It has been mentioned before on this blog that contrary to the impression one might get from listening to politicians and the media, there really is no free market in healthcare today – which would explain the high prices and poor results that are typical of this “modern” industry. As if to illustrate that point, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that pharmaceutical drug manufacturers cannot be held liable for adverse events caused by their drugs, thereby effectively determining that eighty percent of all drugs are exempt from legal liability from now on.
The highest court ruled that a New Hampshire woman who had previously been awarded $21 million in compensation by an appeals court has no legal recourse for the serious injuries she suffered from taking an anti-inflammatory drug called Clinoril produced by Merck & Co. Specifically, the drug caused an extremely painful condition known as toxic epidermal necrolysis whereby a person’s skin literally starts to peel off, exposing one’s flesh in the same fashion a third degree burn would. The drug maker knowingly hid this fact from its customers until it was forced to include it on the warning label. Yet according to the ruling, the victim has no legal grounds to sue Merck because its drugs are exempt from lawsuits.
That same corporation reportedly spent over $9.5 million last year lobbying U.S. politicians, by the way. A shining example of the corrupt gang we call government is Texas Governor Rick Perry, who issued an executive order in 2007 mandating that all teenage girls in the state be given Merck’s HPV shot. He also received tens of thousands of dollars from the company over the course of many years for his gubernatorial campaigns. Just a coincidence? These are just some examples of a most common practice in what we dare call the “healthcare” system. As I pointed out previously the pharmaceutical industry has some very valuable connections in government as evidenced by their lobbying spending which far exceeds that of any other industry.
The underlying theory of the Supreme Court’s verdict is that only ‘name brand’ drugs (the original manufacturers of the drug) can be sued for mislabeling, fraud or adverse reactions and side effects. After the patent has expired and the State-granted temporary monopoly ceases to be, manufacturers of generic versions of the same drug cannot be held liable provided that they use the same formula and have the same warnings on the label. In other words, as soon as the Food and Drug Administration declares a drug safe anyone taking that drug does so at their own risk; both the drug maker and the government are absolved of any responsibility for adverse events, including death. The State has spoken; end of debate.
On the other hand, if you just so happen to be selling a natural product that effectively cures a disease or ailment without any side effects whatsoever, thereby threatening the State-granted pharmaceutical monopoly, you are prohibited from advertising it as such. In fact, making the claim that natural product X can cure or help treat condition Y magically turns the product into a “drug” and said statements into “unauthorized health claims”, even if these are backed up by solid scientific evidence. The lengths that regulatory agencies will go to in their efforts to protect and expand this pharmaceutical monopoly are a testament to the enormous power the industry has through government; leading to such absurdities as declaring walnuts “illegal drugs”, forcibly shutting down farms for selling raw unpasteurized milk and (under international Codes Alimentarius regulations) banning traditional herbal remedies that have been used safely for thousands of years.
One of the biggest objections people especially on the left side of the political spectrum seem to have against downsizing or eliminating government is that it is necessary “to protect us from those evil corporations!”. The reality is, however, that not only does the State fail to protect people from that perceived threat, it actively encourages unethical and dangerous behavior on the part of those corporations, pharmaceutical or otherwise, and even goes so far as to shield them from any legal consequences. So much for “protection”.