Friday, December 27, 2002

Is it possible that the Bush administration is doing something right? Possibly yes, if you judge them by their enemies. They're asking Big Pharma to cut out the kickbacks to doctors and medical schools, and everyone affected thinks the sky is falling:

In contending that the proposed federal code of conduct would require radical changes, those opposing the change discuss their tactics with unusual candor and describe marketing practices that have long been shrouded in secrecy.

Drug makers acknowledged, for example, that they routinely made payments to insurance plans to increase the use of their products, to expand their market share, to be added to lists of recommended drugs or to reward doctors and pharmacists for switching patients from one brand of drug to another.

Insurers, doctors and drug makers said such payments were so embedded in the structure of the health care industry that the Bush administration plan would be profoundly disruptive.

Moreover, doctors said that drug companies were a major source of money for their professional education programs, and that the administration proposal could drastically reduce such subsidies.

"Without financial support from industry, medical societies would most likely be forced to curtail or stop offering these important educational activities," said Dr. Michael D. Maves, executive vice president of the American Medical Association.

Might these arrangements have something to do with annual increases in spending on prescription drugs at three times the inflation rate, due to both doctors giving out more drugs, and the introduction of new drugs which in some cases prove no better than the old ones? (For the industry point of view, here's a pharma think tank trying to convince you that even though spending on pharmaceuticals is up by 14% to 15% annually --- their numbers --- rising drug prices are a "myth" since the prices on old drugs haven't risen. Not much. Read the page; it's a beaut).

But, to put this all in context, consider this other initiative from Dubya and co.:

The National Cancer Institute, which used to say on its Web site that the best studies showed "no association between abortion and breast cancer," now says the evidence is inconclusive.

A Web page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used to say studies showed that education about condom use did not lead to earlier or increased sexual activity. That statement, which contradicts the view of "abstinence only" advocates, is omitted from a revised version of the page.

The administration claims that the revised pages reflect the views of its scientific advisors. Which is surely true, since (as I noted some time ago), those advisors are being explicitly chosen to put politics over science.

And then there's Janet Rehnquist, whose job would involve enforcing these regulations for as long as the ongoing investigation into her politically motivated dismissals, scuttling of ongoing investigations, and leaving firearms around the office allows her to keep it.

Update: The indispensible Atrios has more on Bush-league science...


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