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Commentary

Demon drugs; Industry faces chorus of critics
The Oklahoman, 2-21-06

The pharmaceutical industry is responsible for only about 11% of total U.S. health care spendingóbut it catches close to 100% of the criticism from policymakers and voters concerned about spending. Recognizing this injustice, the Oklahoman takes issue with the governor and state legislators who are intent on pressing new regulations on the industry.

[Governor] Henry and other Democrats have identified issues that are bothering ordinary citizens. One of them is the high cost of drugs. State Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, has proposed a bill that would restrict drug advertising and force the Oklahoma Department of Health to do what the federal Food and Drug Administration is already doing -- scrutinize new drugs.
Morgan thinks "far too much money" is being spent on drug advertising. Can the same be said of automobile advertising, since it seems every other TV spot pushes new cars? What exactly is "far too much money"? Who determines that? Ironically, earlier in his speech, Henry cited the role of state institutions in "conducting cutting-edge research in medicine." Seems it's "medicine" when you have something good to say and "drugs" when you don't. Fact is, those Oklahoma institutions are part of the multibillion-dollar industry that vets new "medicine" before it goes on the market.
Thus, the state is benefiting from an industry that spends millions developing new "drugs" and getting them through the many hoops of regulatory approval. Morgan wants to add another hoop.

Frustration with drug prices is real, particularly for consumers who lack health insurance. If legislators are serious about making all health care more affordable, including prescription drugs, they should focus on consumer-friendly reforms that encourage more choice and competition in health care markets, like Health Savings Accounts, rather than demonizing an industry that produces lifesaving products.



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