Monday, November 16, 2009

Preparing for Health Care Reform

The pharmaceutical industry is raising prices for drugs that don't do what the claims imply.

The pharmaceutical industry's objective of making money encourages the development of drugs that will have to be taken regularly, preferably by as many people as possible. The scientific rationale behind the cholesterol-lowering drugs is primarily statistical. Statistics show that cholesterol is related to heart disease, and cholesterol is actually found clogging the arteries of people with some types of heart disease. That last is the kind of evidence scientists prefer. Statistics also show that lower cholesterol is related to lower risk of heart disease.

What the article I've linked says is that statistics show that taking these drugs doesn't necessarily prolong anyone's life.

The problem is that we really don't have a good handle on how eating foods containing cholesterol and pre-cholesterol compounds translates into the levels of high- and low-density cholesterol in the blood translates into heart disease. We've got bits and pieces of that story, but not the sequence from beginning to end. It might seem that lowering cholesterol in the blood is a good thing, but what if, for example, higher cholesterol in the blood results from ferrying it out from where it does harm?

One of the things proposed for health care reform is actually figuring out if medical interventions are doing what they're supposed to do. It won't happen through the good will of the pharmaceutical companies.

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