That old Senate gadfly, Bernie Sanders, tried to win points as the self-proclaimed leader of the Democratic party by proposing a naive and impractical amendment to the Senate health care law to allow Americans to import Canadian drugs. The amendment specifically stated that it would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to lower prescription drug prices for Americans by importing drugs from Canada.”
To be fair to Senator Booker, his office issued a statement to the media after the vote. It said he supports the importation of prescription drugs but that “any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.”
In other words Sen. Booker and others are saying that, before we import Canadian drugs, let’s make sure they are safe. Yes, Canada’s drug distribution is fairly safe, but it’s not perfect. There are a lot of issues of safety that should be considered (and Sanders did not, because I’m beginning to be convinced his analytical skills are weak). But there’s a bigger concern – would Canada allow this to happen, and why would they? And that is the concern that Sanders failed to acknowledge.
Let me be absolutely clear. The USA needs some sort of drug pricing regulation, although I doubt it will happen under the Trump administration for lots of reasons.
Once Trump was elected, along with a Republican Senate and House, most of us in healthcare knew that Obamacare was probably doomed. I don’t think it will be easy for the Republicans, now that they’re in power, to actually dismantle Obamacare, especially some of the more popular provisions such as elimination of the pre-existing conditions as a disqualification for receiving health insurance.
Also, there are over 20 million Americans who have taken advantage of health insurance from Obamacare, and I think it would be almost impossible for the Republicans to cut them off. But I may be delusional about the limits of Republican dislike of poorer Americans.
Setting aside healthcare insurance, what else may be impacted by Tom Price? Well, the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for many of the important health care institutions that matter to me and my readers. Some of the major institutions under the HHS umbrella are:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the nucleus of biomedical and health-related research in the USA. Much of the research at NIH, which has an impressive world-wide reputation, serves as the foundation of much of what we know about human health and disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – if you are a reader of this website and blog for the past 5 years, you know I, and many others, have tremendous respect for the CDC. It functions as the frontline, first responders if you will, for any disease that appears in the world. It is made up of some of the leading scientists, public health specialists, and thought leaders in healthcare, who give their careers to help humanity. And, of course, they set vaccine policy for this country. The CDC has tremendous influence on public health across the globe.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the primary regulator of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, diagnostics, supplements, and many other areas, it is one of the most powerful agencies in the world for protecting the health of consumers.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – the federal agency that administers the Medicare program along with advising the states on Medicaid and other public health care programs.
Tom Price will have significant influence on much of the science of medicine, let alone the financing of health care in the USA. There is one thing in Price’s background that give us some significant insight as to how he’ll run his department – let’s just say, it’s not good. Yeah, none of us of would have predicted this.
One of the ongoing memes, tropes and fabrications of the vaccine deniers is somehow, somewhere, in some Big Pharma boardroom, a group of men and women in suits choose the next vaccine in some magical way, and foist it upon the world just to make billions of dollars. And while magically concocting the vaccine brew, these pharmaceutical execs ignore ethics and morals just to make excessive vaccine profits from hapless vaccine-injured victims worldwide.
The Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy trope ranges across the junk medicine world. Homeopathy, for example, claims that Big Pharma suppresses the data that shows water cures all diseases. Like Ebola.
Of course, a fairly large group of people, including some who are pro-science (read, pro-vaccine), will fall into the arms of their favorite flu vaccine myth, and then refuse to get the flu vaccine. Given the dangers of the flu, and given the loss in productivity, income, and lives, you’d think that the flu vaccine would be near the top of health care needs for the average person.
Suddenly, there has been a lot of noise about the price of vaccines. Well, there’s always been over-exaggerations and outright misinformation about vaccine prices and profits from the antivaccination gang, and they must be embarrassed by the quality of their arguments. OK, I doubt that. But there is noise out there.
But when the criticism comes from the “pro-vaccine” world, I needed to stand up and see what was being said. In my world of vaccines, I believe that anyone, especially children, who needs vaccines should get them for free. This is true in the USA (which leads the world in this one facet of healthcare), thus, any argument about vaccines costing too much falls rather flat to me. I hate dropping anecdotal data on my readers, but the fact is my health insurance plan, by no means some corporate executive level concierge plan, pays for all vaccines. In fact, I asked for one vaccination out of indication (meaning I was about 10 years too young to receive it), and the insurance company paid for it immediately and without question.
One of myths promulgated by the antivaccination cult (and there are so many of these myths) is that through some mysterious financial system, physicians make boatloads of money from vaccinating kids. Like almost all of the myths pushed by these vaccine denier, it does not even have a kernel of truth. In fact, in this case, I’m not even sure it’s in the same planetary system as the truth.
In an article by O’Leary et al., published recently in Pediatrics, we see that there is no evidence that vaccines are a major profit center for primary care physicians (which are usually pediatricians in the case of children). In fact, the article seems to indicate that vaccinations are a financial burden for many pediatricians.
The cost of vaccinating each child from birth to age 18 is around $2500, depending on the vaccines used. Multiply this by the 100’s of patients each practice may manage, and you’re looking at several million dollars in vaccines, all of which has to be purchased by the private physician, then given at cost or even below cost, depending on reimbursement, to patients. Continue reading “Physicians get rich from vaccinating children–refuting another myth”