Should pharma be protected if FDA approves a medication/device?

This news is deeply disturbing to me, if unsurprising. I'm glad George Bush is looking out for the corporate interests.

No wonder many of my informants are angry and distrustful of the pharmaceutical companies. There really is very little reason to trust that there are effective mechanisms monitoring the medical world. Certainly the confluence of politics and research suggest that it is not the public's best interest that is driving many medical "advances".

A friend's husband engaged me in a conversation about capitalism and medical technologies, arguing, as capitalist-thinkers tend to, that the U.S. was so advanced precisely because of the free market driving innovation. He was unwilling to fully admit that Americans' health (regardless of socio-economic status) suffers because of the way in which we have structured our health system. One of the few lessons that I retained from my public health education was that in countries with smaller differences in wealth between the wealthiest and poorest usually had significantly better health outcomes than in countries like the U.S. where the disparity between the richest and the poorest is enormous. (And though I have not seen Michael Moore's documentary, though I really ought to, the obvious is also that socialized medical systems usually have healthier citizens. I do not have current data on that, however, so perhaps I ought not to make that claim.) I simply do not believe that you can place health on the free market and allow insurers and pharmaceutical companies to determine what's best for patients. I thought this New York Times magazine article was useful in demonstrating what a slippery slope it is between medical ethics and pharmaceutical ethics. It seems either the U.S. needs to stop pretending that medicine and health are a basic human right (that is: a privilege for a select few) or commit to separating business from well-being. The conceit of playing it both ways, or however it suits at the moment, seems to me much more destructive than picking a side and sticking with it.

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