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Despite their abysmal track record, government solutions are back in vogue. Ostensibly, government’s scale, leverage, and freedom from profit will unlock potential health care savings that are beyond the reach of the private sector. At their most extreme, reforms such as “Medicare for all” call for a complete government takeover of the health care system. Proponents of single payer reforms claim that only a complete government takeover of the health care sector can eliminate the health care sector’s inefficiencies and ensure 100 percent...

Every so often, we scientists encounter something that is so misguided, so wrong-headed, so perfectly idiotic it takes our breath away. It offends us. Such an example is a docudrama film called “Modified.” Disguised as a tender, sentimental story of a Canadian woman learning over many years from her mother the value of home-grown, homemade food—a sort of culinary version of “Anne of Green Gables”—it is nothing more than an anti-social screed providing fodder for the anti-science, anti-corporate echo-chamber that...

Influenza — the flu — is more than a bad cold. Seasonal outbreaks mean not only misery but increased hospital admissions and deaths. The last flu season, from October 2018 until May 2019, caused up to 42.9 million illnesses, up to 647,000 hospitalizations and up to 61,200 deaths, according to preliminary numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those figures are slightly higher than the average over the last decade. What can we expect this year? Australia’s flu season, which...

First the good news: You no longer need to worry about mortgages, student debt, career advancement, or saving for retirement. Depending on the brand of snake oil being peddled by different environmental activists, we’re headed for a “climate apocalypse” in 10, 13, or 20 years. It is undeniable that the United States cannot control the 84 percent of energy usage that occurs outside our country. Looking at trends in coal (which accounts for about 38 percent of fuels used worldwide), led by India...

Genetic engineering has delivered monumental scientific, technological, and humanitarian achievements – from producing human insulin in bacteria and gene therapy to treat genetic diseases to increasing food security and reducing malnutrition in developing countries.  But it continues to face brickbats, sometimes from unexpected directions. The most recent were directed at an extraordinarily important product that helps reduce populations of the invasive mosquito species Aedes aegypti. This non-native, introduced pest transmits viral diseases, including Zika, dengue fever, chikungunya, West Nile, and yellow fever. For most of these,...

When there’s an outbreak of deaths or illnesses from injected street drugs, do public health authorities demand diabetics and doctors stop using syringes? Of course not. Yet a host of public officials — from President Trump to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to members of the Squad — are taking just that sort of approach in responding to the spate of vaping-related illnesses and deaths around the country. Cuomo, for example, went on a tear Sunday about vaping, calling it “a burgeoning health crisis” and...

When it comes to determining value, the U.S. health care system faces unique challenges. Without a better approach, the twin goals of continued innovation and broad-based drug affordability will be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. Value assessment models are quickly becoming the approach du jour to overcome these challenges. However, value assessment models suffer from several flaws, but perhaps most importantly, as applied, these models assume that there is one number that accurately portrays the value of a medicine to all patients. Such an...

A debate over the direction of healthcare reform is roiling the Democratic Party as it weighs whom to nominate for President in 2020. But the party does appear to have coalesced around a basic idea. “We believe that health care is a human right, and we are going to fight for a system that is based on human needs,” said progressive champion Senator Bernie Sanders at a recent campaign stop. Joe Biden’s campaign offers a similar line: “We all believe that health care...

Much of the medical progress in the past half-century has involved expensive, high-tech diagnostic tests and therapies. But it would be a mistake to gainsay the value of inexpensive, low-tech innovations. Consider the problem of falls, which are both a cause and effect of declining health in the elderly. They are the leading cause of injury-related visits to U.S. emergency rooms and of accidental deaths for Americans over 65. Preventing falls or reducing their impact would help millions of people and...

Politicians talk a lot about farming but seldom about “pharming,” even though the latter can also have a big impact on Americans’ pocketbooks—and their health. The punny name refers to genetically modifying plants such as corn, rice, tobacco and alfalfa to produce high concentrations of pharmaceutical ingredients. Many common medicines already come from plants, including morphine, the fiber supplement Metamucil and the cancer drug Taxol. Yet heavy-handed federal regulations have frozen out pharming efforts, making it far too difficult for...

The Trump Administration on July 31 announced steps that could lead to the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where prices are lower. This strategy is favored by President Trump but has long been opposed by many Republicans. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the policy would enable Americans to “get the benefit of the deals that pharma themselves are striking with other countries.” The fate of this initiative is uncertain after the failure of the administration’s last two proposals...

The Trump Administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has officially proposed legalizing the importation of drugs from Canada (e.g. the Safe Importation Action Plan). Canadians’ reactions provide an important perspective demonstrating why drug importation will harm the U.S. Despite assurances from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadians are worried that the U.S. proposal will impose severe costs on Canadians. Their concerns are well founded. Typical of their reaction, the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) has noted that the Canadian medicine supply is not equipped...

Without pro-market payment reforms, cutting edge medical treatments known as gene therapies run the risk of becoming the dance that no one attends. Gene therapies are not medicines, instead, they are akin to an organ transplant. These procedures typically use re-engineered viruses to repair, replace, or shut off malfunctioning genes that cause devastating diseases. For example, the newest gene therapy to obtain FDA approval, Zolgensma, could save the lives of people with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a fatal genetic disease. Children...

California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) recently made it official: Your morning cup of coffee won’t give you cancer. Next week’s newsflash probably will be, swallowing an orange seed doesn’t cause a tree to grow in your stomach. After more than a year of legal wrangling, OAL signed off on a proposed rule exempting coffee from Proposition 65, a decades-old voter-approved measure that requires warning labels on products that contain chemicals the state has deemed potentially carcinogenic. So that means cancer warning labels...

From the time we were toddlers, it has always been tempting to bang the square peg into the round hole. After all, there is always that one square peg that seems like it should just about fit into that round hole, and it would feel so satisfying if it did. Alas, square pegs don’t fit into round holes. The analogy is apropos for Congress’ current approach to drug prices. In the latest iteration, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)...

This year’s debate over Senate Bill 276 (Pan) has generated significant controversy in an area where there should be none – the importance of vaccinating all children from often deadly or debilitating communicable diseases. This debate comes as infectious diseases that used to claim the lives of one in six children before their fifth year are making an alarming comeback in California and nationwide. The culprits are parents who should know better – and the politicians who accommodate them. Parents of small...

The Trump Administration is proposing a litany of contradictory healthcare reforms. Some reforms will empower patients, improve incentives, and strengthen the healthcare system. Others empower bureaucrats, worsen incentives, and will restrict patients’ access to needed healthcare treatments. A better outcome will only emerge if the Administration jettisons the ill-advised proposals and focuses policy on eliminating the disincentives that pervade the current healthcare system. Starting with the bad, the Trump Administration is threatening to impose government-mandated price controls on pharmaceuticals. Of course, this...

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee has just released a bi-partisan bill authored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that would make health care more affordable and more transparent for patients. These reforms are not grandiose fantasies that are destined to fail, such as “Medicare for All”. Instead, the bill proposes modest “common sense” reforms that target specific inefficiencies and disincentives that plague the current health care system. For starters, the bill would promote greater...

Congress is poised to consider a bill that would allow Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada. The bill’s authors, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), label their effort as a bipartisan push to “help Americans who struggle to pay exorbitant prices for medication.” It’s noble of lawmakers to tackle prescription drug costs. Eight in ten Americans are concerned about the price of medicines, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But the Grassley-Klobuchar bill isn’t the right solution. While it...