The Senate is poised to begin debating Medicare prescription drug legislation next week with a plethora of issues on the agenda – accelerating generic drugs to market, drug reimportation, and various versions of a drug benefit, virtually all of them dangerous.
Parliamentary maneuvering in the Senate will be crucial to the outcome as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle calls the shots, likely using the generic drug legislation as the anchor bill that could become a Christmas tree for amendments, including larger drug benefit bills. Confusion reined during the mark-up session in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee this week with members expressing serious concern that they had no idea what effect their changes to pharmaceutical patent laws would have.
What is clear is that Daschle’s colleagues have put pressure on him to bring some form of legislation to a vote since those who are up for re-election desperately need to tell constituents that they voted for lower drug prices and a drug benefit – even if nothing passes.
Will a bill get to the president’s desk? Most likely not, but?
President Bush was the white knight in the prescription drug debate this week, giving a speech and releasing a new report in Minneapolis on the value of pharmaceutical innovation. “To ensure continued progress in the fight to treat and prevent diseases, especially chronic illnesses of older age?the American health care system should not resort to government controlled drug coverage,” the HHS report says. See the write up below for a summary and link to the full report.
*****Enthusiasm and interest continue to grow about the new IRS ruling that allows employers to fund personal health savings accounts for employees and to get out of the business of micromanaging employees’ small medical bills and give employees an incentive to spend wisely. The Cato Institute held a well-attended forum on the subject on Wednesday. Here’s a full report by Galen’s Joe Moser and a commentary article I wrote about the ruling.
*****And speaking of micromanagement, the cover story in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday provided powerful evidence of the dangers of government involvement in health decisions in an article entitled, “What if fat doesn’t make you fat?”
Since the publication of “Dietary Goals for the United States” in 1977, the federal government has been proclaiming unequivocally and with almost “religious certainty” that obesity is caused by the excessive consumption of fat, and that if we eat less fat, we will lose weight and live longer.
We were told to eat more bread, rice, cereal, and pasta, and less meat, eggs, cheese, and butter.
The trouble is, virtually all of the NIH long-term studies, costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, failed to provide evidence that the recommendation was correct. And nutrition experts are now VERY reluctantly coming to the conclusion that “the exclusive focus on adverse effects of fat may have contributed to the obesity epidemic,” according to Walter Willett, chairman of Harvard’s department of nutrition.
The biochemistry is complex but convincing: carbohydrates are less satisfying than fats so we crave more food. The result: “We suddenly began consuming more total calories: now up to 400 more each day since the government started recommending low-fat diets,” the Times says.
That means that the government’s dietary recommendations likely have made us fat and have increased our risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke! Who are the trial lawyers going to sue over this?
New studies that the government has reluctantly funded to study the low-carbohydrate (aka Atkins) diet show that people “lost twice as much weight as the subjects on the low-fat, low-calorie diet.” Further, research suggests, “heart-disease risk could actually be reduced when fat is added back into the diet and starches and refined carbohydrates are removed.”
Our colleague, Dr. Kevin Vigilante, was ahead of this curve with publication of his book Low Fat Lies in 2000.