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The Demonization of a Life-Saving Industry
Intellectual Conservative ^ | 27 November 2004 | Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan

Posted on 11/29/2004 11:51:02 AM PST by softengine

America's pharmaceutical industry is under attack. Critics have pejoratively nicknamed the industry "Big Pharma" (to conjure up an image of it being in a line-up next to "Big Tobacco") and characterize it as uncaring, duplicitous, profit-hungry and manipulative. The resentment of the industry is palpable -- whether in my own conversations with relatives and friends (particularly elderly and/or infirm ones) or in Congress, where advocates are demanding the legalization of drug importation from Canada and elsewhere in a desperate (and in the long run, futile) attempt to bring prices down.

Perhaps nowhere does the strident criticism of the industry come together in a "perfect storm" as it does in Dr. Marcia Angell's new book, The Truth About Drug Companies.

Angell comes to this attack with impeccable credentials. She spent years as editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, and for that reason alone, she is a force to be reckoned with. Her take-home message is that Big Pharma is depriving poor and middle-class citizens of the life-saving, life-enhancing drugs that they deserve by charging exorbitant fees and making people choose between having food in the refrigerator or medicine in the cabinet.

Further, she argues that the industry, which describes itself as innovative and research and development oriented, actually produces few new drugs, only pumping out "me too" or copycat versions. Dr. Angell recommends radical measures such as the government taking over the industry and treating it as a public utility.

Her arguments, however, are contradictory, inconsistent and often in error. For example:

She claims in the same breath that a) essential life-saving medications are withheld from needy people by greedy companies, and b) people are unnecessarily medicated, that drugs do not work and there are no truly innovative drugs out there. Which way is it? Are Rx companies saving lives with spectacular new drugs or are they not?

She (like most consumers) thinks drugs are different from any other consumer product. They are an "entitlement," because they are essential to life and health.

But why are pharmaceuticals not like other consumer products? Housing and food are essential for life -- is it the right of everyone to have these at below-market prices? Certainly, our society has a "safety net" for people who truly cannot afford these basics. What entitles people to expensive pharmaceuticals? How many older Americans would not think twice about discretionary spending annually at the rate of $10,000, $20,000 or more for cruises, golf, clothes, dining out or other non-essential fare but are outraged when they have to spend $5,000 per year on drugs that keep them alive and healthy?

Dr Angell argues that drug company profits are too high and drugs cost too much.

But in making this argument, she overlooks the importance of economic incentives for innovation. The "pot of gold" prospect is what fuels research and development. What is wrong with big profits if companies are producing drugs that prolong and enhance our lives? It is a win-win scenario.

When she states drugs are too expensive, the logical follow-up is, "Too expensive compared to what?" Premature death? Weeks or months of hospitalization? Pain and suffering, say from osteoarthritis?

She claims that there are no new drugs coming to market -- that they are all copycat drugs.

This simply is not true. In the past 10 years, over 300 new drugs have been approved by FDA, including vaccines, medicines to treat AIDS, modest steps toward treating Alzheimer's, a spectrum of anti-depressants and of course miraculous cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Most incredible perhaps is the fact that Dr. Angell maintains that importing drugs from Canada and elsewhere poses no health risks. At best this is just plain naïve. Earlier this month, there was a warning from acting FDA Director Lester Crawford about the possibility of terrorists using contaminated pharmaceuticals as a weapon against us. That should cause everyone to reflect on the real risks associated with importing less expensive prescription drugs, which claim to be “from Canada" but could be from anywhere.

Her final rallying call is that we would be all better off if pharmaceutical research and development were taken over by the government, or if we at least put in national price controls to keep prices down. I wonder if Dr. Angell knows how many new drugs countries with price controls like Canada put on the market each year. The answer is none.

Price controls or nationalization of the industry would be equivalent to morphing the current energetic, innovative, productive private-sector drug industry (think FedEx) into the Rx equivalent of the U.S. Post Office.

Random House, the publisher, has declared this to be a "deeply unsettling book."

I agree. It has great potential for destroying the goose laying the golden Rx eggs.

The Truth About the Drug Companies is available on Amazon.com.

Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan is president of the American Council on Science and Health.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: drugs; government; health; healthcare; medicine; pharma; prescriptiondrugs
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1 posted on 11/29/2004 11:51:03 AM PST by softengine
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To: softengine

I know I am dumb , but Damned if I can understand how Pharmaceutical companies can sell the same drug in Canada cheaper than they sell it here. Why should we have to save money by shipping those drugs from the US to Canada then back to the US. It doesnt make sense.


2 posted on 11/29/2004 11:54:26 AM PST by sgtbono2002
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To: softengine
Abolish the FDA and I won't feel nearly as much rancor against the pharmaceutical industry.

Having worked in it for many years, it is my opinion that the only purpose of the FDA is to breed corrupt parasites who are rewarded for their deference with nice private sector jobs when their government service is over.

3 posted on 11/29/2004 11:55:23 AM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help fund terrorism.)
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To: softengine
Bump.

Twenty-odd years ago if you had a heart attack and managed to get to the ER, they could zap you and thump you -- and maybe you'd live after a long, painful, possibly crippling recovery.

Now, every day there are people walking out of the hospital the next day, saved by "Big Pharma" and those greedy hospital personnel...and no one has even an ounce of thankfulness in their hearts...

4 posted on 11/29/2004 11:56:29 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: softengine

Wait until Michael Moore's new movie comes out - it's all about the "evil" drug industry. Of course, one of the articles of faith of the kook left is about how corporations in general are evil, and how the government, by contrast, is good.


5 posted on 11/29/2004 11:56:43 AM PST by I still care (America is not the problem - it is the solution..)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Stop those ridiculous tv ads.


6 posted on 11/29/2004 11:57:22 AM PST by Bossy Gillis
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To: softengine; MeekOneGOP; GeronL
What's even worse is that prevaricator extraordinaire, Michael Moore, who has a new hit piece in the can-supposedly-documenting the depredations of "Big Pharma."

As if we haven't endured enough of his lies for one decade.

7 posted on 11/29/2004 11:57:25 AM PST by Do not dub me shapka broham
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To: softengine

The fact that Michael Moore has announced that his next movie is an attack job on the pharmacutical industry is all I need to know.


8 posted on 11/29/2004 11:58:37 AM PST by narby
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To: Bossy Gillis
Cialis spokeswoman:

I'll have you know that are ads are very done in a tasteful and understated manner. For goodness sake! Are you accusing our new director, Ron Jeremy, of being lowbrow???

9 posted on 11/29/2004 12:00:03 PM PST by Do not dub me shapka broham
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To: softengine

Why should books cost $30-40 dollars? Authors make way to much in royalites, as do publishers, and bookstores..Let's have a fair price..


10 posted on 11/29/2004 12:00:22 PM PST by ken5050
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To: Do not dub me shapka broham

Unfortunately, the pharma industry's marketing practices are ripe for criticism. So much wasted $, it's beyond comprehension. And I say unfortunately, because MM shouldn't be the one to expose it.


11 posted on 11/29/2004 12:01:21 PM PST by falpro
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

It takes 300$ million now for a new drug to get approval. Just how do these people think the industry is going to recoup the costs? ( Answer: they don't , it just costs allot so therefore they must be greedy )


12 posted on 11/29/2004 12:02:05 PM PST by Nateman (The enemies of reason are allies of evil.)
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To: ken5050
Bill Clinton:

(Biting quivering lip. Making that weird, Clintonesque hand gesture toward the cameras.)

MY BOOK ADVANCE WAS NOT EXCESSIVE!

13 posted on 11/29/2004 12:03:31 PM PST by Do not dub me shapka broham
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To: softengine

Bump to me


14 posted on 11/29/2004 12:04:03 PM PST by Psycho_Bunny (I know a great deal about the Middle East because Ive been raising Arabian horses" Patrick Swazey)
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To: falpro

They have so much money, they don't know what to do with it all. Many consulting and IT companies are busy relieving them of it.


15 posted on 11/29/2004 12:04:05 PM PST by proxy_user
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To: sgtbono2002
Damned if I can understand how Pharmaceutical companies can sell the same drug in Canada cheaper than they sell it here.

Because the Canadian health monopoly is setting the prices companies can charge.

Basically, since drug companies must make money on a drug years after all the development money is spent, the Canadians are stealing some part of their drug supply from us.

The worst thing that could happen for the Canadians is to allow US customers to buy at Canadian prices. All that will happen is that Canadians will quickly be forced to pay full boat for drugs like we do because the drug companies must get the return on their costs or go bust. Canadians would pay what we do, or they wouldn't get the drugs.

16 posted on 11/29/2004 12:05:01 PM PST by narby
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To: neverdem; boop

Good article - what's frustrating is that the Marcia Angell's of the world will get all the important media soundbites, and all the face time in front of congres, while the other side is never (adequately) presented.


17 posted on 11/29/2004 12:05:14 PM PST by softengine (We MUST bust Sandy "I stuff my pants" Berger.)
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To: softengine

Angell sounds like Hillary. Wonder if MM's movie and this book have anything to do with Hillary being the candidate in '08?


18 posted on 11/29/2004 12:13:10 PM PST by penowa
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To: ken5050

Why should books cost $30-40 dollars? Authors make way to much in royalites, as do publishers, and bookstores..Let's have a fair price..
___________________________________________________________

As a side note...many authors fail to even earn back their advances, let alone make a buck off of royalties. I am aspiring to be a published writer, and the research I have done tells me that's pretty much the industry standard...with most first books, esp. Unless you are already famous -or infamous!-, write about controversial or current topics, or already an established author, you really can't hope to make much. (Unless you wanna crank out cheesy romance novels, lol!) Publishers and booksellers are a different kettle of fish altogether.


19 posted on 11/29/2004 12:14:38 PM PST by exnavychick (Just my two cents, as usual.)
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To: sgtbono2002

Its a small market; the drug companies can afford to give them a small discount because they can make it up in the much bigger market next door.

In other words, the US consumer pays for Canada's discount.

Which is why I'm in favor of allowing cross-border drug sales. If drugs are being resold back into the US market, the Canadians will lose their discount. They know this, actually, and have already started to prohibit drug sales into the US. Which is fine. If the practice is to be outlawed, let the Canadians do it. We shouldn't be in the practice of protecting their discount for them.


20 posted on 11/29/2004 12:15:09 PM PST by marron
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