Daily Archives: February 27, 2008

Bloodsuckers Vs. Lifesavers

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Enterprise: When a great American company offers a medicine that lengthens the lives of hundreds of millions of people, you might think politicians would say thank you. Instead they say: How dare you advertise it.

Related Topics: Business & Regulation | Health Care

Pfizer has just been pressured by Congress into dropping its main ad campaign for the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, arguably the most popular medicine in the world and with very good reason.

Lipitor can lower the deadly artery-clogging substance by as much as 60% and, when combined with regular exercise and a low-fat diet, prevents heart attacks and sudden deaths.

Companies who do so much for so many deserve plaudits. But liberal politicians never rest in their search for corporate villains, and so they have demonized the pharmaceutical industry, just as they have an oil and gas industry that spends billions developing new technologies to reach crude and natural gas deposits that were inaccessible only a few years ago.

Just as Congress’ big shots have no appreciation for how “Big Oil” can cut our dependence on oil-rich enemy countries, they’re equally ungrateful for how “Big Pharma” cures and manages disease.

In his research on productivity and health care for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Columbia business professor Frank R. Lichtenberg found a direct connection between new drug approvals and rapidly increased longevity.

Lichtenberg reckons the average new drug approval adds a total of 1.2 million years to the lives of current and future generations. With it costing the pharmaceutical industry about $500 million to bring a new drug to market, Lichtenberg extrapolated that the “cost per life-year gained is $424” — just a fraction of the economic value of a single year of a person’s life of $150,000, cited by Lichtenberg based on calculations by University of Chicago economics professors Kevin M. Murphy and Robert H. Topel.

Drug manufacturers such as Pfizer have been performing such incalculably valuable services to Americans and the rest of the world for generations.

It may have been the disorganized Alexander Fleming who won the Nobel Prize for accidentally discovering penicillin in 1928. But he actually failed to recognize its importance and abandoned his discovery. Pfizer, with its expertise in fermentation, mass produced the new wonder drug in response to an appeal from the U.S. government, saving multitudes of Allied forces in World War II.

This is of little interest, however, to Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and an octogenarian who has held his House seat since 1955.

Also known as “The Truck” — as in stay out of his way if you don’t want to be run over — Dingell was complaining that Pfizer was using Dr. Robert Jarvik, the physician who helped develop the artificial heart, as its spokesman for Lipitor — and paying Jarvik quite well for his services.

Pfizer on Monday chose to pull its Jarvik ads in the face of Dingell’s pressure, and in typical fashion Dingell issued a response that did little to disguise his gloating: “We trust that Pfizer is sincere in its commitment to ‘greater clarity’ in its advertising. My colleagues and I look forward to meeting with Pfizer’s management team to discuss their plans related to direct-to-consumer advertising.”

In other words, see you when you and your fellow corporate vassals come by Capitol Hill to deliver your oaths of fealty to your congressional masters.

A company that has saved and extended so many lives — including those of Congress members and their loved ones — are not allowed to sell their own valuable wares without politicians sticking their noses into it. They’re not allowed to educate the public in the most effective way about their medicines.

Such arrogant intrusion by politicians in search of corporate bogeymen isn’t just political grandstanding; it actually costs lives.