Saturday, December 08, 2007

Democrats Love Sausage, Too [or at least they did...]

One of my favorite quotes is from Otto von Bismarck:

God has Special Providence for drunks, fools, and the United States of America.


Words to live by, and we Americans surely do.

Uncle Otto is also known for


There are two things you will never wish to watch: the making of sausage and the making of legislation.


Now, it was well-known by key members of congress, including leading Democrats---not to mention the papers---that certain members of al-Qaeda were captured and then subjected to "harsh" interrogation, including waterboarding. Putatively, as a result, these monsters gave up the goods, and innocent lives were saved from their nefarious plans.

Sausage was made.

Nobody felt very good about it, but everybody---everybody---knew what was what.

Tapes of the process were made. Since no good could come of them being revealed to the world except to show how horrible sausage-making is, and how awful the United States of America must be to make it, somebody at the CIA had the tapes destroyed.

The fellow's name seems to be Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., who was in charge of such things. Perhaps they'll throw him in jail, if they can find something to charge him with. He is presently unavailable for comment.

Now some of us are looking for someone to blame for doing what was necessary to save innocent lives, but Mr. Rodriguez took it upon himself to make sure that couldn't happen. Did he break some law? I have no idea.

But make no mistake, we all wanted the sausage. And if now they pass some legislation against making it, I don't want to watch that either.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hearken Sinners: The End Is Near

The Wall Street Journal today has a front-page article on the "grim prognosis" facing Big Pharma, as a number of big-selling drugs soon will lose patent protection even as the companies have fewer new products in the pipeline, as the FDA has become ever-more averse to purported safety risks, and as the costs of drug development rise sharply, in particular for late-stage safety-and-effectiveness trials. This article is certain to engender a lot of discussion and commentary: The firms are shrinking, and the article implies that fewer cures are in the offing, although the heavier implicit focus is on the issue of investment in pharmaceutical stocks and the like.

Yes, there are important problems facing the pharmaceutical industry, but color me far less pessimistic than the article implies. To begin, note what the article does not say, to wit, that research budgets are shrinking. That suggests that the capital market still views pharmaceutical R&D as profitable endeavors prospectively, regardless of what Moody's and the other rating bureaucracies say, green-eyeshade institutions that almost always look backward rather than forward.

Note as well that the recent decline in new drug introductions has a lot to do with the fact that PDUFA was passed in 1992, which had the effect of speeding the approval process significantly (for awhile, anyway), and a bow-wave of drugs was approved in the late-90s to early 2000s period. To some nontrivial degree, the more-recent slowdown has to do with an approval cycle driven by that early PDUFA experience.

The real news, which really is not news at all, is that the FDA and the rest of the relevant part of the Beltway are driven more than ever by powerful political incentives to avoid negative headlines. And so drugs are too safe and are approved too slowly, which means that more death and suffering occurs because beneficial medicines are held off the market too long. Perhaps more important, the industry is changing significantly because pharmacological science is changing: The era of individualized medicines is looming as a direct effect of advances in biological and genetic science. That may be bad for the bureaucrats, and in the short term for the firms forced to deal with them; but in the larger sense this technological advance will yield a huge advance in our ability to reduce human suffering, and no newspaper article can tell me that such a scientific revolution will not prove salutary in spades for Pharma's bottom line.

[cross-posted from www.medicalprogresstoday.com/blog/]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sue the FDA!

Well, now, surprise: Dennis and Kimberly Quaid have sued Baxter Healthcare, the producers of heparin, after their newborn twins were given large overdoses of the drug at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. The suit claims that Baxter was negligent in packaging because both the small and large dosage vials had labels with blue backgrounds, when the vials "should have been completely distinguishable [by] size and shape."

Of course, that might have engendered confusion with some other medicine(s), but, anyway, all pharmaceutical packaging, warnings, etc. must be approved by the FDA. So why aren't the happy parents suing the FDA? And, by the way, why have the Quaids decided not to sue Cedars Sinai, the staff of which made the error? Baxter had sent a letter warning health-care workers to to read the heparin labels carefully, but the suit argues that an "urgent" warning should have been sent. Anyone want to guess the likely outcome if everyone starts using "urgent" warnings so as to keep the lawyers at bay? Hint: Remember the boy crying "Wolf!"

The twins "appear to be doing well." But the lawsuit proceeds so as "to save other children from this fate. [The Quaids are] not looking for money." Right.

What is clear is that "similar" vials are not identical, and that if "blue backgrounds" are the only similarity, then the culpability of Baxter is far from obvious under any definition. But the litigation lottery proceeds apace, and shouldn't the rich and famous get to play too? That all of us ultimately will be the losers is not something that we can sue over.

[cross-posted from www.medicalprogresstoday.com/blog/]

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Road To Serfdom

And so it continues: "Policy advisers for Clinton on Saturday said she would consider a proposal to garnish the wages of some U.S. residents who can afford health insurance but do not obtain coverage"---Long Island Newsday, 12/1.

So if we take the Democratic proposals and combine them---a rather crude approach, but not without predictive value---we will have mandatory enrollment in insurance plans, mandatory acceptance by insurance plans, mandatory checkups and other preventive care, mandatory employer-sponsored plans, and, of course, mandatory taxes to pay for all of this government compassion. Is anyone in the press paying attention to the implications of all this coercion?

Fred Fired, Huck Hired

We put Fred Thompson on our news ticker in the right column back before he declared his candidacy. He was the most interesting thing going.

Me, I still dig Fred---he's the most solid conservative in my view---certainly the most thoughtful---but I think he's not in it to win it, but to hang around and pick up the pieces if the other candidates crash and burn. [See the previous "I, Freddie."]

The latest numbers are out, and there's a new candidate for Mr. Interesting---


The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows Giuliani with 20% support nationwide while Huckabee attracts 17%. Fred Thompson is at 14%, John McCain at 13% and Mitt Romney at 11%. Ron Paul attracts 7% of Likely Republican Primary voters nationwide and no other Republican candidate reaches 2%...



Now, I'm skeptical that a tax-loving creationist can win nomination, but we need to keep our eye on Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, for good or ill.

Welcome, Governor, and good luck. Please don't make us look like idiots.

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