Weekend Musing

The first wealth is health. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are as skeptical as I am about most of modern medicine’s miracle drugs, you might not want to read this book review. It will just reinforce what you already assume is the truth…

Big Pharma’s Golden Eggs – washingtonpost.com

Once upon a time there was an industry called pharma that was interested in doing well and doing good. Run by doctors and chemists, drug companies employed battalions of researchers whose scientific efforts resulted by mid-century in a flood of life-saving drugs, including antibiotics, vaccines, tranquilizers, antihistamines and steroids. As George Merck, president of the company founded by his father, put it in 1950, “We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow. . . .”

And how. Today, of course, drug companies are hugely profitable enterprises and the darlings of both Wall Street and K Street, having spent more on lobbying than any other industry between 1998 and 2004. Their transformation from small chemical manufacturers to marketing machines with sidelines in drug development is owed in large measure to blockbuster drugs. This is the term for any medication that generates more than $1 billion in sales annually. Such drugs as Nexium, Celebrex, Claritin and, of course, Viagra, whose brand names are household words, became blockbusters not because they save lives, or even because they are necessarily more effective than other remedies, but because their manufacturers employ some of the cleverest marketing on the planet.

And yet, every time someone starts pointing this out in public, the Pharma apologists continue to speak of the industry as it was, not as it has become. It all goes back to the day that non-advertising became the exception rather than the rule.

Glaxo’s novel idea was to link its drug to the relief of a common but minor condition, then make consumers and doctors worry that the condition was a sign of a more worrisome disease. In this case, the minor condition was old-fashioned heartburn. Glaxo warned that heartburn was a sign of chronic reflux, which the company dubbed Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD. Soon, millions of Americans were saying goodbye plop plop, fizz fizz, hello Zantac, an expensive prescription drug they started taking every day to ward off GERD, even though most episodes of reflux go away without treatment, and most heartburn can be relieved with an over-the-counter remedy.

So now in every magazine and on every television channel we are warned of diseases that didn’t even exists a generation ago.And if you listen closely, the side effects of the drugs sound worse in a lot of occasions than the disease…Go figure.

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And if the above doesn’t make you think, add in the following…

Drug companies near to winning a legal shield | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

For years, Johnson & Johnson obscured evidence that its popular Ortho Evra birth control patch delivered much more estrogen than standard birth control pills, potentially increasing the risk of blood clots and strokes, according to internal company documents.

But because the Food and Drug Administration approved the patch, the company is arguing in court that it cannot be sued by women who claim that they were injured by the product — even though its old label inaccurately described the amount of estrogen it released.

This legal argument is called pre-emption. After decades of being dismissed by courts, the tactic now appears to be on the verge of success, lawyers for plaintiffs and drug companies say.

The Bush administration has argued strongly in favor of the doctrine, which holds that the FDA is the only agency with enough expertise to regulate drug makers and that its decisions should not be second-guessed by courts.

The Supreme Court is to rule on a case next term that could make pre-emption a legal standard for drug cases.

So now the drugs being “marketed” rather than prescribed are going to get a “get out of jail” free card for when they are discovered to have “overstated” the effectiveness. Does anyone think this will make the marketers any more honest? So long as you state all of the possible “side effects” you can get away with murder, is that how it is?

And yet we are all watching our health care costs rise at rates that make the inflation level of the 70’s look tame.

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These are sobering thoughts for a beautiful spring day…

Jim Hoagland – No Cushion Against Hubris – washingtonpost.com

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war.”

— Ernest Hemingway, Esquire magazine, September 1935

Not today, and not tomorrow: You can still spend your dollars and get value, as long as you are not traveling much in Europe or Japan.

It will not come next month, or next quarter: There is still time to covet and honor the American greenback as the strongest link of stability in the international financial system. You can still rely on your money, your banker and probably your broker, though you definitely want to keep an eye on your hedge fund manager.

My thoughts on the economy are simple…For the foreseeable future, pay cash and repair everything you own that needs to be repaired.

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Well…It’s time for the Hone, do…

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