Health Care and “Big Pharma”: Laying the Groundwork for Debate

Froma Harrop’s latest jeremiad against the Bush Administration and pharmaceutical companies combined with the news that Michael Moore’s next target for a “documentary” is the pharmaceutical industry has finally prompted me to shake myself of my “healthcare debate” ennui. (Justin has admitted to the same malady in the past). Harrop’s recitiation of an oft-repeated theme (“The pharmaceutical industry owns the Bush administration and a good chunk of the Republican-controlled Congress”) and the spectre of another potential media campaign extolling the brilliance of Moore’s forthcoming bit of propaganda launched me on a preliminary search for information with the hope of determining the current situation in the health care debate.

It seems the latest “must-have” book for those who have cast the drug companies in the role of antagonist in this battle is The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It by Marcia Angell. (Angell has presented this work in a shorter format here). To this, Elizabeth M. Whelan has responded. Additionally, the role of lawyers cannot be dismissed, as some see lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies as a lucrative proposition. Finally, the drug companies have provided their own reasons for high drug costs (such as too much consumer consumption [though it was only a joke, MAC]), and have their own organizations countering the claims of their opponents.

As a latecomer to the issue, I fully recognize that the depth of the debate is such that a pithy comment is not sufficient. The amount that has been written on this topic is voluminous and difficult to wade through and the rhetoric thrown up by both sides also makes it difficult to decide whom to trust. While I have my own predispostions as to who I tend to believe, I am also mindful of the importance of setting inherent biases aside when analyzing the debate objectively. Given all that, I have a lot to read and digest before I believe I can offer any sort of substantive, much less unique, commentary. As such, consider this post the first tentative step into the health care forest. I have yet to sharpen my axe, but I have whetstone in hand.

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