Michael Milken Wants to Speed Up Cures

Excerpt – Driven by a family history of disease and his own experience with prostate cancer, [Michael] Milken, the onetime junk-bond wizard whose spectacular downfall on securities charges led to a 22-month prison term in the 1990s, has spent the last three decades trying to advance medical science so that people “can find cures to life-threatening diseases within their own lifetimes.” [..]

[KFF] Is the U.S. too slow in reaching cures?

[Milken] A train today in Europe or Asia can travel at 200 miles an hour, but the average train in the U.S. travels at the same speed as 100 years ago because you can’t put faster trains on tracks that aren’t more modern. Science is this train that’s moving fast, but the tracks are 20th-century tracks. As science moves quickly — sequencing your genome and your microbiome, for example — many of the ways we deal with our health system still relate to what it was in the 1900s, not in this century. [..]

[KFF] Are cancer patients getting into clinical trials at earlier stages?

[Milken] Yes, but there’s another element here relating to health equity. The demographics of America have changed considerably. Sixty years ago, 75% of everyone living in the U.S. who was not born here came from Europe. Today, more than 70% of everybody living here who wasn’t born here came from Latin America or Asia, but our clinical trials are still largely Caucasian. We’re not including people who will someday make up the majority of people in this country.

[KFF] You also spend a lot of time writing about prevention, especially as it pertains to diet. Why?

[Milken] If you went to medical school in China 30 or 40 years ago, you wouldn’t have even studied diabetes because it was so rare there. Today, because of changes in the food chain and what they’re eating — meat-based and fat-based diets — China has the most people with diabetes of any country in the world. That’s what thousands of McDonald’s and KFC and other franchises will do. We also know that eating certain foods can slow the growth of certain kinds of cancers, or that changing your diet can accelerate the growth. The CEO of one of the largest medical research companies in the world told me, “The next great drug is going to be prevention.”

Full article, M Kreidler, KFF Health News, 2023.5.16