CNN Prescribes an End to Free Medicine Samples

     Those free samples your doctor gives when youre sick are a symptom of an amoral market-based health care system, argues a left-leaning doctor. But to the crew of CNNs In the Money, Dr. Jerome Kassirer of Tufts University is just a concerned doctor trying to improve the quality of medicine in America, even though hes a liberal critic of private health care and, according to the Federal Election Commission, donated to the Howard Dean and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) campaigns.

     Feel like you see a drug ad every time you turn on the TV? Well consider this, only about 10 percent of pharmaceutical marketing dollars go to advertising according to our next guest, teased In the Money co-host Jennifer Westhoven on the February 18 program, adding that the other 90 percent goes to wining and dining doctors, according to Kassirer, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

     The In the Money crew didnt question Kassirer on his calculations, including how his numbers ignore the almost $40 billion invested in research and development in 2005, according to a press release by the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Also, numbers released by PhRMA in 2004 showed that in 2003, the amount spent on direct-to-consumer advertising by its members was only one-tenth of that spent on research and development. As the Free Market Project has reported, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department have concluded that direct-to-consumer advertising does not increase inappropriate prescriptions for drugs.

     The CNN money mavens also let the Tufts professor off easily when he attacked drug companies for giving doctors free samples for patients something one would expect liberals and conservatives alike to embrace, given frequent complaints about the cost of medicine. But in responding to co-host Jack Caffertys posed scenario involving a poor patient given a 10-day supply of antibiotics by his doctor, Kassirer replied that the problem was that any time you use those free samples, then the doctor gets used to using that particular drug and that raises the cost of care. Kassirer wasnt questioned on exactly how that raised costs.

     CNNs business crew left out that Kassirer has long been a proponent of socialized medicine and a critic of market-based reforms for health care. Kassirer, then-editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, wrote in the July 6, 1995, edition: Our leaders should reject market values as a framework for health care and the market-driven mess into which our health system is evolving. We gave up too easily; we must make another serious attempt to formulate a national policy that will provide health care to all. That was one year after the defeat of a socialized medicine plan championed by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

     In a January 2000 speech, Kassirer who according to the Federal Election Commission donated $500 to the Howard Dean presidential race in 2003 and $1,000 to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 2004 complained that Never in the 2000 years of medicine did our ethical constructs envision a market-driven health care system This amoral system often requires physicians to serve two masters: their patients and their employers.

     The Business & Media Institute has previously covered how the media have given left-leaning organizations a wide berth to distort health care issues while frequently attacking the prescription drug industry.