Do charities really want to find cures?

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It really is a conundrum. Charities that support research into finding cures and treatments for particular diseases all seem to say that they want to end that illness, to beat it – finally. But, the question is, do they really?

Recently, some voices have been raised against certain of these charities for ignoring potential cures and continuing to be involved in research into new drug treatments; which means new sales and profits for pharmaceutical companies. Likewise, drug companies sell medicines. They get more money from treating illnesses than curing them.

It is hardly surprising that charities are seen as reluctant to find real cures that will put them out of business. You just need to look at the salaries paid to their chief executives.

Of course, similar comparisons can be done across research charities in various countries around the world but that would generate much more data that would, to my mind, make this post less attractive to read. Therefore, I chose just one country and, being British, that one is the UK.

As I have multiple sclerosis, let’s start with the MS Society in the UK. That, according to the last available annual accounts, ending December 31 2014, has seven employees whose salaries are in excess of £60,000 a year. Two of these are between £90,000 and £100,000 of which one, presumably, is chief executive Michelle Mitchell.

Other notable UK charities who are battling illnesses for which research is still needed include Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Kidney Research UK, Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, Alzheimer’s research UK, Parkinson’s UK and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. There are, of course, many more; this is just an indicative sample.

The chief executives of these charities are paid these salaries, as itemised in their most recently available annual accounts: Cancer Research UK – up to £250,000; British Heart Foundation – £165,000; Parkinson’s UK – up to £120,000; Kidney Research UK – up to £110,000; Alzheimer’s Research UK – up to £100,000; Motor Neurone Disease Association – up to £99,999; and Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund – in excess of £60,000. Note: All ‘up to’ figures should be read as in a £10,000 up to the figure quoted.

Looking at those, mainly, six-figure salaries and you can see that the vocal protesters may have a point or two. It is all very well for a particular charity to be involved with discovering or testing new drugs. That means they can continue in the business of raising money and carry on paying themselves huge salaries.

Now, I am not suggesting that these salaries are not earned, far from it. If they want the best person for the job, they have to pay competitive salaries. But, in doing so, they have to be transparent in their dealings and be genuinely open to new therapies that could cure the particular disease they say that they are committed to defeating.

Nothing would please me more than seeing charities being wound up because cures had been found. What do you think?