Had you or I invented a disease that's been killing about 14,000 older Americans each year we would be considered the worst of the terrorists ever to walk the face of this earth.
Currently there are two new strains of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) that do exactly this.
This site defines C. diff as "a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Illness from C. difficile most commonly affects older adults in hospitals or in long term care facilities and typically occurs after use of antibiotic medications."
C. diff is a naturally (in a small percentage of the population) occurring bacteria that lives in your gut.
In nursing homes and other places that care for older adults C. diff spreads when antibiotics such as clindamycin has been used that wipe out normal gut flora. This is because C. diff flourishes in your gut when the normal flora are not present.
C. diff, which has always been present in human populations because it occur naturally, wasn't really a problem until the medical profession began to treat it with an antibiotic called fluoroquinolone. Once treatment began with this at least two unique, mutated strains of C. diff appeared and began to spread - killing thousands of people each year along the way.
According to this NPR article the first virulent strain, FQR1, appears to have been created in Pittsburgh, PA in around 2001. Pittsburgh is a large, medical hub with a large, university-run medical system.
A second strain, FQR2, appeared in the US and Canada around the same time.
So, quite simply, "big pharma" and fluoroquinolone, when applied in quantity over time to enough people created a killer.
(But no one really cares because this mostly effects only older people and getting rid of them means a smaller fiscal cliff to jump off...)
The real irony here is that C. diff is quite effectively treated with fecal transplants (See this older post I wrote and this CBS News article for details). What this does is effectively repopulate the gut flora of someone with a C. diff infection with microbes from someone else who has a proper set of gut flora.
I suppose you could do this your self at home with a bucket, strainer and an enema bag if you're handy (I must offer the obligatory statement: I am not recommending this nor suggesting that you try it at home - you must visit a qualified physician for treatment of all disease). Of course, you'd need someone to donate a sample that had a healthy digestive system - not such an easy find these days I guess...
In any case big medicine doesn't like the idea of this because it basically costs nothing and solves the problem at a rate close to 100% from what I have read.
No one is going to make any money from reselling (literally) someone elses shit.
So how come no one blames the medical establishment for some 200,000 or so deaths over the last twelve or so years?
After all, if the Unibomber were killing that many people someone would bother to take notice.
It turns out that this is allowed because doctors are only practicing medicine.
That's right - they don't have any real responsibility for failure (imagine if they did).
And since things like fluoroquinolone are man-made (synthetic) some empty suit or skirt (professional drug dealer) had to show up at the hospital to push the stuff onto the doctors in the first place.
So as the doctors pick up on this new product (check the walls of their office for posters from the professional drug dealers) it gets adopted quickly (
And if the product mutates the bacteria into a killer of old people, well, er, no one will notice for a long time and life will go on.
Isn't this a great model?
And to think, people wonder why Medicare and Medicaid are so expensive.
(Any collection of older people on Medicare know about this disease, and they rightly fear it.)
Think what it costs to prescribe this and other antibiotics and then what it costs to clean up the mess, as it were, after a bad C. diff infection sets in. The hospital stays, the specialists, the nursing home care, the sad relatives crying while grandma wastes away and the doctors and specialists just stand around shaking their heads.
Now compare that to the cost of a bucket of shit, a household strainer and an enema bag.
And I made a mistake - C. diff affects some .34% of the estimated 13.7 million kids who received hospital care from 2005 to 2009 had C. diff.
Guess I'll have to go before the blogger review board and make a confession...