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Commentary

EDITORIAL: The answer isn't in Canada
The Star-Ledger, 11-2-04

“It’s time to face reality: Canada cannot solve the U.S. prescription drug problem.” True enough, but the editorial goes on to endorse a ban on direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising, which the Star-Ledger thinks “might do more to lower prescription drug prices than importing drugs from Canada.”

This is a doubtful prospect since the real driving force behind America’s prescription drug spending is our aging population and steadily rising affluence. Americans are notoriously impatient with any kind of physical inconvenience or impairment, and demand more prescription drugs to reduce the ill effects of aging – and our cheeseburger-laden diets. Right now, Americans spend money on health care like they were playing with other people’s money – which they are, through employer based insurance coverage and government programs.

Advertising serves the valuable function of giving consumers and physicians better information about new drugs and the relative effectiveness of different drugs. It would have an even more valuable role in a consumer-driven health care system, where companies would have to justify their drug’s cost directly to consumers, rather than depending on insurers to automatically cover the cost of new treatments.

Until more responsibility is shifted back to individuals for their own health care costs (through high-deductible HSAs) and Americans have some financial skin in the game, health care costs will continue to spiral out of control, prescription drug advertising notwithstanding.



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