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OpenMarket: Business and Government

  • Drug Industry Gone to the Dogs

    January 9, 2007
    My dog is fat. Obese, even, if the FDA is to be believed. The arrival of my new-born son two years ago has meant fewer and fewer long runs on the weekends for me and the dog, as well as more and more table 'scraps' being hand-fed to the pooch by the boy. Tipping the scales at a whopping 90 pounds (or roughly 20 percent) over his ideal weight, BJ needs some help. Fortunately, last week the FDA approved the very first diet drug for dogs -- a Pfizer product called derlotapide, to be marketed under the trade name Slentrol. The introduction of a prescription-only diet drug for pets says a lot about a country. (It might suggest a thing or two about me personally as well, but let...
  • Draining the Swamp: Reform for Anti-Malaria Policy

    December 14, 2006
    The White House is hosting a summit on malaria this week, and our good friend Roger Bate will be attending. And since Roger has such excellent timing, he also has an op-ed out today assessing the state of anti-malaria efforts and what we can hope for coming out of the summit:
    Malaria, an entirely preventable and treatable disease, kills at least a million people yearly, mostly children under age 5 and pregnant women. Prompted by anti-malaria advocates, the U.S. Congress led a series of investigations into USAID's malaria control programs between September 2004 and January 2006. These hearings found almost no monitoring and evaluation of performance, no ability to account for spending with any meaningful precision, and the promotion...
  • Tobacco Scam

    December 7, 2006
    In 1998, the big tobacco companies entered into a $250 billion settlement with trial lawyers and the attorneys general of 46 states. Big Tobacco agreed to pay this vast sum, plus $14 billion extra in lawyers' fees to politically-connected trial lawyers, in exchange for protections against competition from little tobacco companies (which are forced to make escrow payments on every cigarette they sell in competition with Big Tobacco) that are not part of the settlement. To justify giving the trial lawyers this absurd amount of money (and giving the tobacco companies protection against competition that would otherwise violate the antitrust laws), supporters of the settlement claimed it was for a good cause: funding smoking cessation programs. For example, Brooke Masters'...
  • Saudis to Sue Tobacco Companies

    December 1, 2006
    The Saudi government is threatening to sue American tobacco companies such as Philip Morris to force them to pay the healthcare costs of Saudi smokers. The lawsuit may seem laughably inconsistent with the basic idea of personal responsibility. But the Saudis are just imitating America's own trial lawyers. in 1998, American trial lawyers, assisted by 46 state attorneys general, succeeded in getting Big Tobacco to pay $250 billion over 25 years to state governments, supposedly to pay for smokers' healthcare costs, in a backroom deal called the Master Settlement Agreement. (An extra $14 billion was paid to the lawyers. CEI is challenging the settlement in federal court as a violation of the Constitution's Compact Clause). Big Tobacco shortsightedly went along because the trial lawyers added a sweetener to the deal...
  • For Best Results, Drink Like a Sardinian

    November 30, 2006
    There's more scientific evidence that moderate consumption of red wine is good for you:
    New research from the William Harvey Research Institute and the University of Glasgow shows that red wines from areas of greater longevity in southwest France and Sardinia have higher levels of procyanidins - a type of flavonoid polyphenol with potent protective effects on blood vessels. A number of population studies have revealed that moderate drinkers of red wine have less heart disease than non-drinkers. As a result it has become widely accepted that a glass or two of red wine per day is good for your heart.
    The Q & A with one of the researchers also updates our understanding of a previous development in the wine-is-good-for-you literature:...
  • Breast-Related Assurances from the First Lady of Illinois

    November 28, 2006
    Some Illinois political observers are raising their eyebrows about a stack of greeting cards that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office sent out before the election congratulating new parents on their bundles of joy (and reminding them to get their kids immunized). The implication here being that Blagojevich wanted to spend a little government money to get his name in front of potential voters just before the election. I kind of doubt that, but in any case, focusing on that ignores the much more amusing angle, which is that many of the cards were delivered over a year late:
    "I thought it was laughable," said 29-year-old Andrew Fitzgibbon of Lincoln. "Here my daughter is turning 1 and I get something...
  • The Media Filter

    November 28, 2006
    Dr. Crippen, a doctor who has the misfortune to work in the British National Health Service, has an interesting story about the critical faculties of the BBC. Blessed Auntie Beeb simply posted a news release from a firm that makes artificial milk posing as a healthcare advocacy group as a news story, then when found out altered the story without notice. I wonder what could have attracted the BBC to the story in the first place? Claims of babies dying - check. Claims that normal part of diet is causing it - check. Authoritative-sounding statistics - check. General suspicion that industry actually enjoys killing its customers - check. Who could blame them? The story was simply too good to fact-check...
  • Court Ensures Painful Death for Terminally Ill

    November 22, 2006
    Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to vacate and rehear its Abigail Alliance v. Von Eschenbach decision, which would have required the FDA to justify why it prevents gravely ill people who would otherwise die from obtaining access to drugs that have passed the first stage of the FDA's lengthy approval process. Decisions are usually reversed when they are reheard by the full court. Apparently, the specter of terminally ill people being able to access experimental drugs that might save their lives was just too scary for many of the D.C. Circuit judges. Perhaps they agreed with the specious arguments of the Washington Post, which editorialized against the D.C. Circuit's original decision in favor of the terminally ill by using the straw-man argument that no one has an affirmative right of access to medical...
  • A Sequel We Could Have Done Without: The Return of the Dingell

    November 21, 2006

    OpenMarket's consulting physician, Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution, has some strong words (and unfortunate predictions) about what we can expect from the new committee leadership in Congress:

    Much of American commerce that depends on innovative science and technology will likely suffer in the new regime — biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceutical R&D, to name just a few sectors. Many senior Democratic members of Congress and their staffs are relentlessly anti-science, anti-technology, and anti-business. Worst of all, they're uneducable. They remind me of the reputation of France's King Charles II, about whom it was said that he never learned anything and never forgot anything.

    Ouch. Now, maybe you'll say Henry is being a...

  • Weighty Problem

    November 21, 2006
    As Brooke notes below, obesity has been tied to global warming.  One of the lessons obesity campaigners drew from that study was that losing weight saves you gas money and that the US uses 938 million more gallons of gas a year because of the extra weight gain since 1960.  The often excellent env-econ blog had something to say about that:
    Let's say that a typical new car sold these days weighs about 4000 pounds. A 50 pound increase (one heavier male, one heavier female) is a 1.25 % increase in total weight. If the gasoline savings are about 1%, the elasticity of gas to weight (% change in gasoline divided by the % change in weight) is 0.80. Hmmm. Maybe the estimate ain't so crazy. Extrapolating, if the typical car turns into a typical car sold 25...

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