Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Bush vs the Old People, Cont'd.

Our story so far...

The Bush administration is horrified at the prospect of legalizing drug imports that could help the elderly buy groceries AND afford their meds. First it was unsafe! Only the U.S., with its powerful yet kindly pharmaceutical industry, backed by the noble and incorruptible FDA, could ensure safe drugs for its citizens. Even if it hurts them more than it hurts us, said the government, old people must be stopped before they buy again! Then when the embarrassment of rounding up chartered buses of dangerous elders wore off, it was all about the terrorists, getting into the drugs! And sometimes it was all those things and whatever else someone in the White House boiler room could think up, all at once!

And now the most recent incarnation of the Bush "twist-in-the-wind" policy is invoking the specter of government regulation---by its own hand! In a multi-pronged attack of revisionist excuse-making, Bushco now insists that it would cost too much to let drug imports in and would hurt American drug development and the US drug industry. So to prevent such harm from coming to our poor widdle Big Pharma, and protect the health and safety of our nation, this virulently anti-regulation administration suggests the only way to let imports in would be in small, very heavily regulated quantities via commercial middlemen rather than by individual purchase. Of course, they note that such a deliberatly byzantine arrangement, with all its hoops and ladders, would slow down the process and make it so expensive that the savings to consumers would end up being only 1-2%...a boon for Big Pharma, that wants to continue milking the US cash cow and would be miffed at any whiff of real competition. All this salt in the wound of a rash of failed and faulty drugs and devices approved by the FDA, here, here, and here, followed up by the FDA's attempts to block liability lawsuits against maufacturers by injured parties.

Tell me you could make this stuff up. Well, God bless Robert Reich. Today on NPR's Morning Edition he did a piece on just this subject, and with more brevity and eloquence than I can. Luckily, The American Prospect ran it today on their website and you can see it for yourself. He is particularly acute on this "tort reform" obssession of Bush's that promises to remove the only other avenue consumers have to protect themselves and to correct industry negligence and greed---negligence and greed, I would add, that your government has no intention of checking.

27,000 dead. And that's just one drug (Vioxx), one company (Merck). What they won't be able to accomplish if they just all work together.


Rob said...

Reich rarely fails to impress me. His ability to select the core issue and expose its actual impact is ever-present, and his calm, rational tone makes his commentaries all the more impressive.

Protecting the drug companies and allowing the FDA's standards and powers to erode only serves to underline how disinterested Bush & Co. are in the needs of the populace, and makes ever more a mockery of their claim to moral and ethical values.

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