Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pharmaceutical Tyranny

Well, I don't have to say that healthcare in this country is messed up, because everybody knows it. Most of the discussion is about insurance and single-payer universal suffrage copayments blah blah blah. That's all important, but it's also really complicated.

What I find more intriguing (right now, at least) is the racket that is the pharmaceutical industry in America. With respect to the medicine we take (for even the most mundane of ailments), the FDA has a venerable stranglehold over our freedom to decide about whether we're qualified to decide. America has got to be one of the least-free nations in the world when it comes to having the liberty to determine for ourselves whether we need professional advice. The way things stand now, we don't have a choice. Even if we know exactly what we need, we still have to go to a doctor. Even if the visit lasts only four minutes.

Would you believe that, of all nations, France's prescription regulations are far less draconian? I know people that, when they go to France, will stock up on drugs like Zyrtec, which in France can be purchased over-the-counter, just like aspirin. Here, Zyrtec is available only with a prescription.

Similarly, after forgetting an extra pair of contact lenses on a trip to Germany (and briefly the Netherlands), I was able to buy contact lenses in Amsterdam in about ten minutes. I just told them my prescription and they gave me the contacts. No doctor appointment needed. Hardly the case in America, where I would have had to wait how many days or weeks for a routine appointment to tell me what I already knew, that I needed the same prescription I've needed for the last five years. And what's the difference if I buy contacts that are too weak or too strong. How could I hurt anyone? By staring at them for too long?

It's such a racket. Why can't we just decide for ourselves? Why can't we just get input from the pharmacists? I'm not saying we should all go out and take anything we want. But why can't we decide what we're qualified to decide about and what we need to go to doctors for? I know I need Zyrtec. I'll always need it during the summer because I'll always get allergies. I don't need a doctor to tell me that, as luck would have it, my allergies have continued!

Imagine how much healthcare costs would decline if we could eliminate the middleman (the doctor) for things like allergy medication, contact lens refills, acne medications, antacid-type medications, etc...

Update: Here's more complaining about how politicians (this time it's Republicans) insist on saving us from ourselves by keeping us ignorant.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

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