Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don Hewitt Goes to the Green Room in the Sky

Don Hewitt created the CBS television newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” and he was its sole executive producer for 35 years.

Today, he died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 86.

I never met Hewitt, but I like to think we worked together in an eliptical kind of way. I tell the story >> here.

Oddly enough, the "drugs from Canada" story is still rippling through the American political landscape.

Very recently, the Obama Administration worked out a deal with PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) which says PhRMA will support the Obama health care plan in exchange for drug companies continuing to be able to rip off American consumers by charging them two or three times what these companies charge consumers in Canada, Mexico, or Europe for the very same drugs.

Eh? How's that work? Why can't we just order cheaper brand-name drugs from overseas?

Simple: there is a ban on reimporting brand name drugs from countries where they are sold for less. Instead, we have to buy them directly from the manufacturer so that the company can continue to price-gouge us. Welcome to America!

Brake pads from Korea? No problem.

Chainsaws from China? Fine.

Grapes from Chile? Eat up.

But drugs made in Puerto Rico, sold to a warehouse in Windsor, Ontario, and brought across the border to sick people in Detroit? No way!

And yes, if that sounds like a sick game of "Your money or your life?" you have it exactly.

Believe it or not, however, I am not too critical of Obama's deal. It's good politics, and it might not be bad medicine.

After all, it's not like we haven't been getting ripped off all these years anyway, is it?

And who complained? Not you, I will bet.

Do you recall the Clinton or Bush Administrations banging the gong to get us cheaper drugs from Canada?

No? Me either.

Besides, the reimportation ban only applies to branded drugs. The U.S. actually has cheaper generic drugs than most other countries. More importantly, generic drugs are actually better medicine than most of the branded stuff.

Eh? Why is that? Simple: We know all of the side effects and downsides of generic drugs. We almost never do with branded drugs; they are simply too new.

Aspirin is cheaper and safer than Vioxx.

Prozac does less damage to your system than Zyprexa or Risperdal.

And when it comes to hypertension, a cheap diuretic beats almost everything else.

Of course, there's not much to be done about pancreatic cancer, which got both Don Hewitt and my friend John Wilke earlier this year.

One thing is for sure, however: If they have a news room up in Heaven, it got just a little bit better.


aficat said...

One of the scenes in "Sicko" was about Hillary Clinton's efforts for health care reform, and how much it took to buy her off... No idea if it was a big deal at the time. I was in grade school then, I wasn't paying any attention to what was going on in the news.

√Čadaoin said...

True about Prozac vs Zyprexa or Risperdal - Zyprexa (olanzapine)and Risperdal (risperidone) have horrific side-effects. But that's not really comparing like with like. Prozac (fluoxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or antidepressant. Which incidentally, like other SSRIs, has been shown to increase suicidal tendencies in many people.

But Zyprexa and Risperdal are anti-psychotic drugs. They should not be prescribed for the same reasons. They frequently are, inappropriately so. But this does a whole lot of damage. Especially when prescribed for autistic spectrum disorders as all 3 drugs often are (this is also totally inappropriate).

This strikes me as not really comparing like with like. Otherwise, great article.