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A Drug-Ad Ban Is Tough To Swallow
In an astute discussion of an advertising ban on pharmaceuticals, as recently proposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Charles Stein wonders about the logic behind such a ban.
The call for a ban assumes that Americans are weak-minded and gullible—practically impotent in the face of slick and seductive advertising…. The facts suggest Americans are actually capable of making judgments.
“Our drug costs are growing much more slowly than they were a few years ago,” said Neil Minkoff, medical director for pharmacy at health maintenance organization Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Minkoff estimates Harvard's drug bill is rising at a 6 percent to 7 percent annual pace. That squares with national data that showed drug costs climbed more slowly than overall health costs last year. Hospitals, which don't advertise much, accounted for the lion’s share of the increase in medical spending….
“It is always a poor idea to suppress information,” said Regina Herzlinger, a Harvard business school professor and the author of a book called “Consumer-Driven Health Care.” Herzlinger says consumers will be best served in a world of maximum information and maximum disclosure. “People can draw their own conclusions,” she said.
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