I am furious.
There’s nothing I’d love more than to have my field discussed openly among people. There’s nothing more I’d love than to make people more aware about cancer, about the different treatment modalities. I’d even teach people all the pharmacology I know about cancer drugs if I were able to.
I approached the latest – currently airing – Kalam Ennas episode with caution. I had a faint clue who Nabil Habib was. They were discussing one of the most funded, most controversial, most challenging aspects of medicine lately. I figured I’d tune in.
Yes, I’m furious.
I’m not a chemist nor do I aim to be. But when it comes to protocol – when it comes to every single facet of what makes medicine works, what makes this branch of our lives that has cured so many people all around the world functional, he has blown to bits. And he’s condescending about it.
I have no idea who figured it was a scientifically sound idea to get a chemist who has a proposal for a cancer drug on air to discuss his work, have almost no opposite scientific opinion to what he was saying save for the few questions the show’s host got spoon-fed moments before going on air. But do you want to know what’s the great idea? It’s quoting the bible left and right for some scientific credibility.
First, an accomplished scientist wouldn’t need to go on media to discuss his work in order to convince people about it. Regular viewers are not those who need to be convinced about any scientist’s work – other scientists need to be. Getting a one-sided opinion on a talk-show is not having a scientific discussion. Getting people who have been “cured” by your methods is not science. You know what’s science? It’s having data that supports what you’re presenting without any shred of doubt. And then people will follow.
Second, the thing about scientific data is that there are ways for it to be amassed. And those rules exist for a reason: because science takes time, because such “cures” have to be so thorough as not to give people false hope, because arguments such as “this disease is ripping our societies” are not valid scientifically. Each step of the development of the drug from the lab to the clinic has to be monitored and submitted to the FDA. Nabil Habib has not done that. These are the steps to be followed for a drug development (link – you need to create an account to read it). Nabil Habib has blown these steps to pieces. But fear not, he has patented it – never mind that he used it on people as a “secret recipe” prior to the patent process.
Third, the drug development procedure is a process that costs at least half a billion dollars. I’m sure Dr. Habib doesn’t have such means under his disposal. If his drug had been as wondrous as he’s making it out to be, then he would have definitely sold it to a major pharmacological company by now. He would have been a billionaire already and the drug would have been much further along development. And he’d have had the chance to cure much people than the 600 he claims he’s currently treating, an odd claim since I didn’t know chemists usually have patients who are people that suffer from a disease where any glimpse of hope is enough to get them going.
Such a TV show is not the platform to host a scientific discussion. I have no idea if the molecule in question is as beautiful as it has been portrayed to be simply because there has been no opposite opinion to its merits. I have no idea if the claim that this molecule has no side effects is valid: a molecule that can affect so many different types of cancers, affect different types of tissues cannot not have absolutely no side effects worth mentioning. I have no idea if what this man is claiming, even when it pertains to all the different kinds of cancers, is correct or not. But fear not, I have no right to know whether what he’s saying is a fact or not.
Such a TV show, aiming to capitalize on the interest of people, doesn’t get to screw over physicians who either refused or are not allowed to be hosted on it just because it’s what gets viewers. Dr. Georges Chahine will face hell tomorrow because the segment he gave prior to the Lebanese syndicate of physicians issued its decision on the episode was not amended to reflect that decision. The excuse? “It’s not our property anymore.” Excuse me? Whose property is it?
Such a TV show doesn’t serve to educate people. It doesn’t serve to expose a facet of Lebanese society that’s troubling us all. It doesn’t even better things for any of us. What it does is serve as a marketing ploy, nothing more and nothing less, to this chemist and his molecule while ridiculing every single physician who has taken more than a decade of his life to know how to do his job and get guests to tell everyone that those physicians are nothing but ignorants trying to ride people’s backs.
Lebanese TV doesn’t discuss science. Lebanese TV only deals with trash. There are Lebanese scientists who are working tirelessly on ways to deal with cancer (link). But we get this instead. My mother, a current cancer patient, felt this show ridiculed her struggles with her disease. But let’s just keep on making shortcuts, bypassing regulations and proclaiming persecution in order to emerge as messiahs. We’re Lebanese and we just roll like that. There are absolutely no standards whatsoever that can faze us.