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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The United States of Drugs

    This country is in a crisis with deciding the correct way to handle drugs, medicine and health care for its citizens. Two main issues arise from these issues. One is the pricing of medicine, the cost of research and how decisions are made as to who gets what care. The other is how illegal drugs fit into all of this.

    To reply to the first, there is a serious disconnect between the role of financing research into new drugs, and the exorbitant prices the average consumer pays for certain drugs. There can be no doubt as to the importance of having continual financing of new drugs research, but in order to get that money, some drug companies have resorted to devious and arguably criminal methods. For example, The New York Times reported that the company, well within the extent of law, Celgene raised the price of their pill, thalidomide, from $6 per pill to $180 per pill, after it was re-classified as a cancer drug. The company’s new drug, Revlimid, is priced at $260 per pill.

    These prices and trends are forcing some countries, such as Britain, to restrict their citizens to certain drugs that the government considers “cost effective.” In the United States, where health care is a hodgepodge of worker and personal policies, the best health care goes to the people who have the right policy at the right time. Some Americans receive no health care at all. How can we, as a country, assure good health care for all?

    The only solution this author can see is to re-organize the industry in a way that eliminates the problems inherent in the current system. I am not recommending a vast overhaul of the system overnight – these kinds of revolutionary changes have never worked out historically. Rather, as this country has proven time and again, legislature can be worked out that tackles issues one by one.

    The first thing to be done is to guarantee fair financing to all medical research, and this includes stem cells. Next, the marketing and selling strategies of pharmaceutical companies must be curtailed. Not only is drug pricing a problem, but the ads we all see on TV and in magazines for different drug remedies are also frankly nauseating. Side effects are played down, and customers are urged to ask their doctors for a particular prescription drug. These are not ethical practices. It is up the job of government regulation to reign in these flagrant abuses against the American public by the pharmaceutical companies.

    Finally, how should we deal with illegal drugs in this country? As almost anyone will tell you, the war on drugs, which costs more money than we can afford, does little to curtail drug use in this country in regards to its cost and efforts. A good historical precedent is prohibition, which was eventually repealed. Perhaps the same method can be used to reform the war on drugs that can be used to reform the health care industry; namely, gradual legislative laws passed over a period of time with healthy debate involved. The end goal would involve the axioms of treatment and safety as opposed to punishment and deterrence.

    Now that this country, and world, is dealing with economic problems, we need to come up with responsible and cost effective solutions to the deepest and most expensive issues we face.

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