Saturday, November 20, 2004

Stuff I read

The patent on Prilosec has recently expired, and in an attempt to preserve the outlandish profits from their blockbuster drug, Astra-Zeneca has made an insignficant chemical modification to it - and gained a fresh patent on the resulting 'new' drug: Nexium. While generic version Prilosec hits store shelves, at $20/30 pills, Nexium, with it's patent-monopoly protection, is priced at $140/30 pills. Why does this work? Because a HALF-BILLION dollar advertising campaign has convinced patients, insurance companies, and even doctors that Nexium is some miracle new drug, when it fact's it's only the enantiomer of Prilosec. The lesson is that pharmaceuticals should not be allowed to advertise so prolifically - not on television, and not to doctors. It sucks money away from their research budgets (you know; where drug companies actually try to research new treatments) and creates a false induced demand for expensive redundant drugs, which in turn drives up health insurance costs for all of us. Ick.


Hmmm... seems as though civilization is about to end. Well, it's been a good ride. See you after the apocalypse!

In My Next Life


Published: November 25, 2004

Email This ArticleE-Mail This Article
Printer Friendly FormatPrinter-Friendly Format
Most E-mailed ArticlesMost E-Mailed Articles

Columnist Page: Thomas L. Friedman

Forum: Discuss This Column




Politics and Government

Freedom and Human Rights

Track news that interests you.

In my next life, I want to be Tom DeLay, the House majority leader.

Yes, I want to get almost the entire Republican side of the House of Representatives to bend its ethics rules just for me. I want to be able to twist the arms of House Republicans to repeal a rule that automatically requires party leaders to step down if they are indicted on a felony charge - something a Texas prosecutor is considering doing to DeLay because of corruption allegations.

But most of all, I want to have the gall to sully American democracy at a time when young American soldiers are fighting in Iraq so we can enjoy a law-based society here and, maybe, extend it to others. Yes, I want to be Tom DeLay. I want to wear a little American flag on my lapel in solidarity with the troops, while I besmirch every value they are dying for.

If I can't be Tom DeLay, then I want to be one of the gutless Republican House members who voted to twist the rules for DeLay out of fear that "the Hammer," as they call him, might retaliate by taking away a coveted committee position or maybe a parking place.

Yes, I want to be a Republican House member. At a time when 180 of the 211 members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Iraq who have been wounded in combat have insisted on returning to duty, I want to look my constituents and my kids in the eye and tell them that I voted to empty the House ethics rules because I was afraid of Tom DeLay.

If I can't be a Republican House member, I want to be Latrell Sprewell, the guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. I want to say with a straight face that if my owner will only give me a three-year contract extension for a meager $21 million, then he's not worth working for, because "I've got my family to feed."

Yes, I want to be Latrell Sprewell. At a time when N.B.A. games are priced beyond the reach of most American families, when half the country can't afford health care, when some reservists in Iraq are separated from their families for a year, including this Thanksgiving, I want to be like Latrell. I want to make sure everyone knows that I'm looking out for my family - and no one else's.

If I can't be Latrell Sprewell, I want to be any American college or professional athlete. For a mere dunk of the basketball or first-down run, I want to be able to dance a jig, as if I'd just broken every record by Michael Jordan or Johnny Unitas. For the smallest, most routine bit of success in my sport, I want to be able to get in your face - I want to know who's your daddy, I want to be able to high-five, low-five, thump my chest and dance on your grave. You talkin' to me?

I want to be able to fight on the court, off the court, in the stands and on the sidelines. I want to respect no boundaries and no norms. And when I make your kids cry, I want to be able to tell you to just "chill" - that my coach says "stuff happens" and that my union rep is appealing my punishment in the name of the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta. Yes, in my next life, I want to be The Man.

If I can't be The Man, then I at least want to be the owner of a Hummer - with American flag decals all over the back bumper, because Hummer owners are, on average, a little more patriotic than you and me.

Yes, I want to drive the mother of all gas-guzzlers that gets so little mileage you have to drive from gas station to gas station. Yes, I want to drive my Hummer and never have to think that by consuming so much oil, I am making transfer payments to the worst Arab regimes that transfer money to Islamic charities that transfer money to madrassas that teach children intolerance, antipluralism and how to hate the infidels.

And when one day one of those madrassa graduates goes off and joins the jihad in Falluja and kills my neighbor's son, who is in the U.S. Army Rangers, I want to drive to his funeral in my Hummer. Yes, I want to curse his killers in front of his mother and wail aloud, "If there was only something I could do ..." And then I want to drive home in my Hummer, stopping at two gas stations along the way.

If I can't be any of these, then I want to be just a simple blue-state red-state American. I want to take time on this Thanksgiving to thank God I live in a country where, despite so much rampant selfishness, the public schools still manage to produce young men and women ready to voluntarily risk their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to spread the opportunity of freedom and to protect my own. And I want to thank them for doing this, even though on so many days in so many ways we really don't deserve them.

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a piece of nonfiction describing Dr. Paul Farmer, a medical prodigy who starts a clinic in Haiti to treat some of the world's poorest people, mainly of the scourge of infectious disease. At first he seems to be trying, naively, to save the trees while the forest burns; treating individual patients but doing nothing to address the underlying causes of their suffering (which are exceedingly easy to fix). Later, as Dr. Farmer matures, and as the author describes his philosophy more intimately, it becomes apparent that he very much does understand and care about the root causes behind their pain. Very inspiring book, will immediately shrink the distance between you and the large levels of suffering occurring everywhere around you. And then make you want to do something about it.

because if you say that seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patients, you're saying that their lives matter less than some others', and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world.

Some people said that medicine addresses only the symptoms of poverty. This, they agreed, was true, and they'd make "common cause" with anyone sincerely trying to change the "political economies" of countries like Haiti. But it didn't follow, as some self-styled radicals said, that good works without revolution only prolonged the status quo, that the only thing projects like Cange really accomplish is the creation of "dependency." The poor were suffering. They were "dying like smelt." Partners in Health believed in sending resources from the United States to Cange, down "the steep gradient of inequality," so as to provide services to the desperately poor- directly, now. They called this "pragmatic solidarity," a goofy term perhaps, but the great thing about it was that, if you really practiced it, you didn't have to define it, you could simply point at what had been accomplished....some things were plenty black and white...areas of moral clarity... these were situations, rare in the world, where what ought to be done seemed perfectly clear. But the doing was always complicated, always difficult.

They talked about issues such as political correctness, which Jim Kim defined as follows: "It's a very well-crafted tool to distract us. A very self-centered activity. Clean up your own vocabulary so you can show everybody you have the social capital of having been in circles where these things are talked about on a regular basis." (What was an example of political correctness? Some academic types would say to Jim and Paul, "Why do you call your patients poor people? They don't call themselves poor people." Jim would reply: "Okay, how about soon-dead people?")

...I thought that what he wanted was to erase both time and geography, connecting all parts of his life and tying them instrumentally to a world in which he saw intimate, inescapable connections betwen the gleaming corporate offices of Paris and New York and a legless man lying on the mud floor of a hut in the remotest part of remote Haiti. Of all the world's errors, he seemed to feel, the most fundamental was the "erasing" of people, the "hiding away" of suffering. "My big struggle is how people can not care, erase, not remember."...Embracing a continuity and interconnectedness that excluded no one semed like another of Farmer's peculiar liberties. It came with a lot of burdens, of course, but it also freed him from the efforts that many people make to find refuge and distinction from their pasts, and from the mass of their fellow human beings.