NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 4, 2004

A new book by Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, criticizes the pharmaceutical industry for being uncaring, profit-hungry and manipulative. Her point of view, however, is contradictory and supports policies that will stifle the creation of new, life-saving drugs, says Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health.

Rather than scapegoat drug companies, we should commend them, says Whelan. She points out:

  • New drug prices are high because pharmaceutical companies assume the cost of research and development.
  • Price controls would stifle economic incentives for innovation; in countries with price controls, such as Canada, no new drugs are put on the market.
  • Over 10 years, 300 new drugs have been approved by the Food & Drug Administration -- including those to help treat depression, AIDS and Alzheimer's.

Whelan notes that drugs are no different from other necessary consumer products such as food and housing. Many older Americans, she says, spend $10,000 - $20,000 or more for nonessential items such as vacations, golf and dining out, so spending $5,000 a year for drugs to keep a person alive is not unreasonable.

Moreover, she says Angell's argument for importing drugs from Canada because they hold no health risk is dangerous. Only recently, she points out, the FDA warned of the possibility of terror plots involving imported contaminated pharmaceuticals.

Additionally, Whelan points out that the national price controls Angell supports would stifle incentives for drug companies to develop new treatments.

Source: Elizabeth M. Whelan, "Drug Companies Under Attack," Washington Times, September 21, 2004, Marcia Angell, "The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It," Random House, August 24, 2004.


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