As a member of the media, I’m not exactly unaware of the pitfalls of my profession but it might be time to take a look at some of the coverage of proton beam therapy in recent months.
Frankly, most of the mainstream media coverage failed to paint a complete picture and in the process trampled on vital details. On the other hand, some hospitals perhaps could use a lesson in basic economics because you don’t have to install a $300 million cyclotron facility to get protons in your hospital or clinic.
Click here for an example of mainstream media coverage that utterly fails to note the availability of systems that ring in at less than $100 million. Harold Brubaker’s April 29 piece mentions systems coming in for more than $300 million. He’s not alone in that omission, however.
So what’s the problem?
Hospitals in a hurry to spend more?
The problem for hospitals is that they’re dashing off to find the nearest provider of proton beam capability, for one thing. The other problem is that Brubaker doesn’t bother to put enough work into his trade to discuss the availability of much less expensive hardware that requires a much smaller footprint than the traditional cyclotron set-up.
For instance, as I wrote in the April 11 edition of Medical Device Daily, the Radiance 330, made by Protom, can be installed for roughly $50 million. Hospital administrators who feel that’s too much might consider waiting a couple of years to see if the dielectric wall accelerator under development by Compact Particle Accelerator gets through development and an FDA scrub-down. This approach might require a generator of about 15 feet in its longest dimension, and the firm projects a total cost – infrastructure included – of something in the neighborhood of $30 million.
Nearly fired for misbehaving, Levy mouths off
Here’s an example of the worst possible coverage. One article quoted Paul Levy, formerly the president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, as saying the success of proton beam therapy was simple. “The easiest group to market to in the country is a group of men worrying about the functioning of their penis,” Levy said, according to a March 26 Bloomberg story.
I dare Levy to make a similarly cavalier remark about any part of a woman’s anatomy, especially since he nearly lost his job at Deaconess in 2010 because of an inappropriate relationship with a woman who worked for him. Massachusetts’ attorney general Martha Coakley is quoted as having said that Levy’s relationship with the woman “clearly endangered the reputation of the institution and its management.” He resigned a year later.
Leave it to the mainstream press to quote someone with that much irony-laden baggage.
I know I’m horribly geeky about some things, and I’m especially geeky about things I don’t understand at all, such as protons. But I do understand two things. One is that $30 million is a lot less loot than $300 million – even the kid who throws cereal at Jimmy Fallon knows that – and the other is that if you’re too lazy to tell more than half the story, you really are not very good at what you’re paid to do.