Devoted readers know that I often react with glee when I see the research industrial complex flummoxed and outmaneuvered by less erudite, less academic and less diplomaed alternatives. This story may never be surpassed, it’s that good.
Those who follow the medical pages know that the medical industrial complex is having quite a bit of trouble with C. Difficile , a little microbe that does horrible things. The usual pattern is that the trusting patients go off to the temple of the medical industrial complex, the hospital, and end up being pumped full of the antibiotics. That’s just what doctors do. They write scripts for antibiotics all day and night long. This ends up trashing the native good bacteria living in the patient and C. Difficile moves right in. Whoo hoo! The medical industrial complex has yet another disease to code against.
There are plenty of anti-antibiotic activists out there, but frankly they seem a bit naive. The drugs are pretty good, but clearly overused. I don’t want to seem like a total medical luddite. Still the research industrial complex has been burning billions of dollars wondering what to do about C. Diff.
Along comes some clever nut jobs who wondered if maybe another dose of good bacteria could make it all right. (BTW, “nut job” isn’t my opinion, just that of the middle-of-the-road types in white doctor’s coats.) These nut jobs asked, ”What’s the easiest way to get good bacteria?” How about a “chocolate milkshake” made in a blender with the feces of a healthy person? Oh no, you say. That’s gross. And it is. But what’s even more disgusting to the research industrial complex is that no one spent any money developing the process. Heck, no one can write a paper and win the Nobel Prize discovering it. People have been doing it for thousands of years. No one can patent it and no one can charge millions for it. Oh, they’ll still try to charge millions for the procedure, but it won’t be as easy as it is with a drug with patent protection.
Does it work? Antibiotic stocks pharma stocks should be plummeting this morning. Denise Grady at the NY Times reports that a new study has found that poop transplants have been remarkably successful at treating C. Difficile. 15 out 16 did quite well. Others report 90%+ success rates. How well did the college industrial complex do? 0 for 16 because only the desperate tried it.
Now please don’t make me out to be a total hater of the research industrial complex. We have discovered some nice things. Newton, for instance, figured out that apples fall. Okay, I’m kidding a bit, but really. Stories like this should make us wonder why we are so blindly in love with a system that continually asks for dump trucks full of cash, only to turn around and sell us the slightly improved drugs at a wildly inflated price. We get to pay twice for something that’s not as good as the morning dump.
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