The Magazine

Nickel-and-Dimed to Death

Price controls for prescription drugs are a prescription for disaster

May 22, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 34 • By ROBERT M. GOLDBERG
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The idea that we could serenely recommend a system that limits people with chronic and fatal illnesses to "living" with 1997 medicine is chilling. Does anyone who supports expanded drug coverage for seniors really desire that? This, after all, is the approach that caused the meat trucks to fill up with the dead bodies of flu victims in England. Such a statement suggests that support is growing for a system that would let people suffer and die in the name of universal coverage, that would demonize innovation and innovators on the one hand, and then force people to accept increasingly outdated medicine on the other. It's not just Hillary Clinton anymore who has her ideological heels dug in on this issue, but more and more of her party and an increasing number of Republicans, too. And make no mistake, waging a war against medical progress has already claimed real casualties and will claim more. The drug-price ideologues do not care to see the connection. Sadly, too many of the politicians who know better would rather pander to seniors than speak out. Too bad there's not a pill for that.

Robert M. Goldberg is a senior research fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.