Pharmaceutical companies are evil (Part MCXII)

Apparently the stimulus bill includes just over a billion in funding to study the comparative efficacy of medical treatments.  Makes perfect sense in a sensible world– i.e., let's focus our resources on treatments that work best and not waste resources on less effective treatments and drugs.  Of course, that's anathema to the pharmaceutical industry and apparently they are doing all they can to stop it (h/t Kevin Drum).  They'd prefer we keep wasting our money on less effective drugs as long as they can sell them for a profit.  

Of course, what's seriously disturbing is that even when we clearly know which treatments are more effective, the drug lobby can still have their way (via Ezra Klein a while back):

The study cost $130,000,000 and included 42,000 patients. It compared
the effectiveness of four types of blood pressure drugs: a calcium
channel blocker, an alpha blocker, an ACE inhibitor, and a simple
diuretic. The diuretic performed best. It was the sort of finding
worthy of celebration. Health costs are too high, and rising too quick.
Our flabby society gets bad readings when it straps on the blood
pressure cuff, and soon enough we'll all be on these drugs. And here
were study results saying that the diuretic, a generic drug which sells
for pennies, outperformed its pricey, patented competitors. So what
happened? Not a whole lot…

Diuretics sales jumped, but only by a few percentage points. "[They]
should have more than doubled," says Curt Furberg, who chaired the
study. And in a world where doctors prescribe medications based on a
simple reading of the latest evidence, maybe they would have doubled.
But we don't live in that world. We live in a world where
pharmaceutical companies have big budgets and sophisticated public
relations teams…

 The basic reality was this: The pharmaceutical companies had a skilled
team and a lot of money promoting their drugs. No one was promoting the
generic diuretics. Folks looking to things like comparative
effectiveness review to save the health care system should take the
story seriously. Evidence is only effective if physicians use it.

Obviously, a lot needs to be done to reign in the power of the pharmaceutical companies.  They do, of course, do a lot of good (my son Alex would have daily seizures if not for them), but put far too much effort in creating a worthless new drug, E.g., Clarinex, because the previous version, Claritin, just went generic. 

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Fair and Balanced

Of course no serious person takes Fox News seriously, but the degree to which they are truly little more than the media arm of the Republican party is breathtaking.  To wit (via Media Matters):

Normal
0

Normal
0

Fox passes off GOP press release as its own
research — typo and all

Summary: In purporting to "take a look back"
at how the economic recovery plan "grew, and grew, and grew," Fox
News' Jon Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various
news sources from those time periods — all of which came directly from a
Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen
graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release.

I guess the primary reason to get your news from Fox news instead of RNC press releases is that at least you get video to go with it.  

 

 

Centrism and stimulus

I haven't been following the stimulus debate quite as closely as I should, but from all accounts it is pretty clear that the Senate "compromise" worked out by the "centrists" is 1) probably dumb and 2) certainly arbitrary.  I'll farm it out to Ezra Klein:

But the gang of job-cutters — to steal Dean Baker's elegant formulation
— hasn't justified their cuts on grounds of either size or efficacy.
Why is $900 billion a stimulus package they would have to oppose, but
$800 billion is a stimulus package they can support? There's been no
explanation for the superiority of $800 billion against $600 billion,
or even against $1.2 trillion. Nelson has not argued that the likely
output gap over the next two years has been overstated in CBO estimates
— and way overstated by Goldman-Sachs' estimates — and thus the stimulus is too large for our purposes.

Nor have they argued that the $40 billion in state aid and $20
billion in school construction will be less stimulative than the $70
billion Alternative Minimum Tax patch, of which exactly 0.5% goes
towards the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution (which are, of
course, the folks most in need of relief, and most likely to spend it
quickly).

In fact, they haven't really argued anything at all. Rather, it's
been a dazzling display of the most analytically bankrupt strain of
centrism: The belief that the right answer lies, by definition,
somewhere between the answers that are already on the table. The
Nelson-Collins bill hasn't been justified in terms of virtues so much
as in terms of abstract numerical positioning. It's a neat trick, and
widely applicable. If one party announced a bill mandating that all
Americans must bathe themselves in mud and brambles, and the other
party opposed the "Mud and Brambles Bathing Act of 2009," Collins and
Nelson would be right there to explain that the American people are
tired of dogma and interest group politics and they have brokered a
compromise mandating that all Americans take a monthly mud and brambles
shower instead.

Ezra also links to this comic which wonderfully sums it up:

 

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