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Leading policy-makers and scholars explain how market forces, deregulation, and consumer choice can work to improve health care for all Americans.

Commentary

Anthrax and Lawyers
Peter Huber, Forbes, 10-16-06

Huber, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, explains why pharmaceutical companies remain reluctant to invest in products to treat or prevent potential bioterror attacks.

No drug company with real assets is going to mess with licensing and liability systems that require help from both the Pentagon and the terrorists to keep our own terrifying lawyers at bay. So the cutting edge of the antibody–building industry goes instead to tiny biodefense contractors operating under the oversight of the huge federal bureaucracies. We replace private capital with government funding, profit–driven innovation with fixed–price government contracts and personal choice with public procurement. We stock silos in Nebraska to fight bacteria that are going to pop up unexpectedly in Yankee Stadium.

The first anthrax vaccine was developed at a time when contagious diseases were killing millions of Americans a year, without the help of backpacks. Imperfect though they were, vaccine markets worked tolerably well back then. Multiple companies competed to offer reasonably safe, effective vaccines to willing buyers. When the microbes return, we will bitterly regret that we have lost manufacturing capacity, innovative flexibility, citizen involvement, private choice and physician experience where we need it the most. "Stockpiling antibodies in the body," a former director of the Centers for Disease Control has observed, "is preferable to stockpiling vaccines on warehouse shelves."



Project FDA.
  
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