Friday, July 21, 2006

Drug Errors and Government Medicine

I remember learning a fable in school. I don't remember whether I learned it in grade school, middle school, or high school, but by the time I was an adult, I knew this fable well. The fable went as so.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as Medicine, or at least, not Scientific Medicine. Most people relied upon ancient superstitions, con-men, and such, for their medical treatment. Particularly scurrilious were the "snake-oil salesmen," people who would bottle esoteric substances and sell them as "miracle cures" to unsuspecting rubes. Many were injured by such villians, and the people cried out for something to be done.

Then the government created the FDA, licencing boards, etc. and everybody lived happily ever after.

So, how has the government been doing improving out medical system? Well, check this out. I can't help but wonder: is medicine in any better a state now than it was before the government got involved in medicine?

The hilarious thing about all this is that the answers to the questions are RIGHT THERE IN THE ARTICLE. For example
_The nation should invest about $100 million annually on research into drug errors and how to prevent them. Among the most-needed studies is the impact of free drug samples, which often lack proper labeling, on medication safety.
and the answer to the question...

Worse, there's too little incentive for health providers to invest in technology that could prevent some errors today, added Dr. J. Lyle Bootman, the University of Arizona's pharmacy dean, who co-chaired the IOM probe.

"We're paid whether these errors occur or not," lamented Bootman
Now, I'm not an expert, but I'd be willing to bet that under a system of medical freedom (ie. no governmen restrictions and no government funding), they WOULDN'T get paid whether the errors occured or not. Indeed, medical institutions all over the country would have a massive incentive to not make mistakes: those that did make mistakes would be fired for incompetance, and systemic problems would be fixed, or would be eliminated from the market.

How about this:

The government should speed electronic prescribing, including fostering technology improvements so that the myriad computer programs used by doctors, hospitals and drugstores are compatible.

Now, how exactly does a government do that? There's really only one power government can actually bring to bear: say, "start using electronic prescribing or else," and shut down those that don't, or can't comply. This is the main power of government.

So, have you ever heard of the law of supply and demand? Have you ever wondered why medical expenses are so high? Is it worth the money?

Personally, I don't really think so.

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