Thursday, May 7, 2015

Here Comes the Death Panels or Is This an Advance in Freedom?

Johnson & Johnson has appointed a nationally known bioethicist to create a panel that will make decisions about patients’ requests for lifesaving medicine, reports NYT.

NYT explains the why:
It comes as a small but growing number of patients with terminal illnesses have sought the right to obtain drugs still in the testing phase that show promise for treating their diseases.

Some of the requests have become highly publicized cases on social media, where family members and advocates have lobbied the companies on patients’ behalf — often to no avail because drug makers fear that doing so would interfere with clinical trials, or, in the case of the Ebola outbreak, that they have too little available. The issue, which involves fundamental questions of fairness and equal access to care, has become so intense that more than a dozen states have taken up legislation to speed the process...
Johnson & Johnson said the bioethicist, Arthur L. Caplan of New York University, who has written extensively about the issue of experimental drug availability — known as “compassionate use” — would oversee an independent panel of doctors, ethicists and patient advocates that will review requests for access to a limited array of experimental medicines and decide how Johnson & Johnson should respond.
Of course, this only comes about because government regulations in the first place prevent free markets to develop in these drugs, and prevent the terminally ill from getting medication that may be their only hope. Why do we need any kind of ethicist to stick his nose in a patients decisions? If a patient wants to use a drug and is willing to pay for it, a free market would allow such. There would never be a need fo a "bioethicist" and panels of doctors and "patient advocates" in the middle.

So is this an end run  move by Johnson & Johnson around oppressive government regulations and aa positive step in the direction of freedom for the ill or will this result in Americans becoming acclimated to "bioethicists" making life and death decisions on treatments, that will expand overtime to  include "cost-benefit" analysis by bioethicists and panels across a large spectrum of medical and medicine treatments.

I fear it will turn into the latter.



  1. I refer to my previous comment calling for "medical sanctuaries". i.e. defiant offshore facilities.

  2. Hot Drugs Show Sharp Price Hikes in Shadow Market

    On May 30 last year, the price for a vial of the blockbuster diabetes medication Lantus went up by 16.1 percent. On the next day, Lantus’s direct competitor, Levemir, also registered a price increase -- of 16.1 percent.

    The pattern repeated itself six months later when Lantus, from French drugmaker Sanofi, was marked up 11.9 percent, and Levemir, made by Novo Nordisk A/S, matched again exactly.

    In 13 instances since 2009, prices of Lantus and Levemir -- which dominate the global market for long-acting injectable insulin with $11 billion in combined sales -- have gone up in tandem in the U.S., according to SSR Health, a market researcher in Montclair, New Jersey.

    Contrary to the consumer’s ideal in which bare-knuckled rivals cut prices to grab market share, competitors in branded pharmaceuticals often drive each other’s prices higher. This behavior, known as “shadow pricing,” is one reason U.S. drug costs are surging. Prescription spending rose 13 percent last year to $374 billion, according to IMS Health Holdings Inc.

    Sanofi sets the price of its drugs independently, according to a company statement. Novo Nordisk, based in Bagsvaerd, Denmark, said greater insulin demand is helping to drive price increases.

    Within the last two years, Eli Lilly & Co.’s Humalog, a shorter-acting diabetes treatment, and Novo Nordisk’s Novolog have matched three of each other’s price increases, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Eli Lilly, based in Indianapolis, declined to comment on its pricing moves.Staying Competitive

    Sanofi and Novo “are taking the same price increase down to the decimal point within a few days of each other,” said Richard Evans, an SSR analyst. “That is pretty much a clear signal that your competitor doesn’t intend to price-compete with you.”

    Not Healthy

    Branded prescription drugs “are basically not a competitive market,” when it comes to prices, Stephen Schondelmeyer, a pharmacist and economist at the University of Minnesota, said.

    A pattern of insulin makers matching each others price increases “certainly indicates a market that isn’t competitively healthy,” said David Balto, an antitrust lawyer and former Federal Trade Commission policy director. However, if two companies act independently to follow each other’s price increases, it’s not an antitrust violation, he said.