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Commentary

Waiting on the Government
Perhaps those at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who are responsible for more delays in the approval of the drug Eteplirsen were inspired by the imaginative approach of their colleagues at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who compared the long delays in treating veterans to waiting in line at Walt Disney World. It is "the quality of the overall experience" that the VA says we should consider, not the time it takes. . . . Read more

First, Do No Harm: A Few Simple Rules for the FDA
You and your physician should not have to ask the FDA for permission to use a medication. If you have a terminal illness, you should especially not have to ask the FDA for permission to live. Unfortunately current law says that you do. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that you must comply with that law. . . . Read more

FDA Horror Stories
You may think you have the right of access to drugs that could save your life. But at the urging of the Federal Drug Administration, the U.S. Supreme Court does not agree.
 
The FDA has vigorously defended its power to deny drugs to the terminally ill, and it has been successful. Apparently, you have no right to the use of any drug without government permission, no matter how long it takes to get it, if ever. And the FDA has no sense of urgency about anything except the preservation of its own powers. . . . Read more

The Power of the FDA Must End
The Food and Drug Administration is a huge, unwieldy, distant and indifferent bureaucracy. After more than a century of regulation, it follows a well-established pattern in the history of the U.S. Government. It relentlessly, voraciously and persistently seeks to increase its spending, regulations, authority and staff. The result is the subordination of the best interests of patients in favor of serving the FDA’s congressional and ideological patrons. . . . Read more

Asking the Government for Permission to Live
The Food and Drug Administration has gone to court to prevent the Colorado-based firm Regenerative Sciences from using stem cells developed in one part of your body (bone marrow) to repair damage in other parts of your body, such as joints. The FDA objects to the fact that these cells are chemicals, the use of which the agency has the power to regulate even though the cells are taken from your body to later be injected back into your body. . . . Read more

Freedom from the FDA
The FDA adds billions of dollars to the cost of developing new drugs and delays their use for years. Yet it is so obsessed with predicting exactly how each drug will perform for any patient—with any condition, in any dosage, for any length of time and in any combination with any other drug or combination of drugs in any dosage—that it often loses sight of safety. So a few years ago the FDA proposed the creation of a new "Drug Safety Board" to provide for drug safety. One would have thought that was the purpose of the whole agency. . . . Read more

Finding Alternatives to the Food and Drug Administration
First of all, we need to realize that neither the FDA nor anyone else can do the impossible. When a new drug comes to market, no one can know all of its side effects, nor the impact on all other medical conditions that a patient might have, nor how it might interact with any dosage of any combination of an infinite number of other drugs—nor the cumulative effect of ten, twenty, or thirty years of use. If omniscience is required, no new drug will come to market. The good news, however, is that computers and the Internet now provide excellent tools to accumulate and tabulate data on the impact of every new drug. . . . Read more

Free Markets: The Key to New Drugs at a Reasonable Price
The U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends $22 billion a year on research and development of new drugs. Unlike government-funded research—which can be spent to develop drugs that no one needs or that duplicate existing drugs—pharmaceutical companies must get results. In order to recover their investment, their new drugs actually have to work. The continuing flow of new drugs that these firms produce is the best hope we have to treat and cure our ailments. . . . Read more

A Prescription for Disaster
At a cost of $400 billion over 10 years, Congressional Republicans have agreed in Conference Committee—with the enthusiastic encouragement of a Republican president—to the greatest expansion of government in two generations. This new Medicare program can only result in what government supplied health care has always produced in the U.S. and elsewhere: fewer new drugs and a lot more government. Of course, after a few years in practice we all know the program will end up costing a lot more. . . . Read more

 


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Prescription Drug Advertising Is Good for All of Us

By Richard E. Ralston

When you see a commercial for a new car, a new movie, or a new brand of breakfast cereal it’s because the manufacturers of those products want to incur as much advertising expense as possible so they can pass the cost along to you. Then you can’t afford to buy their product. Isn’t that what they teach in Business 101 as the best way to make big profits? Of course not.

When you see a commercial for a new car, a new movie, or a new brand of breakfast cereal it’s because the manufacturers of those products want to incur as much advertising expense as possible so they can pass the cost along to you. Then you can’t afford to buy their product. Isn’t that what they teach in Business 101 as the best way to make big profits? Of course not.

In order to recover the cost of developing and manufacturing a new product, it must be able to find its “market”—those customers who think the product provides a value greater to them than it’s price. Manufacturers need to find the optimal number of customers for a new product through advertising. This allows them to sell the product at a lower unit price.

Critics of the pharmaceutical industry demonstrate willful ignorance of the basic principles of economics and marketing. They say firms that develop breakthrough drugs after investing billions of dollars in research are not to be commended but persecuted—because they won’t keep quiet about them. Those who attack drug advertising are just looking for an excuse to impose government regulation and price controls. They pretend ignorance of marketing because they want to destroy individual choice and free markets, and replace them with government micro-management of all aspects of health care. They are also conveniently ignorant of other principles, such as “freedom of speech.”

Effective advertising of new drugs provides obvious benefits. Most importantly, it informs those with medical conditions about new treatments (including those who may have given up on getting relief). It may motivate them to discuss the condition with a physician for the first time, creating an opportunity for the physician to undertake testing and make a correct diagnosis. The physician may prescribe another medication better suited to the patient’s needs. Or, the physician’s knowledge of the condition’s serious consequences may alter the treatment course instead of just addressing the symptoms reported by the patient.

Critics maintain that it would be better if none of this came about, rather than allow a patient to ask for a drug by name. A patient who rejects the treatment recommend by his doctor to hold out for something he’s seen on TV is foolish. A good doctor will prescribe something more appropriate if that is called for. Keeping patients barefoot and ignorant is not the solution. Despite the tireless efforts of pharmaceutical salesmen, physicians in general practice or internal medicine can’t possibly keep up with all the features of the many new drugs and how they might apply to every patient. Why shouldn’t those who feel the pain be on the lookout for new remedies?

Those who want to eliminate drug advertising, or tax it, or use it as an excuse to impose controls want to eliminate, tax, and control the flow of information to consumers—information far more important than a new light beer.

You’d think that the last group that would want to eliminate advertising is politicians. Yet Senators Wyden and Sununu have proposed bi-partisan legislation to cut the price that the government pays for some of the drugs it gives away. Not all drugs, just the drugs that advertise to consumers. Price controls are destructive enough, but cutting the price just for the people who get them for free is ridiculous. These Senators obviously don’t know or care about the impact this legislation will have on paying customers in the marketplace.

When you see a commercial for a new drug it offers the potential to make somebody feel better. Let’s leave those commercials and the drug companies alone. What would really make us all feel better is less advertising urging us to elect politicians who want to control our lives.

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

Copyright © 2005 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.

 

 

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