Big Pharma & Big Lies: The Hidden Cancer Cure

Cancer isn’t just a danger to us; it is an ever-present cause of misery and hardship. According to the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, there are approximately 439 new cases of cancer per 100,000 individuals each year in the US (NIH 2018). Even I am not immune to Cancer’s reach, as my mother was diagnosed several years ago with Stage II Breast Cancer. It should be no surprise then, that many people want answers. It’s no easy thing to see your loved one suffer, struggle, and then die. As technological miracles surround us, it isn’t necessarily crazy for the typical person to wonder “Why haven’t we cured cancer already?”.

In response, some will say “they already have.”

This “some” is a place holder for a conspiracy theorist that believes that “Big Pharma” and occasionally just the US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are repressing a cure for cancer. According to Blaskiewicz (2013), Big Pharma comprises not just corporations, but also physicians, regulators, and politicians as well as anyone who makes money from Pharmaceuticals. However, all of these separate parties get surmised into one super evil entity, “Big Pharma.” Furthermore, that Big Pharma is suppressing a currently found cancer cure so that it might financially benefit off of the “ineffective” treatments currently given to those afflicted with the disease. (Blaskiewicz 2013) There isn’t an exact date that one can point to as the start of this conspiracy theory, but it still is popular within the past decade, as in 2005 at least 27.3% of surveyed Americans believed in the myth of a hidden cancer cure (Gansler et al. 2005). This percentage underpins the idea that believers could be relatively any average American considering the prevalence of cancer. Indeed, the reason this belief is extraordinary is several- fold: first, if true, would mean that a massive amount of human suffering would be happening as a result of gross malfeasance. Second, that many people, estimated at the barest minimum to be 714,000 people at multiple companies, would have to keep a secret from the whole world for who knows how long (Berezow 2016). Finally, it would fundamentally change the way we understand cancer, which comprises nearly 100 different diseases, and how it functions (NIH 2015).

However, what would bring someone, anyone, to the idea that some treatment is being kept from them? Blaskiewicz (2013) contends that there may be real problems that underlie the belief. Cancer treatments are often invasive, painful, and may fail to work on an individual level. Caregivers can be forced to watch someone wither away while others yet may live. Though the mortality rate of Americans due to cancer has been declining since the 1990s (NIH 2018), what good does that do to someone who just lost a child to liver cancer? Others still cite the money to be gained in the Pharmaceutical Industry or the “competition” that might occur if a single cancer cure was effective at treatment (Novella & Barrett 2000). While it’s true that Pharmaceuticals are a trillion-dollar industry (Blaskiewicz 2013), getting into the meat of this evidence for the theory, primarily pointing to capitalism itself, brings into focus more pieces of evidence against it.

If we’re going to argue that capitalism is what’s driving companies and others who stand to “make a profit” off of not curing cancer, let’s talk money. As Curtin (2018) points out, 600,000 dead patients mean that many less paying customers for Big Pharma. Were humans to live longer, we’d need more medical attention, more pills, more doctor visits, and more money to

pay for all of it (Curtin 2018). Big Pharma would lose out on all of the profit in the long term, which intelligent businesspeople would recognize. We also have past evidence of the mechanisms of Big Pharma fighting against a situation that would be similar to the use of ineffective cancer cure known as the Heparin contaminant crisis. In this case, a Chinese supplier of the chemical Heparin, normally costing $900, contaminated it with another mimicking chemical that cost only $9. (Berezow 2016) When the side effects of the drug started harming, even killing people, the FDA created new control methods to prevent harm by the end of 2009 (Berezow 2016). It would have been far more “beneficial” in the conspiracy’s logic to Big Pharma to sell the drug, as usual, profit off of the price difference, and profit off of the resulting damage. The FDA responded quickly effectively to the crisis, even though the recall caused a massive shortage (Berezow 2016, Dunning 2017).

As we move away from capitalistic motivations and return to the original parts of the belief that make it extraordinary, more damning pieces of evidence also return. First, the entire of Big Pharma as a coordinating, gigantic, evil monolithic entity is nearly impossible. I previously mentioned that the minimum requirement for this conspiracy was well over 700,000 people (Berezow 2016), and if this is the case, how is the secret kept? Rarely are any of the nearly 600 publicly traded pharma companies working together, and who wouldn’t brag about curing cancer? (Wakefield 2018) Moreover, not every single person involved in cancer research would gain by having a “cure” kept secret. Many academics would kill to land the Nobel prize associated with such a discovery and aren’t seeking financial compensation for the discovery (Curtin 2018). However, if that were not enough, are many of those supposed conspirators also touched by cancer? Are scientists, politicians, lobbyists and more immune to it (Curtin 2018)? Certainly not. Besides, the notion of a “single cure” originates in a misunderstanding of cancer as well as the scientific treatments being researched to fight it (Wakefield 2018). Each cancer case is unique in its way, and trying to nail down similarities can be difficult, which is why there is a large variety in the official number of cancer types (Wakefield 2018). Cures by the nature of the disease cannot be one size fits all.

It is important to remember that we cannot be unkind to those who believe in this conspiracy. Many cognitive factors contribute to this belief. It is possible that this belief comes out of a desire to impose order on an uncaring and random world (Blaskiewicz 2013). Often, when individuals fall into this conspiracy theory, Cognitive Dissonance kicks in because they turn to ineffective alternative medicines that they believe Big Pharma is suppressing. When one chooses to go for alternative methods, refusing another treatment is difficult to undo, and the death of their loved ones would refute this belief unequivocally. Considering how many other people also have cancer and feel powerless, there would be an active community of support and an inability to ignore what has happened. Also, there can be a reasonable degree of post hoc thinking that goes into this belief. The fact that one “cure” was ineffective means that there must be some other cure, some magic bullet that will be.

Ultimately, the social context for this extraordinary belief is truly sadder than most. Most if not all believers come to this community out of pain and loss. They want answers, and they find them in the extraordinary. Once they become surrounded by the sorrows of others and a disbelief in the authority of modern science, they drift farther away. This community can be isolating and dangerous, as who is to say what a theorizing caregiver would do when another family member gets cancer, or even they get cancer?

People who believe that Big Pharma is out to get them are often sustained by a post hoc rationalization of tragedy and a large amount of cognitive dissonance in pursuing alternative medicine when current treatments have failed them. They wish to understand what is going on but are unable. I hope that if one should ever cross someone who believes this theory, that you and I can give them compassion, and engage them in a way that helps them and others like them heal.

Cited Sources:

Berezow, A. (2016, June 11). Proof There’s No FDA-Big Pharma Conspiracy Suppressing Cancer Cures. Retrieved from pharma-conspiracy-to-suppress-cancer-cures

Blaskiewicz, R. (2013). The Big Pharma conspiracy theory. Medical Writing,22(4), 259-261. doi:10.1179/2047480613z.000000000142

Curtin, I. (2018, February 15). Is it time to give Big Pharma a big break? Retrieved from

Dunning, B. (2017, September 19). The Big Pharma Conspiracy. Retrieved from

Gansler, T. , Henley, S. J., Stein, K. , Nehl, E. J., Smigal, C. and Slaughter, E. (2005), Sociodemographic determinants of cancer treatment health literacy. Cancer, 104: 653-660. doi:10.1002/cncr.21194

NIH. (2015, February 9). What Is Cancer? Retrieved from cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer#types-of-cancer

NIH. (2018, April 27). Cancer Statistics. Retrieved from cancer/understanding/statistics

Novella, S., & Barrett, S. (2000, June 22). Is There a Conspiracy to Suppress Cancer Cures? Retrieved from

Wakefield, A. (2018, September 24). Secret cancer cure – is Big Pharma hiding it from us? Retrieved from pharma-hiding/

15 thoughts on “Big Pharma & Big Lies: The Hidden Cancer Cure

  1. I think you made a really good point when you talked about disputing this belief. If big pharma just wants money, then why would it let people die, especially sick people? I would think that they would want sick people to stay alive because they are going to need a lot more medication than someone who is healthy.

  2. Interesting lie,It’s not beneficial for big pharma to hide the cancer cure considering how expensive such medicine would be. And you mention people get emotional facing death of relatives,very true.

  3. I think that was a very interesting piece to read, I feel as though you hear this claim often but don’t always jump to think it’s extraordinary. That being said, your points provide justification for such. I think it is a sad theory on either side, but what stuck with me the most was that it would be impossible to coordinate the secrecy of 700,000 individuals.

  4. Your opinion of this misconception is so warm and kind. I couldn’t agree more that some extraordinary believe may have some deep emotional causes. And to correct those superstitions, we need to treat them with more understanding and patience, not by pointing out their mistake too directly. One thing that I learned from class is to think the reasons behind all the misconceptions some community would have. Only by this way, we could use our empathy to interact and help them.

  5. I never understood why it would be kept a secret if it did. Its true that Big Pharma would be losing money if it just let people die. Ive noticed that a common trend on big beliefs like this where a big group of people have to stay quiet that no one has seem to even slipped out an info about this. I also find it hard to believe that out of all of the 714,000 people that none of them have someone they know that is going through cancer, why would they not try to sneak the cure to them. Why would someone cured from cancer keep this a secret if they know the hardship it brings to their loved ones and themselves? I also think a lot of people just don’t know how Cancer is developed, like you mentioned not all cancers are the same so there really can’t be a cure all medicine even if we really wanted to. Overall, I think this belief isn’t harmful to anyone but those that believe it. Since it seems that those that believe it are people who are suffering through it or seeing it, so I agree that we should probably be a bit more compassionate towards these people.

  6. If there was a cure to cancer, people would be willing to pay a lot of money to have access to it. Granted, Big Pharma can make money off of ineffective treatments, but these patients frequently die, so their cash flow is cut off. I completely understand people wanting a reason for why people die of cancer, especially considering I know someone who died of cancer at 20 years old, but no one chooses to get sick, and if there was a way to cure it then the secret would have slipped already because even people working in Big Pharma can get cancer or know loved ones who have.

  7. Hello!
    I also chose this topic for one of my blog posts! You brought up a point that I highlighted in my blog post. The idea that if someone actually came up with the cure to cancer, they would win so many prizes and be famed and loved by so many. I think that would be the biggest accomplishment in medicine for a doctor and I find it wild that someone would hide it! I definitely is a suspicious thought if there is something we do not know and I have pondered this thought as well, but so many people will horrible consciousness would have to be in on this for it to work. Those people though as well have families effected by cancer so I would hope this theory is very wrong!

  8. I’m not going to lie. At one point I believed that there was a cure to cancer that they were hiding. With all the technology in the world progressing day by day it almost seems that maybe we should be getting closer. Every year thousands of people die from all forms of cancer and every year we put thousands and millions of dollars into cancer research. For someone who is uneducated medically speaking, the question might come up as to where is the money going. I also think that this theory can stem from an emotional mentality. If someone is watching their love one suffer or even be suffering themselves, they might beg the question, “Why?”. They need someone to blame, someone has to be the cause of such a horrible thing and thus they blame people who have nothing to do with it and are only trying to help.

  9. It’s fascinating that the numbers show that you would need 700,000 thousand people to all keep the secret that big pharma has the cure for cancer. 5 friends cant even keep a secret from one another, granted that isn’t something as big as a cancer cure, but it does show that humans aren’t always the best at secrecy. I also don’t like to believe in this theory because it would mean that so many humans are almost evil? To me, its better to believe that people are good and want to help each other. Have you, or anyone you know ever fallen prey to believing in this theory?

  10. I like how you started your post by discussing the negative emotional state that people are usually in when they start thinking about cancer because this kind of emotional distress very well may make an individual more accepting of extraordinary beliefs. As we’ve discussed in class, people absolutely hate the idea of randomness (e.g. “I’m a good person, why does God let this happen to me?”) – and that idea is likely at a forefront when a loved one is diagnosed/passes away.

  11. I have actually heard of this extraordinary belief before, and to be honest, without diving too much into the actuality of carrying out such a plan, it appears to make sense. I could see where Big Pharma would stand to lose billions if the cure for all cancer were found. The likelihood of such a secret being maintained would indeed be impossible though. The amount of people that would have to maintain the secret is beyond measure, and surely if a cure were known, it would be made public, at least one would hope.

  12. I know it’s easy to blame others out of frustration when we watch a loved one suffer from cancer, but that emotion also
    instigates using researchers as a scapegoat for a reason as to why their loved ones couldn’t be saved. There is a lot of talk about a cancer conspiracy due to the amount of money treatments bring in to treat a cancer patient, but a cure would most likely cost much more. The idea a researcher would suppress a finding that desired is also unlikely due to the fact that researcher would be studied and go down in history as “the person who cured cancer.” Every scientist and researcher aims to make a discovery as huge as the cure for cancer.

  13. I think there should be some techniques that can cure cancer, but it’s just immature. I have heard news before that a woman has been cured through a series complex surgery. It doesn’t mean they have this technique and don’t want to help cure cancer. It’s only because it has a high rate of death and it will cost many medical resources. That woman was cured by using 2 lungs and a large amount of blood, and she died in 1 year because of the infection. With these resources, the doctor can make sure to save more than 2 people’s life.

  14. This post was super interesting!! I find that sometimes the people get too focused on demonizing Big Pharma that they forget that there are other people–i.e., homeopathic promoters or raw dieters–that make crazy claims such as raw food or aromatherapy candles can cure cancer, and people shell out money due to desperation. While some may have good intentions, I find it hard to sympathize with some people who are just trying to make a quick buck off of suffering individuals.

  15. I think the biggest thing to me that stands out in the belief that Big Pharma has a cure for cancer but won’t give it to anyone because they can make more money hiding it, is that there is only ONE special treatment that is suppose to treat hundreds of different cancer types and side effects. There are many different cancers that each have a different approach to them. Two people could have the same type of bone cancer but it is effecting two totally different bones. One could have the cancer in their foot and the other in their spine, and each would need a different approach to cure them. Many people who believe this theory have probably lost someone to an ineffective treatment of cancer and need someone to blame for it.

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