Friday, November 08, 2013

Thick as a Brick and You Are Too

I’ve come down from the upper class to mend your rotten ways.
My father was a man-of-power whom everyone obeyed.
I’ve got to put you straight just like I did with my old man --
Twenty years too late.
~ Ian Anderson

Never once during my teenage years did it occur to me that Ian Anderson was a prescient songwriter.

But all you need to do is read his lyrics for his band’s “Thick as a Brick” album, released in early 1972, to realize he was onto something.

The Food and Drug Administration, which approves nearly all food and drugs sold in the United States, recently increased the cost patients pay for their asthma inhalers, The New York Times reported.

The regulator became so worried about the country’s 40 million asthma patients polluting the air with chlorofluorocarbons that it did what any government critic might expect it to do – it screwed over the patients in the name of clean air, requiring producers to eliminate the gas from their inhalers, thereby increasing the price for asthma medicine.

While one might see their ruling as a victory for the environment, the day-to-day effect was something perhaps even the FDA didn’t imagine:  It removed an over the counter inhaler, Primatene Mist, along with other generic inhalers, which were cheaper than brand name medicines.

In other words, the only accomplishment the FDA brought about was a lesson in real life economics – eliminate the competition and prices rise.

How did this happen?  Easy.  Armstrong Pharmaceuticals, owner of Primatene Mist, and other generic producers didn’t have the financial resources to change their inhalers. 

As The Times reported:

“’The high prices in the United States are because the FDA has set the bar so high there is no clear pathway for generics,’ said Lisa Urquhart of EvaluatePharma, a consulting firm based in London that provides drug and biotech analysis.  ‘I’m sure the brands (the brand name producers of asthma medicine) are thrilled.’”

In Europe – an example Democrats love to point to when talking up health care – drug regulators are more concerned about patients than air so governments on that progressive continent continue to buy generic inhalers and, in some cases, even give them away.

But a family in Oakland, Calif., with two asthmatic daughters, 13 and 10 years old, is paying, before insurance reduces some of the cost, $175 for each inhaler every month. 

Prior to the FDA’s decision to save the environment, this same inhaler cost about $15, The Times reported.

Now the FDA wants to take away all artificial trans fats, oils used to make frozen pizza, coffee creamers, frosting and packaged cookies.  As the Los Angeles Times reported, an artificial trans fat – the consumption of which increases the chances of a heart attack – is produced by adding hydrogen to liquid oil, which turns it into a solid for making margarine or even Crisco.

What’s the next thing the FDA will eliminate from your diet?  French fries?  Hamburgers?  The pizza you enjoy on a Friday or Saturday night at your favorite restaurant?  Coke?  Wine?  Beer?  

It might seem like pure fantasy now, but will it stay that way?  And what will be the unintended consequence – the one the FDA never imagined as it worked to save you from yourself?

Many Americans might be upset with the FDA’s ruling on trans fats, but should anyone be surprised? 

With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the government is armed with every mandate it needs to save Americans. 

It’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to envision an insurance executive testifying before Congress that hamburgers need to be eliminated from the U.S. diet because, as the latest studies from the Centers for Disease Control show, only about 20 percent of all adults exercise regularly, meaning hamburgers, like trans fats, become a safety issue.

You need not be taking any needless risks.  The government is here to protect you.


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