Monday, May 28, 2007

Drug Companies and Funding of Lobby Groups

I read in the paper today again about a situation where drug companies are effectively hiring people with illness to start lobby groups that are asking for access to drugs with government money.

I am generally in favour of people doing whatever they want, but I am troubled that governments seem to have trouble standing up to these manufactured groups. Government should be looking at groups such the Best Medicines Coalition and saying "We understand your concern but we also can see you are also doing the work of the pharma industry."

Government needs to govern in the best interests of all people, but in a democracy this is always difficult because re-election always looms in the background. It is in the interests of government to have a healthy and productive population. If drug treatments help this happen, then great, but if drug treatments only drain the public purse, one must look at what reason there is for paying for the drugs.

Clearly we take way to many drugs in this society - there is a mentality that a pill should be able to fix us. Prescription drugs are only one aspect of this. The public buys huge amounts of over the counter drugs as well. Nutraceuticals are a fast emerging big business in the western world. The public wants their quick fix, their, magic pill, or some other solution without work involved.

Pharma has managed to create all manner of new disorders so that there are that many more reasons to drug the population. I admit that in my household there is a lot of drug use - one adult and two kids taking Ritalin and one kid on asthma medication. But for us it works, it works really well in my case. I have no real idea what it will mean long term - will I be taking it when I am 80?

Many of the disorders we see in our society can be managed without drugs, but people are not happy having to work for it. It is in the interests of the government to have every Canadian exercise for 30 minutes every day.

Back to the lobby groups - the problem I see is that there is not really anyone or any group that is able to say "Hang on, lets look more closely at this." I wish Alan Cassels would be able to get enough funding to form such a group to counter balance the weight of the pharma industry.

The public good is a healthy and productive population - drugs are only a small part of this.
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