Monday, September 26, 2005

Corporate Healthcare

On Friday, Bush appointee Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Lester Crawford resigned. Crawford, a former veterinarian, had held the position for a mere 18 months, yet a religious objection to the "morning after" pill and the scandal over Merck's Vioxx became the most noteworthy events of his tenure. Not surprisingly, these two issues can be easily linked to an ideology that favors both corporate self-regulation and blurring the distinction between church and state. Furthermore, Crawford used his position to bolster the Bush re-election campaign's terrorism platform to include an apparent danger of contaminated drug imports, of which there is virtually no evidence. Overall, little concern for genuine public health issues could be found under a corporate controlled FDA. Instead, much like the FCC under Michael Powell concerning media ownership rules, the FDA served as an automatic approval mechanism for the industry.

As most of us concerned citizens are aware, pharmaceutical companies are among the most powerful and influential special interest groups. With their massive contributions to political campaigns, they place incredible pressure on policy makers to pass pro-industry legislation. As a result, higher prescription drug benefits and a ban on foreign imports for cheaper drugs were provisions found in the recently expanded Medicare program. There is no doubt the run-away cost for drugs have become a major concern for American consumers. In addition, the corresponding increase in benefits has been a source of consternation for many fiscal conservatives.

Unfortunately, due to our corrupt political system that allows large corporate giveaways, the public is shut out of the policy making conversation, and is instead left to the special interests controlling the money. For example, Merck gave $450,000 in funds to the Republican Party, which funded Bush's re-election, who then appointed an industry friendly idealogue to head the FDA, who in turn attempted to protect Merck by refusing to remove Vioxx from the market despite the fact that people were dying and numerous studies demonstrated other serious health risks related to the drug. Only public pressure on Congress resulting from bad publicity forced the removal of Vioxx from the market.

This should be sufficient proof that industry or free market self-regulation does not protect the public interest. The drug should never have been put on the market in the first place, because the FDA is suppose to rigorously evaluate possible side effects of any drug seeking approval for public consumption. Instead, the drug received little objective scientific scrutiny before the FDA approved its release, to the peril of public safety. What will protect the consumer from such dangers if the industry itself controls the very agency that is supposed to regulate it? This is a severe conflict of interest prevalent in our government, found not only in the healthcare sector, but across the board, including the media.

Please see the following links for further info:


Lester Crawford Resigns: Can the FDA Recover?

1 comment:

  1. Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.