The Oregonian reports something you don’t hear very often these days – a medical center saying “NO” – at least for now – to the medical arms race.
And by dropping their plans to acquire a proton beam therapy facility, they said “NO” in a big way. The Oregonian reports:
In recent years, large medical centers around the country have been building massive proton therapy machines costing $100 million and up, marketing them to men with prostate cancer.
For now, Oregon Health & Science University won’t be one of them, with officials saying the treatment’s cost and continued debate over its benefit have caused them to scrap a push to build one here.
Though the technology is considered useful in some pediatric cancers, studies continue to question its benefit for adults. “It is a technology that for adult tumors may have some advantages but those advantages have not been proven in head to head studies,” Beer said. Things could change as the therapy evolves, but “We felt that we couldn’t really justify this sort of investment based on the promise that this technology offers as it stands today.”
The treatment costs significantly more than conventional radiation therapy. Supporters say the therapy offers fewer side effects, but that claim has been undermined by studies released this year, most recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Critics call proton therapy an example of profit-driven medicine gone awry.
Proton therapy center operators have received other bad news this year. The federal government recently announced that it will follow through on plans issued this summer to cut Medicare reimbursement for proton therapy by nearly a third. That means centers’ per-patient revenue dropped from an estimated $36,000 to $25,000.
One such decision doth not a trend make. But methinks we’ll hear this again elsewhere.
Thanks to The Oregonian for covering this.
Maybe someone in Oregon paid attention when, almost exactly one year ago, Ezekiel Emanuel and Steven Pearson appeared in the paper’s op-ed pages calling the proliferation of proton beam facilities – “crazy medicine and unsustainable public policy.”
(Addendum on December 21: See next day’s post, “Texas-sized Battlefield Breakthrough hype by Dallas radio station – proton & robots.“
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