Poll: Big Pharma Prefers to Treat, Not Cure, Cancer

Nick Mulcahy

February 04, 2013

Sixty percent of respondents of an international public-opinion survey believe that pharmaceutical companies are "more interested in treating cancer than curing it," according to a press release from poll organizers.

The survey, which was funded by Eli Lilly, used telephone interviews to uncover the public's knowledge and attitudes about cancer. It was conducted in 2012 and involved 4341 people from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Of the survey respondents, 3009 were members of the general public, 663 were cancer patients, and 669 were caregivers.

This opinion about the pharmaceutical industry is a "myth," said Newton F. Crenshaw, vice president of Lilly Oncology in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the press statement. "But it points to some big challenges that we have as an industry: to educate people about our motives, what we do, and how we work; to...work as partners with healthcare payers, policymakers, and patients; and to demonstrate our value," he added.

The survey was commissioned by PACE (Patient Access to Cancer Care Excellence), a Lilly Oncology initiative. It was conducted to coincide with World Cancer Day, which this year focuses on dispelling damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer.

About half of the respondents reported that they do not believe that cancer is a death sentence, whereas about one third believe it is; the remaining respondents were uncertain. Americans were the most optimistic nationality — by far — with regard to cancer mortality; 65% reported that they disagree or strongly disagree that cancer is a death sentence.

More than 40% of the respondents mischaracterized cancer as a single disease.

On the whole, respondents reported being happy with how the fight against cancer is coming along. About 60% were satisfied with the progress made in the past 20 years. The British were most content; 73% reported being satisfied. The Japanese were the most discontent; only 30% were satisfied with the medical progress being made.

In every country but France, a majority or near majority reported thinking that its country invests too little in fighting the disease. Overall, 30% of all respondents reported believing the right amount is being spent.

In the United States, about three quarters of the respondents reported thinking that the cost of cancer drug development is $100 million or less. The survey press materials indicate that the cost is, on average, $1.2 billion.