NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 18, 2007

While lauding health care systems in the United Kingdom, Canada and Cuba in his film, "Sicko," Michael Moore ignores the fact that America's greater commitment to market-driven medical innovation makes miracles possible for patients with the most deadly and rare diseases, says Paul Howard, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

In fact, America's commitment to the treatment of patients with rare diseases is unmatched:

  • The Orphan Drug Act ("orphan" drugs are those that treat diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 patients annually) gives companies tax incentives and seven years of market exclusivity in return for developing treatments for rare diseases.
  • According to the Food and Drug Administration, in the decade before the act passed there were fewer than 10 products approved for orphan diseases; today, there are over 300.

Further, patients with rare diseases aren't the only ones seeing improvements in treatment:

  • U.S. cancer mortality rates have declined every year since 1991, an unmatched achievement in the developed world.
  • Five year survival rates for breast cancer, if detected early, are over 95 percent.
  • In January 2007, the American Cancer Society reported that total cancer deaths in the United States declined for the second straight year, despite an aging population that is at higher risk for cancer.

Moore is right that American health care is in need of reform, says Howard.  But any reforms must maintain market incentives for medical innovation, and we shouldn't accept policies that will inevitably result in rationing health care for the sickest and most vulnerable patients.

Source: Paul Howard, "A Story Michael Moore Didn't Tell," Washington Post, July 17, 2007.

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