Friday, June 20, 2003

Frontline had a piece on the high cost of prescription drugs last night which highlighted the two different approaches to the problem - Oregon's "Consumer Report" strategy and Maine's price control strategy. It was pretty enlightening as to American attitudes towards pharmaceutical companies.

There seemed to be a couple of problems that critics have of our system:
a) Prescription drugs cost less in Canada.
b) Pharmaceutical companies make too high a profit.
c) Big drug companies spend too much time advertising on television and marketing to doctors.

The simple answer to some was to install price controls. Wow, what a stroke of genius. Why didn't we think of that before. If you want something but don't like how much it costs, get the government to set the price. Can we have price controls on Mercedes? My self-esteem is deeply bruised because I don't have one. How about plastic surgery?

I'm going to make a statement - see if you can disagree with it: It is human nature to work hard when the reward is high and get lazy when the reward for hard work is small or non-existant.

Here is another one: It is human nature to take greater risks when the reward is high and to become conservative and take accept less risk when the reward for risk taking is small or non-existant.

The reasons why capitalism succeeds and socialism fails are contained within those two statements.

If we tell drug companies that they can't set the price for the drugs they sell, only the drugs that are obvious, easy and have wide application will get developed. This is because the companies are made up of executives who must worry about profit and loss and invested in by people who want a return on their investment. Once the profit levels go down, the desirability of the company's stock also goes down and it attracts less capital for investment in research and development. With a smaller R&D budget, money will only be spent on the drugs with the greatest chance of success AND best potential profitability.

How many people may die needlessly because price controls discourage the invention of new drugs we'll never know. But I guarantee you that, if controls become widespread, those deaths will occur.

The system is broken, but price controls aren't the answer. Oregon is more on target with its "consumer reports" law. They encourage the use of generic brands with the same efficacy as the name brand newer drugs. I'm not sure that there is enough flexibility in their system (although they do allow doctors to specify "no substitutions") but the direction is completely correct - educate the consumer and make them responsibile for the money they spend.

America spends too much on prescription drugs because the system is set up to encourage laziness on the part of both the doctors and the patients. For example, if my drug plan specifies that I make a ten dollar co-payment regardless of the cost of the drug, what incentive do I have to compare prices? If the doctor knows this, why counsel the patient about generics when it's easier to jot down the name brand and get on to the next patient?

I actually heard a doctor on the program say that doctors don't want to take the time to educate their patients about generic drugs! It was also claimed that doctors got so many free samples and literature from the drug companies promoting the new drugs that we couldn't expect them not to prescribe them. So we need to set price controls to allow doctors to shirk their responsibility to educate themselves and their patients about the drugs they prescribe?

The solution is to make doctors and patients responsible for understanding the alternatives and selecting the lowest cost drug for the job. This will put pressure on the drug companies to reduce prices of new drugs even while they are patent protected and not subject to competition from generic drug makers. The result will be that costs to consumers will be reduced AND (this will make the anti-capitalists happy) the profits of the big drug companies will come down. All without the federal and state governments intervening to dictate prices.

Tort reform is another element of reducing costs in the health care system. Part of what may drive doctors to prescribe the hot new drug over the older generic may be related to ambulance chasing trial lawyers (this also probably drives a lot of unnecessary lab examinations). But that is the subject of another rant.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

From MSN.com via Little Green Footballs:
''They missed a good opportunity to shut up,'' Berlusconi told reporters in response to French criticism of his decision not to meet Palestinian leaders during a recent trip to Israel.

Is he great or what? No matter what else you say about the guy, Berlusconi's got a great sense of humor. And he shares my disdain for the French!


Drudge Report has a great piece on John Kerry's two-faced campaign blather about Iraq.

"[W]hile we should always seek to take significant international actions on a multilateral rather than a unilateral basis whenever that is possible, if in the final analysis we face what we truly believe to be a grave threat to the well-being of our Nation or the entire world and it cannot be removed peacefully, we must have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise."  (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, 11/9/97, pp. S12254 -S12255)

The Democrats are not going to get away with playing both sides of the fence on this one. The internet makes it too easy to go back and check what they were saying about this during the Clinton Administration and after 9/11.

Kerry has no chance to be president. He just needs to take his wealthy wife and go retire to France where he can be surrounded by backstabbing assholes like himself.

Time.com asks:

Will We See Gore TV?

Can you imagine anything more boring than a TV or radio show hosted by the GoreBot?

The article is really about the left's pursuit of a media outlet to counteract their perceived "right wing" control of talk-radio.

I guess they're just upset that conservatives have found a way around the liberal controlled major media and are now able to make their argument directly to the public without liberal "unbiased reporters" putting their spin on it.

What in the hell are they whining about? Robert Scheer still publishes delusional left-wing screeds from the pages of the Los Angeles Times. Maureen Dowd is still running a disinformation campaign against the adminstration from the New York Times. And her stablemate, Paul Krugman, spews liberal bile at the Great Satan Bush at every opportunity. The last time I checked, NPR was still on the air with over $400 million dollars in public funding per year.

It's a free country, though, and I encourage their efforts to set up a liberal cable network whole-heartedly. It will be about as successful as Donahue. You want to know why? Because to get that point of view all Americans have to do is turn on Dan Rather or Peter Jennings.

But maybe we can get a real "Janet Reno's Dance Party" - that would make the whole thing worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Koorosh Afshar writes a chilling account of life in Iran on National Review Online.

This clash was inevitable. The more educated urban population of Tehran has been living a double life for some years now. Consumption of western music and literature in private. Consumption of alcohol and normal man-woman relations in private as well. But when Iranians leave the safe-haven of their homes, they dress and act as the mullah's require.

The unrest has been simmering in the university dormitories and the homes of the students and teachers. It had to boil to the surface eventually. The question is whether it will lead to the fall of the theocratic regime or whether the student protests will be brutally crushed as in 1989 in Tienamen Square.

The United States can have something to say about that. Unlike the situation in China, we can influence what happens here. But the administration must carefully consider what it says publicly. America cannot back away from the Iranian student movement after encouraging them as we did after the first Gulf War to the Iraqi resistance.

If we encourage them to escalate the conflict, the United States must be prepared to take all steps necessary to ensure the success of the students in toppling the Iranian government. To do less, at that point, would once again leave us with bloody hands.

I believe we must be consistent in our encouragement of people everywhere to throw off the shackles of slavery and establish freedom and democracy. It's not just the Iranian students who are watching America's response - oppressed people all over the world are waiting to see if our actions will match our words.

I hope we don't let them down.

Courtesy of Instapundit, more evidence of John Pilger's lying.

It feels somewhat like "piling on" at this point but it's fun so let's do it anyway!

I wonder if Carl Levin will launch an investigation of Pilger, Phillip Adams, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and CNN to determine if they exaggerated their case against the United States?


Reuters reports:

Another American woman remains in the building with her children, and the United States is in talks with the Saudi authorities to resolve the case, Reeker said.

Reeker said he thought the group who left was one that had been there since early June. The other group took refuge in the consulate last weekend......

Under Saudi law, the husbands have a strong claim to custody over the children, who are considered Saudi citizens. The husbands also have the right to decide whether their wives and children can leave the country.

The State Department has been widely criticized over the past two years, both for turning an American woman away from the embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh and for failing to secure access to children held by Saudi fathers.

U.S. diplomats have said they do what they can for American women in Saudi Arabia but they cannot break Saudi law.

This has to stop. The United States government cannot stand idly by while Saudi men essentially kidnap their children (and sometimes wives) and take the back to the Kingdom. I don't care what Saudi law says and I don't care what the Crown Prince thinks about it - when these men violate the rights of American citizens our government should step in and rescue the women and children.

If that pisses them off, tough shit. They'll either get over it or they can do something about it, like cut off the oil. And then we'll just turn on the spigot in Iraq and let those bastards drink their oil.

There needs to be a thorough house cleaning at the State Department. Start with the nitwits that allow this kind of abuse of Americans to go on and follow that up closely with the removal of every unprofessional moron with the temerity to have a cartoon ridiculing their boss, President Bush, on their desk. That should make a good beginning.

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