2005-01-28 / Columnists

The Progressive

Health Care Delivery 2
By John Paul Culotta

A few months the Progressive wrote a column regarding health care delivery. On November 19, 2004 it was reported Food and Drug administration (FDA) reviewer David Graham said before the Senate Finance Committee that the United States was ‘virtually defenseless” against unsafe drugs being allowed in the marketplace. Most Americans believe in the free market system and do not want unnecessary government regulation in any industry. There are times though when the invisible hand that regulated the marketplace needs intervention of the government for the public welfare.

Drug companies are responsible to their stockholders and the need to generate profits is their first priority. Doctor Marcia Angeel, a former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, in her book “The Truth About Companies” tells us “The industry is also being hit with a wave of government investigations and civil and criminal lawsuits. The litany of charges includes illegally overcharging Medicaid and Medicare, paying kickbacks to doctors, engaging in anticompetitive practices, colluding with generic companies to keep generic drugs off the market, illegally promoting drugs for unapproved uses, engaging in misleading direct -to consumer advertising, and of course covering up evidence.” The drug industry after the reelection of Bush/Cheney breathed a sigh of relief. The administration in Washington DC has been cooperative with the drug industry. The day after the announcement of the reelection drug and energy stocks soared on the stock market. The profit margins in these two industries have been phenomenal. While the drug industry profit margins increased, the citizens of the United States were faced with the flu vaccine shortage. Dr. Angell wrote: “In 2001 there were serious shortages of many important drugs including certain anesthetics, antivenoms for poisonous snakebites, steroids for premature infants, antidotes for certain overdoses, an anticlotting drug for hemophilia, an injectable drug used in cardiac resuscitation, an antibiotic for gonorrhea, a drug to induce labor in childbirth, and vaccines against flu and pneumonia in adults.”

In the November issue of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) there was an article entitled “The Insiders”. In the article Peter Rost M.D. vice president of marketing for the endocrinology division of Pfizer Inc. when reviewing Dr. Angell’s book wrote, “I guess I’m not supposed to like this book but the truth is I thought it was fantastic.” He also said “It is obvious to me that probably tens of thousands of Americans are dying today because they can’t afford drugs. And once you recognize that is the case, if you don’t speak up you’re really part of the problem.” The article also stated physicians were paid to promote drugs by the drug companies.

In the same AARP bulletin there was an article entitled “Fatal Mistakes”. Every year at least 98,000 Americans die and millions are injured as a result of medical errors. Nursing homes according to the AARP bulletin are able to restrict visits by family members if the family member complains about care the home is giving. Sometimes visits by family members are monitored by staff in nursing homes.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in the November 2004 NASW News wrote about Daniel Buccino co- founder and co director of the Baltimore Psychotherapy Institute who wrote an op-ed article in the Baltimore Sun. He stressed that talk therapy may be more effective that medication in treating psychiatric disorders. The FDA has warned the public that some antidepressants can be dangerous. It is evident that the issues of health care delivery (cost, effectiveness, how research can be done, patients and family members rights. and prevention of error) need nationwide attention and reform. The government needs to be more concerned with the public welfare than the profit margins of major corporations.

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