Monday, February 13, 2006

Drug companies suck, but some of their products are kind of necessary

I find stories like this quite difficult, as I'm torn between two competeing analyses (if you're not a NZer we have a national health service and Pharmac decides which drugs are funded, and which aren't).

I've known people who have tried to get drugs that are subsidised, and fought tooth and nail, because they make a difference in their life (I've also got a friend whose health care has gotten into at least six digits - my general reaction for people who talk about privatised health care is to wish her illness on them). If you have cancer then of course you want every chance you can to try and get a longer life.

The reason I hestitate is that these campaigns are often funded by drug companies, who are on my list of more immoral industries (admittedly the list is quite long and at times all encompassing). The reason they fund the campaigns isn't to help people's lives, but to make money. Drug companies will lie about the effectiveness and safety, perform insufficient testing, and screw anyone over to make a buck. So I really don't want to put any money in their pockets if I can help it.

I suspect the only solution involves ending capitalism. In the meantime I do tend to believe the government should err towards wasting money and occasionally saving lives, than saving money and occasionally wasting lives.


  1. Anonymous9:33 am

    Err make that 7 digits. Easily.

  2. Given the fact that health finances are limited, overspending on drugs, rather than more effective primary care programs, can cost lives as well as money.

  3. Yes and no.

    Certainly if you asked me to choose between any drug (or any number of drugs) and returning to free doctors visits, I'd choose the free doctors visit, no question. I'm not sure that any primary health scheme which isn't 'free doctors visits' is that useful, because it's always going to be hampered by people's ability to get to the primary health care in the first place.

    But the only options for health money aren't drugs or 'free doctors visits'. And whether the drugs are more or less effective than these other options depends on the drugs and the other option really.

    Of course what the New Zealand government should actually do is manufacture it's own version of the drugs. But that's not going to happen.

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