Read this analysis of how the makers of the DaVinci Robotic Surgical System promote prostate cancer awareness, by blogger Dr. Rob. Excerpt:
* Prostate cancer screening is controversial, as it fails to differentiate between the minority of men who would die from the disease from the majority who would simply die with it.
* PSA testing has greatly increased the number of men diagnosed with early stage cancers.
* Prostate cancer surgery or radiation therapy is recommended for men who have early stage cancers.
* Aggressive prostate cancer treatment has to be done 48 times to save one life.
* The most expensive treatment for prostate cancer is prostatectomy, or removal of the prostate.
* The robotic form of the surgery is a higher-cost procedure by a significant amount.
So, an expensive form of surgery that may not be appropriate is done on a group of men identified on a very unreliable test yielding a very small number of lives saved and a lot of men who then have to deal with the physical consequences of the surgery. Why in the world is this being promoted at all?
Money. Here's the homepage of one of our local hospitals. They have aggressively marketed da Vinci surgery on television, billboards, and the radio.
Why do you think they would pay as much money as they do for this device? It's good business? Not so fast. Dr. Paul Levy stated back in 2007 about this very procedure:
Here you have it folks -- the problem facing every hospital, and especially every academic medical center. Do I spend over $1 million on a machine that has no proven incremental value for patients, so that our doctors can become adept at using it and stay up-to-date with the "state of the art", so that I can then spend more money marketing it, and so that I can protect profitable market share against similar moves by my competitors?
No, hospitals are employing this just to keep pace. The real winner in this is Intuitive Surgical, Inc., who has been a darling of Wall Street, beating estimates in earnings with a Q2 net profit of $62.4 Million.