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April 13, 2005
A Steeplechase of Dead Horses
Health care (and its discontents) seems to be popping up all over the left-of-center blog world this week. (I believe that we have Paul Krugman column in the New York Times to thank for this.)
I don't have the energy reserves at the moment to argue macroeconomic health care issues. And besides, let's be realistic here: my chances of convincing anyone with strongly held views at variance with my own are effectively nil, just as are their chances of convincing me. People with strong opinions argue because it makes them feel better, not because they really plan to convince their opponent. (Undecided types in the middle are another matter, but most of those folks quietly leave the room when the voices get raised.)
What I have noticed, though, are several outbreaks in the comments to those posts of what I'll call the Goozner/Angell Canard: that drugs are found by selfless researchers working with NIH money entrusted to them by the Little Guy, and that said drugs are then snatched from their labs by Big Pharma, who patent the stuff and roll around in the profits like a dog in cut grass. I think I have that worldview about right.
Well, not for the first time (and not for the last, that's for sure), allow me to say that this is a load of manure. I went into table-pounding detail about this issue last fall, and I won't repeat myself. The short course, for anyone who cares: Academic research, although vital, rarely discovers so much as a starting compound for a drug development effort. That's not their job. And developing a drug is a lot harder and more expensive than many people seem to think, and it's getting tougher all the time. That's why we charge so much money. There, that's about as compact as it gets.
Personally, I prefer the weltanschauung of the folks over at Marginal Revolution, but to each his own.
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