Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Right To The Drugs You Want 

Yesterday, the question on C-Span's Washington Journal program was "Should Celebrex be taken off the market?" About half of the callers, those who admitted that they do not use the medication, said that it was dangerous to the heart and therefore must be removed from pharmacies. The other 50% of callers, mostly those who use Celebrex, were of the opinion that it must be kept available. Many of these people said that without the drug they would have so much joint pain that they would not be able to move. Removal of the drug for them, therefore, would equate to a death sentence.

This dilemma got me thinking (of course). When it comes to pharmaceuticals why don't we treat them like we do medical procedures that involve risk? Whenever an individual is going to undergo surgery, for example, a physician discusses the potential negative outcomes of the operation with the patient and the case cannot proceed until the patient signs an informed consent document. The government does not ban surgical procedures because there is a potential for bad consequences.

The same should be true with medications. Drug companies should develop informed consent forms which clearly spell out the risks and benefits of taking a specific drug. The paperwork would be reviewed with patients by a physician and a prescription would still be needed to obtain the medication. The FDA would continue to approve and monitor the use of all drugs.

I ran this idea by a couple of people and received positive reactions. Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said he would write about it. A friend of mine with a chronic condition said that he currently feels the best he has felt in 8 years because he is taking something which could potentially cause cancer, although the risk is small. He said he would gladly sign such a form.

I think its an idea whose time has arrived.

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