Health Update

Everything is good news this month. My M-protein level continues to decline, which means the level of cancerous plasma cells in my bone marrow is declining too. I’m still a long way from zero, but heading in the right direction.

At the same time, my immune system rebounded. Last month I was down to 1,300, which is uncomfortably close to the danger level of 1,000. This month I’m back up to 1,900, so perhaps March was just an outlier.

In other news, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review has released a report evaluating the tsunami of new multiple myeloma treatments that have been brought to market recently. Three of them received a grade of B+, which sounds pretty good—although it turns out to mean only “moderate certainty of a small net health benefit.” In numbers, that’s an increased survival rate of 5-9 months. And do you remember all those recent news reports about how pricey new cancer treatments are these days? This is now more than an intellectual curiosity for me. These new drugs are really, really expensive: upwards of $400,000 per year of extra life.

And who pays for this? In the narrowest sense, Mother Jones. In a broader sense, everyone who pays premiums to Kaiser Permanente. And in the broadest sense of all, everyone in the country. So you have to decide: is it worth $400,000 to have Kevin Drum around for an extra year? That depends a lot on whether you happen to be Kevin Drum, doesn’t it?

But there’s no need to decide yet. It will likely be years before I need a third-line treatment, and by then maybe something better will be around. Personally, I’m counting on nanobots, so get cracking, nanotechnologists.