pig Man
Bruce E. Levine
The Groundbreaking Public Health Study That Should Change U.S. Society—But Won’t
Evaggelos Vallianatos
How the Trump Administration is Eviscerating the Federal Government
Pete Dolack
All Seemed Possible When the Sandinistas Took Power 40 years Ago
Ramzy Baroud
Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis
Ron Jacobs
Dancing with Dr. Benway
Joseph Natoli
Gaming the Climate
Marshall Auerback
The Numbers are In, and Trump’s Tax Cuts are a Bust
Louisa Willcox
Wild Thoughts About the Wild Gallatin
Kenn Orphan
Stranger Things, Stranger Times
Mike Garrity
Environmentalists and Wilderness are Not the Timber Industry’s Big Problem
Helen Yaffe
Cuban Workers Celebrate Salary Rise From New Economic Measures
Brian Cloughley
What You Don’t Want to be in Trump’s America
David Underhill
The Inequality of Equal Pay
David Macaray
Adventures in Script-Writing
David Rosen
Say Goodbye to MAD, But Remember the Fight for Free Expression
Nick Pemberton
This Is Heaven!: A Journey to the Pearly Gates with Chuck Mertz
Dan Bacher
Chevron’s Oil Spill Endangers Kern County
J.P. Linstroth
A Racist President and Racial Trauma
Binoy Kampmark
Spying on Julian Assange
Rose Ramirez – Dedrick Asante-Mohammad
A Trump Plan to Throw 50,000 Kids Out of Their Schools
David Bravo
Precinct or Neighborhood? How Barcelona Keeps Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Global Capital
Ralph Nader
Will Any Disgusted Republicans Challenge Trump in the Primaries?
Dave Lindorff
The BS about Medicare-for-All Has to Stop!
Arnold August
Why the Canadian Government is Bullying Venezuela
Tom Clifford
China and the Swine Flu Outbreak
Missy Comley Beattie
Highest Anxiety
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail