Medical Progress Today
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Volume 2, Number 31
August 26, 2005


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In the Spotlight

Doctor, spare me the politics - you're making me sick

Philip Stevens, Medical Progress Today, 8-25-05

The other day I was listening to the news on BBC radio, and the subject up for discussion was the market-based reforms of Britain's creaking National Health Service. The BBC duly wheeled in a doctor to make the case against the government reforms and - rather predictably - he was indignant that the idea of consumer choice and competition be applied to his part of the cosy and old-fashioned government health monopoly.
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News

FDA Reviews of New Drugs May Signal Tougher Scrutiny
Wall Street Journal, 8-23-05

Editor’s Notes:

This week’s edition contains several articles focusing on the concept of medical innovation and risk: both why it is important to reward risk-taking through free markets, and how innovation can be deterred when America’s civil justice system inflicts damage awards on corporations that are capricious and arbitrary.
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Germany, a cautionary tale: Price controls cited as one harm to the industry
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8-22-05

Editor’s Notes:

Americans are worried about unknown drug side effects—and they certainly want industry and the FDA to be as forthcoming as possible about what those risks might be. But Americans also demand that our doctors provide us with the latest and best medical technologies available—and that won’t happen if companies and investors face a market dominated by price controls or by drugs imported from countries with price controls.
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Europe's slow gears pushing scientists away
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8-21-05

Editor’s Notes:

Our second (and last) article on Europe’s floundering pharmaceutical industry highlights one aspect of the U.S. market that is typically left out of the discussion: how the U.S. attracts human capital—scientists who come here because they both want to do well for themselves, and do well for others. It is, you might say, a prescription for the American dream.
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Commentary

Vioxx-type danger and legal frivolity
Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., Washington Times, 8-24-05

Goldberg, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, argues that while the courts aren’t the right place to set public policy, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from the Vioxx experience: Merck and other companies should use personalized medicine technologies to develop drugs for specific patient populations and help avoid dangerous side effects.
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A dangerous Vioxx verdict
Chicago Tribune, 8-24-05

The Tribune argues that the $252 million verdict in the Texas Vioxx case is disturbing because it showed the jury cared less about the facts and science of the case (did Vioxx cause Robert Ernst’s death?) than about sending a “message” to Merck. While the judgment may be overturned on appeal, and Texas caps punitive damages, the case shines an unpleasant light on America’s tort system—where the truth, it seems, is the last thing on jurors minds.
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Vioxx verdict’s dark side
A. Mitchell Polinsky, Steven Shavell, The Boston Globe, 8-23-05

The rationale for our tort system is that it compensates individuals for their losses from the negligent activities of others—thereby improving social welfare and encouraging companies and individuals to behave more responsibly. But this presumes that jury awards are both proportionate to the harms inflicted, and predictable, i.e. it should be clear ahead of time what kinds of activity will be punished, and which are encouraged.
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Son of Sanford
Wall Street Journal, 8-23-05

The Journal has been closely following South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s efforts to bring market-based reforms to the state’s Medicaid program. As happened with welfare reform, the prospective of meaningful Medicaid reform is drawing howls of protest and predictions of Sturm und Drang that would bring tears to Wagner’s eyes.
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Suggested side-effects - The Vioxx verdict should serve to stimulate tort reform.
Financial Times, 8-23-05

The Financial Times sees the Vioxx verdict as a clarion call for further tort reform:
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In this week's issue:

SPOTLIGHT

Doctor, spare me the politics - you're making me sick

NEWS

FDA Reviews of New Drugs May Signal Tougher Scrutiny
Germany, a cautionary tale: Price controls cited as one harm to the industry
Europe's slow gears pushing scientists away

COMMENTARY

Vioxx-type danger and legal frivolity
A dangerous Vioxx verdict
Vioxx verdict’s dark side
Son of Sanford
Suggested side-effects - The Vioxx verdict should serve to stimulate tort reform.
Center for Medical Progress 
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