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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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A Prescription for Disaster

By Richard E. Ralston

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.

The stated reason for the plan is to provide Americans with medicines they could not otherwise afford. The Republicans don't ask why drugs are out of the reach of so many customers. Nor do they ask how those who cannot afford their own drugs will now be able to pay through new premiums for everyone else's drugs.

Higher costs will be the result of enacting these prescription drug plans, based on the established track record of government involvement with health care. Medicare, which cost $3 billion a year in 1967 costs $250 billion today and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will cost $474 billion a year by 2012 without any new prescription benefits. The idea that government involvement will reduce the cost of the development of anything as complicated and high-tech as life-saving drugs is ludicrous: The government, as Americans well know, cannot even control the cost of postage.

Rather than reduce the cost of drugs, like all government medical plans the new program will just add more of the poison that created the disease. Rigid controls and the vast bureaucracies of Medicare and the FDA already add billions of dollars to the cost of drugs. This, not the market place, is responsible for the current high cost of drugs. New government programs and "benefits" will further explode drug costs and result in rationing, restrictions, regulations, less research, and fewer drugs. Adding yet more federal bureaucracy to administer another program will just layer on more expense.

Fewer new drugs will become available as a consequence of these plans. When the government is "surprised" after the escalation in drug costs that result from a plan that promises to pay all of the bills, it will inevitably proceed to price controls and other new restrictions on drug companies

How do these Republican advocates of less government and free markets justify this huge new program? The woefully inadequate fig leaf they provide is the introduction of competition to Medicare from private insurance companies. However such competition will be available temporarily in only six cities during a six year test period beginning seven years from now (2010). What a triumph for Capitalism! Yet Senator Edward Kennedy says it will destroy Medicare. Yea. Sure.

There is one minor feature of the bill that would help seniors pay for their prescriptions. It would allow Americans to contribute to tax free Health Savings Accounts in conjunction with the purchase of high deductible health insurance policies. But this single feature is not nearly enough to make the legislation palatable.

If the government really cares about the availability of medicine, it can start decreasing rather than increasing controls over the pharmaceutical industry. What the government really needs to expand is not government, but freedom: a free market that encourages drug companies to develop plenty of new drugs to compete with the old. Free markets—including such features as Health Savings Accounts—would provide patients and physicians with better drugs at a more reasonable cost than the heavy hand of government.

Americans concerned about the cost of their drugs and their own health need to reject this crude attempt to bribe them with their own money.

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

Copyright © 2003 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.

 

 

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