Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2001 / 30 Tishrei, 5762

Michelle Malkin

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Consumer Reports

Who hates the drug industry now?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- NOW that everyone on Capitol Hill is popping antibiotic Cipro pills like Altoid mints, it is worth reminding our prescription-clutching public servants that their drugs don't grow on government trees.

Somebody in the private sector invented these miracle products. Somebody invested in them. Somebody tested them, manufactured them, and jumped through years of regulatory hoops to get FDA approval for them.

The drug industry is an indispensable tool in our war on terrorism. We have no idea what the next bioterrorist threat may be - and where our most effective weapons may come from. Cipro, now the best defense against anthrax, was originally used for urinary tract infections and diarrhea.

Drug development is a Herculean, thankless task. It's easy to take for granted all those who work in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industries -- from the anonymous lab technician and dedicated researcher to the risk-taking CEO and visionary investor. After laboring mightily to bring their life-saving products to market, these entrepreneurs must endure the ignorant vitriol of anti-capitalist demagogues in Washington who attack them as greedy profiteers.

In 1993, Hillary Clinton mauled pharmaceutical companies for "price gouging, cost shifting and unconscionable profiteering." Her husband assaulted the vaccine industry for "making a profit at the expense of our children" and assailed "shocking" drug prices. Then-Vice President Al Gore pestered drug makers about government drug price controls and later demonized pharmaceutical firms during his failed presidential bid.

Mercifully, the regulatory health care beast spawned by the Clintons is dead. But the claims of "unconscionable" drug profiteering go on. On Tuesday, citing the high price of Cipro, N.Y. Sen. Charles Schumer asked the feds to ignore the intellectual property rights of Bayer, the German patent holder of Cipro, and allow generic makers to sell their knock-offs three years ahead of schedule. Never mind the schizophrenia of the proposal (aren't these the same guys telling us there's no emergency and that there's an ample government stockpile of Cipro to go around?). Schumer's scheme is bad-faith patent infringment and gravely undermines the profit motive that makes drug development possible in the first place.

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), whose office on Capitol Hill received a piece of mail that tested positive for anthrax this week, now knows first-hand the importance of pharmaceutical innovation. The New York Times reports that 50 people, mostly aides to the Senate majority leader, are on Cipro while they await testing for exposure to the anthrax bacteria.

As they down the little pills that no federal bureaucrat could ever produce, perhaps these drug industry-bashing Democrats will now count their blessings. Thank goodness their bosses have failed to tear down the American free-market system that rewards capitalist pioneers with profits - and benefits us all.

It bears noting that 18 of the 25 top-selling drugs in the world were approved in the 1990s. Had the Clintons, Gore, Daschle and company gotten their way, the world might never have seen the introduction of life-improving products such as Lipitor, Celebrex, Zyprexa, and Vioxx. The dominance of American drugmakers is undeniable. Ten years ago, half of the ten top-selling drugs in the world were made by European companies. But after European governments imposed a decade of Clintonesque "reforms," their countries' drugmakers now make only four of the top 25 (Bayer's Cipro is 22nd on the list). Many European drugmakers have shifted their R & D to their U.S.-based operations to escape the regulatory crackdown.

The most unrepentant advocates of government-run health care might point out that Cipro was manufactured by Bayer in the Clintons' universal health care nirvana, Germany. But we live in a global economy. When Bayer and other foreign pharmaceutical companies decide whether to proceed with a promising pharmaceutical product, they consider the profits they can make both in their domestic market and in other countries. Clamping down on prices in the U.S. will deter R&D not just by American drug companies, but by foreign drug companies, too.

Government price controls on pharmaceuticals are a hazard to our public well being - and to our national security. The superiority of the free market has always been a bitter pill for liberals. But now that their own health is at stake, the truth may be far easier to swallow.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate