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    Governmental control could hurt patient care

    BY Alice Click
    11/03/2003

    WOULD you rather have the government or your doctor prescribing the drugs you need for heart disease and cancer?

    West Virginia will be forced to use cheaper drugs that are often not as effective as original drugs if Gov. Bob Wise gets the pharmaceutical plan he wants.

    When the government buys drugs, it must ration them. The Wise plan could be costly and a deadly mistake.

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    The Canadian-style system to control pharmaceutical prices is what the governor has proposed. But if he gets his way, West Virginians will have fewer drug choices and longer, more costly illnesses.

    Faced with a state budget crisis, deepened by rising Medicaid costs, Wise blames higher drug prices for the state’s fiscal woes and wants drug makers to charge the same prices set by the Canadian government, not by the marketplace.

    Sounds good? Citizens for a Sound Economy states otherwise.

    As a result of the Canadian price-fixing, more of the newer and more effective pharmaceuticals for cancer and hypertension are unavailable in Canada.

    Because prescription drugs are more often used for preventive care, they stave off more debilitating, more costly medical conditions requiring expensive and lengthy hospitalization.

    While a $600 annual prescription for two leading cholesterol-reducing drugs may seem expensive, it is the long-term effect of those drugs that helps avert an emergency bypass operation and lengthy hospital stay.

    Socialized medicine is touted as a cure-all for expensive medical care. Yet how many of us would wish to be put on a waiting list for gall-bladder surgery or a heart-bypass surgery?

    With Wise’s plan, West Virginians may see a drastic reduction of services and lack of availability of life-saving drugs.

    Already, U.S. generic drugs are less expensive than the price-controlled Canadian system.

    Is there more in Wise’s initiative than meets the eye? Could it be the governor has a long affiliation with lobbying groups who may reap billions of dollars in windfalls if more patients are forced to switch to generic drugs?

    With no private-sector alternatives, patients have no choice but to accept what the government — not their doctors — decide what is best.

    It has been suggested that a market-oriented plan can be devised to help poor and low-income people get the medicine they need. This could be part of a competitive prescription drug benefit system that lets consumers shop around — choosing the health-care coverage that suits their needs and their pocketbooks.

    Competition in the pharmaceutical industry and wider choices are needed among public and private benefit plans — not a price-controlled Canadian system.

    It comes down to this — will it be the doctor or government prescribing our drugs?

    Click, of Mount Alto, is volunteer director of the state chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

    by Alice Click on 11/3/03.