Healthcare

Piano Ue contro il cancro, il Parlamento dà spazio alla sigaretta elettronica

Pietro Fiocchi (FdI), membro della Commissione parlamentare che sta stilando un rapporto per il piano, assicura che vi sarà un paragrafo sul vaping.

Il rapporto che lo Special Committee on cancer del Parlamento europeo consegnerà alla Commissione come contributo per il Piano contro il cancro includerà un paragrafo sulla sigaretta elettronica. A rivelarlo è stato l’europarlamentare italiano Pietro Fiocchi (Fratelli d’Italia), durante un incontro organizzato questa mattina dalla sede a Bruxelles della Camera di commercio britannica, incentrato proprio sul Beating Cancer Plan dell’Unione europea. Sottotitolo dell’evento, prevenire è meglio che curare e proprio sugli strumenti e le best practice in materia di prevenzione verteva l’intervento di Fiocchi. Il parlamentare italiano, che è relatore ombra della Commissione speciale sul cancro dell’Europarlamento ha aggiunto che “è importante che il paragrafo sul vaping contenga le cose giuste”, cioè presumibilmente che tratti la sigaretta elettronica come strumento di riduzione del danno da fumo.

Lo scorso ottobre, Fiocchi aveva presentato una interrogazione alla Commissione europea, chiedendo se nel piano europeo di lotta contro il cancro si stesse prendendo in considerazione la riduzione del danno provocato dal tabacco. “Può la Commissione – si leggeva nel testo della interrogazione – riferire se sta valutando la possibilità di promuovere l’adozione di misure preventive, come ad esempio strategie di riduzione dei danni? Come intende affrontare l’importanza della riduzione dei danni nel piano di lotta contro il cancro, ad esempio raccomandando politiche che incoraggino l’uso di prodotti a base di nicotina a rischio ridotto o campagne di sensibilizzazione per un consumo responsabile di alcol? Durante il processo di consultazione pubblica, la Commissione si è rivolta a gruppi di riflessione in rappresentanza dei consumatori che hanno beneficiato di metodi di riduzione del danno, come l’uso della sigaretta elettronica?”.

Ora lo stesso europarlamentare riferisce che, almeno per quanto riguarda il contributo del Parlamento, la riduzione del danno in generale e la sigaretta elettronica in particolare avranno uno spazio. Le parole di Fiocchi hanno raccolto il plauso dell’associazione World Vapers’Alliance, che da mesi conduce a Bruxelles una battaglia su questo tema. “Ci sentiamo estremamente incoraggiati dall’impegno dell’onorevole Fiocchi – ha dichiarato il direttore Michael Landl – per includere la sigaretta elettronica nel rapporto del Parlamento sul cancro. I parlamentari europei hanno la possibilità di prevenire migliaia di casi di cancro in tutta l’Unione europea, aiutando i fumatori a passare alla sigaretta elettronica”. “Ora è fondamentale – auspica Landl – che i colleghi di Fiocchi seguano il suo esempio e sostengano il vaping”.

Originally published here.

POUR PLUS D’ACCÈS AUX SOINS, RÉDUISONS LA TVA À ZÉRO SUR LES MÉDICAMENTS !

Alors que les Européens sont confrontés à une crise de santé publique, il serait nécessaire d’accroître l’accessibilité des médicaments en supprimant la TVA sur les biens les plus essentiels.

La pandémie de Covid-19 a remis à l’ordre du jour la politique de santé des décideurs européens. Avant l’épidémie, l’Europe était engagée dans un débat sur le prix des médicaments, mais cela n’intéressait que les échelons supérieurs des institutions politiques.

Les entreprises pharmaceutiques sont souvent blâmées, de même que le manque de transparence des prix. Un examen plus approfondi des coûts des médicaments montre cependant que l’une des principales causes de ces coûts élevés est la taxe sur les ventes de médicaments.

Les patients informés savent que tous les pays européens, sauf un, appliquent la TVA sur les médicaments en vente libre et les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance. L’Allemagne impose jusqu’à 19% de TVA sur les médicaments, tandis que le Danemark se classe en tête, avec des taux de 25%, soit un cinquième du prix total d’un médicament !

La France applique un taux relativement faible de 2,1% de TVA sur les médicaments remboursables et 10% sur ceux qui ne sont pas remboursables.

Et chez les autres ?

Il n’y a qu’un seul pays qui ne perçoit pas de TVA sur les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance ou en vente libre : il s’agit de l’île de Malte. Le Luxembourg (3%) et l’Espagne (4%) montrent également que les taux modestes de TVA sur les médicaments ne sont pas une idée folle, mais quelque chose dont des millions d’Européens bénéficient déjà.

La Suède et le Royaume-Uni appliquent tous deux un taux de TVA de 0% sur les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance, mais de 25% et 20% respectivement sur les médicaments en vente libre.

Il est évident que l’un des principaux obstacles à un meilleur accès aux médicaments est la politique fiscale inadéquate de certains Etats membres de l’Union européenne (UE).

La TVA à 0% partout ?

Lorsque les autorités discutent de l’accès aux soins, il serait intéressant qu’elles se penchent sur ce problème dont elles sont les seules responsables avant de parler de l’érosion des droits de propriété intellectuelle ou de l’influence des grandes sociétés pharmaceutiques sur la fixation des prix.

C’est particulièrement le cas des médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance ou les médicaments contre le cancer qui peuvent atteindre des niveaux de prix substantiels avec des taux de TVA allant jusqu’à 25%. De telles taxes pèsent lourdement sur les patients et leur assurance-maladie.

En ce qui concerne les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance, il n’est guère judicieux de commencer par appliquer une taxe sur la valeur ajoutée, puis de laisser les compagnies d’assurance-maladie nationales payer la note.

Pour les médicaments en vente libre, les décideurs politiques sont aveuglés par l’idée que le simple fait qu’ils ne soient pas prescrits par les médecins en fait des biens secondaires et non-essentiels.

De nombreux médicaments en vente libre, qu’il s’agisse de médicaments contre les maux de tête, les brûlures d’estomac, les remèdes respiratoires ou les crèmes dermatologiques, ne sont pas seulement des médicaments indispensables pour des millions d’Européens ; ils font souvent office de soins préventifs. Plus nous taxons ces produits, plus nous accablons les médecins de visites non essentielles.

A l’instar de Malte, les pays européens devraient abaisser leur taux de TVA à 0% sur tous les médicaments. Le but de la TVA est de réduire l’activité commerciale, en s’assurant que toutes les transactions commerciales paient ce qui est considéré comme leur juste part. Cela permet de toucher également les entreprises qui ne paient traditionnellement pas d’impôts sur les sociétés.

Cependant, considérer la vente de médicaments comme une transaction purement commerciale, du point de vue des patients, est une erreur. Des millions de citoyens ont besoin chaque jour de médicaments spécifiques délivrés sur ordonnance, et d’autres comptent sur l’aide de médicaments en vente libre pour soulager la douleur ou traiter des problèmes qui ne nécessitent pas de soins médicaux professionnels.

Il est temps que les nations européennes se mettent d’accord sur un accord contraignant de TVA zéro sur les médicaments ou au moins sur un plafond de 5%, ce qui permettrait de réduire drastiquement les prix des médicaments, d’accroître l’accessibilité aux soins et de créer une Europe plus juste.

Originally published here.

WHO Reverses Course, Now Advises Against Use of ‘Punishing’ Lockdowns

Even as the WHO calls on nations to refrain from imposing lockdowns, many governments continue to use this strategy.

For months, an overwhelming majority of the planet’s population has been subject to cruel and unnerving lockdowns: businesses closed, travel restricted, and social gatherings kept to a minimum.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have sunk our economies, kept loved ones apart, derailed funerals, and made personal and economic liberty a casualty as much as our health. One report states it could cost us $82 trillion globally over the next five years – roughly the same as our yearly global GDP.

Many of these initial lockdowns were justified by policy recommendations by the World Health Organization.

The WHO’s director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, writing in a strategy update in April, called on nations to continue lockdowns until the disease was under control.

But now, more than six months since lockdowns became a favored political tool of global governments, the WHO is calling for their swift end.

Dr. David Nabarro, the WHO’s Special Envoy on COVID-19, told Spectator UK’s Andrew Neil last week that politicians have been wrong in using lockdowns as the “primary control method” to combat COVID-19.

“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” said Nabarro.

Dr. Michael Ryan, Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, offered a similar sentiment.

“What we want to try to avoid – and sometimes it’s unavoidable and we accept that – but what we want to try and avoid is these massive lockdowns that are so punishing to communities, to society and to everything else,” said Dr. Ryan, speaking at a briefing in Geneva. 

These are stunning statements from an organization that has been a key authority and moral voice responsible for handling the global response to the pandemic.

Cues from the WHO have underpinned each and every national and local lockdown, threatening to push 150 million people into poverty by the end of the year.

As Nabarro stated, the vast majority of the people harmed by these lockdowns have been the worse off.

We all know people who have lost their businesses, lost work, and seen their life savings go up in smoke. That’s especially true for those who work in the service and hospitality industries, which have been decimated by lockdown policies.

And even as the WHO calls on nations to refrain from imposing lockdowns, many governments continue to use this strategy. Schools in many US states remain closed, bars and restaurants are off-limits, and large gatherings–apart from social justice protests–are condemned and shut down by force.

The effects of the prolonged lockdowns on young people are now becoming more clear. A recent study from Edinburgh University says keeping schools shut down will increase the number of deaths due to COVID-19. Added to that, the study says lockdowns “prolong the epidemic, in some cases resulting in more deaths long-term.”

If we want to avoid any more harm, we should immediately end these disastrous policies. Any fresh calls to impose lockdowns should now be viewed with the utmost skepticism.

It’s time for the madness to end. Not only because the World Health Organization says so, but because our very lives depend on it.

As the doctors and scientists stated in the Grand Barrington Declaration signed this month in Massachusetts, the “physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies” have themselves caused devastating effects on both short and long-term health.

We cannot continue to risk our health and well-being in the long-term by shutting in our economies and our people in the short-term. That’s the only way forward if we seek to recover from the ruinous effects of government policy surrounding COVID-19.

Originally published here.

Trump’s drug import plan will make us all pay

Make Canada Great Again?

Believe it or not, that’s what is at the center of President Donald Trump’s latest executive order aimed at trying to lower the cost of prescription drugs for Americans.

Trump’s plan, dubbed the “Most-Favored-Nation-Price” model, would effectively import price controls on pharmaceuticals from other nations with single-payer, government-run health systems, including Canada.

With this order, Trump will force Medicare to pay the same negotiated rates as other countries that don’t have the same level of innovation or access to medicines as the U.S

That means that while drug prices for certain seniors will be lower in the short term, it will mean higher costs in the long-term, jeopardizing future drug development, and access. And that will be bad for every American, not to mention our retirees on Medicare.

As an example, modern drug development requires not only massive investment but also time and the ability to experiment through trial and error. Only one of every 5,000-10,000 substances synthesized will make it successfully through all stages of product development to become an approved drug. That’s a big risk and one that only pays off if these drugs can be sold and used. 

Many projects fail to bring even one drug to market. Investing in life sciences requires a healthy risk appetite, and therefore an incentive scheme that rewards those able to create value is necessary. 

By the time a medical drug reaches the regular patient, an average of 12.5 years will have elapsed since the first discovery of the new active substance. The total investment needed to get to one active substance that can be accessed by a patient is around $2 billion. And that is just for medicines we already know we need.

There are over 10,000 known diseases in the world but approved treatment for merely 500 of them. It may be easy to dictate lower prices for these medicines, but that will mean that drug developers will not have the same means to invest in research for the remaining 95% of diseases we cannot yet cure.

Added to that, the U.S. can count on access to all sorts of innovative medicines because of our innovators and inventors.

By forcing lower prescription drug prices for our elderly, Trump seems eager to harm our ability to find cures for those who still hope for the development of a cure for their untreatable diseases and future access to the medicines we need.

Such a move may play well in voter rich Florida, with a large population of seniors anxious about drug prices, but it shatters the unique mix of both innovation and entrepreneurship that leads the U.S. to be the world’s top creator and supplier of badly-needed drugs. Half of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world are headquartered in our country, and for good reason.

Trump, for his part, claims that this will stop “free-riding” from other nations on the US’ relatively high drug prices. And that is indeed a concern that touches many of us. But such a rash plan will put a chokehold on innovation across the entire sector of our drug industry.

If Trump wants other countries to “pay their fair share” on drug prices, the best method is by trade agreements and negotiation, not by emulating anti-innovation policies from other nations.

To achieve cheaper drug prices, there are simpler and cheaper ways to tackle this.

For one, the president should be open to a reform of the Food and Drug Administration. Too much time is lost trying to get drugs approved across every industrialized country. If we recognized drug approvals from all other countries in the OECD, this would lower costs and accelerate the pace of bringing drugs to the US market.

We cannot risk our entire drug infrastructure for the hope of short-term lower costs. If the Trump administration wants our nation to remain a shining beacon of innovation and allows its patients to access state-of-the-art medicine, we should not import bad policies from abroad.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

Americans Need to Divorce Health Insurance From Our Jobs

In between the jabs during the first presidential debate, both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden stumbled through their visions for healthcare reform.

While Biden wants to expand a “public option,” a kind of Obamacare plus, Trump focused on his executive orders mandating cheaper drug prices and the congressional repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate.

Neither leaves voters feeling heard.

That there was no substantive health debate is a shame, considering health insurance costs and coverage personally affect every American. Who doesn’t have their own health insurance horror story?

If we want to radically improve insurance and healthcare in our country to ensure that every American receives the care they need, we have to be bold. And that begins with divorcing insurance from where we work.

Not only would that improve the choices of consumers, but it would also help lower costs and provide more options for people who aren’t covered in the current system. That would empower individuals to choose their health plans according to their needs.

As of March 2019, the U.S. Census estimates that 91 percent of the population had health insurance. Nearly one third receive coverage from government health insurance, whether Medicare, Medicaid or state employees. Left out are approximately 29.9 million Americans without health insurance — public, private or otherwise.

The number of uninsured is an important metric because it is the target group for most substantial health insurance reforms of the past decade, including Obamacare at the federal level and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility at the state level, both problematic in their own right.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 45 percent of the uninsured say the cost is too high, while 31 percent of the uninsured lost their coverage because they made too much money for Medicaid or they changed employers.

The single largest category of the insured in our country is those who receive insurance through their jobs, approximately 54 percent. Why is that?

Since 1973, the federal government provided incentives to employers who set up Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) for their employees. Since then, our health insurance market has pivoted to match having a job with health insurance.

Incentives to employers to cover healthcare for their employees is good policy on its face, but it has led to unforeseen economic consequences.

Employee health plans, managed by state-based health insurers (another worthy reform to consider), often become a headache for workers and firms alike.

These plans aim to define benefits and coverage according to a firm’s needs and often have to hire several people to oversee them. Then, bureaucracy balloons, administrative costs creep up, and whatever advantage these plans initially offered is now buried in red tape.

Added to that, if you leave your job for another one or find yourself unemployed, you are now one of the 9 percent without health insurance, which puts you at risk.

There has to be a better way.

The alternative to this system would be a free and open marketplace in which individuals would be empowered to choose their healthcare insurance plan according to their needs, just like car insurance. Employers could offer cash subsidies in line with current federal incentives, but the choice of plan would remain that of the workers.

Such a plan would then empower people to try new innovative healthcare delivery models, such as direct primary care, concierge medicine, and medical startups.

As a relatively young and healthy person, for example, I opt for high deductible emergency insurance that is there when I need it. Smaller health expenses are paid in cash or with a health savings account that offers tax benefits. If I have a more serious injury or illness, my insurance covers the costs.

For me, and likely for millions of other individuals, this arrangement works. It is how insurance is supposed to work. We take out insurance to cover the costs and the risks we don’t foresee, not to cover each routine transaction we make with a provider. It’s the same reason we don’t insure windshield wipers or tires on our cars.

If someone wants more comprehensive insurance, they should be free to take it. And the costs should be reflective of that option.

If employees could be encouraged to build their plans, that would remove administrative and bureaucratic hurdles from existing insurance arrangements or mandates. It would also encourage more competition and lower prices from health insurers, helping bring down costs for employers and employees alike.

But doing so will require a huge shift in the way we think as Americans. We can no longer marry our health insurance to our jobs.

Separation of job and insurance should be a mantra as much as separation of church and state. And federal policy should encourage Americans who take control of their own private health insurance plan.

Originally published here.

Americans need to separate health insurance from our jobs

If we want to radically improve insurance and health care in our country to ensure that every American receives the care they need, we have to be bold. And that begins with divorcing insurance from where we work.

Not only would that improve the choices of consumers, but it would also help lower costs and provide more options for people who aren’t covered in the current system. That would empower individuals to choose their health plans according to their needs.

As of March 2019, the U.S. Census estimates that 91% of the population had health insurance. Nearly one third receive coverage from government health insurance, whether Medicare, Medicaid or state employees. Left out are approximately 29.9 million Americans without health insurance — public, private or otherwise.

The number of uninsured is an important metric because it is the target group for most substantial health insurance reforms of the past decade, including Obamacare at the federal level and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility at the state level, both problematic in their own right.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 45% of the uninsured say the cost is too high, while 31% of the uninsured lost their coverage because they made too much money for Medicaid or they changed employers.

The single largest category of the insured in our country is those who receive insurance through their jobs, approximately 54%. Why is that?

Since 1973, the federal government provided incentives to employers who set up Health Maintenance Organizations for their employees. Since then, our health insurance market has pivoted to match having a job with health insurance. Incentives to employers to cover health care for their employees is good policy on its face, but it has led to unforeseen economic consequences.

Employee health plans, managed by state-based health insurers (another worthy reform to consider), often become a headache for workers and firms alike.

These plans aim to define benefits and coverage according to a firm’s needs and often have to hire several people to oversee them. Then, bureaucracy balloons, administrative costs creep up, and whatever advantage these plans initially offered is now buried in red tape.

Added to that, if you leave your job for another one or find yourself unemployed, you are now one of the 9% without health insurance, which puts you at risk.

There has to be a better way.

The alternative to this system would be a free and open marketplace in which individuals would be empowered to choose their health care insurance plan according to their needs, just like car insurance. Employers could offer cash subsidies in line with current federal incentives, but the choice of plan would remain that of the workers.

Such a plan would then empower people to try new innovative health care delivery models, such as direct primary care, concierge medicine and medical startups.

We take out insurance to cover the costs and the risks we don’t foresee, not to cover each routine transaction we make with a provider. It’s the same reason we don’t insure windshield wipers or tires on our cars.

If someone wants more comprehensive insurance, they should be free to take it. And the costs should be reflective of that option.

If employees could be encouraged to build their plans, that would remove administrative and bureaucratic hurdles from existing insurance arrangements or mandates. It would also encourage more competition and lower prices from health insurers, helping bring down costs for employers and employees alike.

But doing so will require a huge shift in the way we think as Americans. We can no longer marry our health insurance to our jobs.

Separation of job and insurance should be a mantra as much as separation of church and state. And federal policy should encourage Americans who take control of their own private health insurance plan.


Yaël Ossowski is a writer and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

Originally published here.

Safeguarding IP rights is key to defeating COVID-19

COVID-19 has exposed our unpreparedness for a crisis of global scope. As much as globalisation is partly to blame for the virus’ speedy expansion, it is also thanks to the interconnectedness of our world that we have been able to preserve international trade – despite a bundle of constraints and cries for protectionism – during these tough times. In particular, that has to do with exports of essential medical devices such as masks, ventilators, personal protective equipment. The shortages experienced by many countries have triggered an intergovernmental discussion on the scope of compulsory licencing and IP protection covered by The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). 

As a global consumer advocacy group, we at the Consumer Choice Center are hereby sharing our perspective on the matter in the hope to contribute to this timely debate. 

The TRIPS agreement is an integral part of the World Trade Organisation’s intellectual property legal base. Among other things, the agreement whose primary aim is to safeguard intellectual property rights, also includes provisions on compulsory licencing, or use of subject matter of a patent without the authorisation of the right holder (Article 31). Essentially, this means that “in the case of a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency or in cases of public non-commercial use,” a Member government may allow someone else to produce a patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner. 

Whereas, under normal circumstances, the person or company applying for a licence must have first attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain a voluntary licence from the right holder on reasonable commercial terms (Article 31b). However, there is no need to try for a voluntary licence first under TRIPS flexibilities.

TRIPS flexibilities, therefore, allow countries to override global IP rules to mitigate the damage caused by an emergency and have been mainly applied where pharmaceuticals have been concerned. 

In July, South Africa issued a communication titled “Beyond Access to Medicines and Medical Technologies Towards a More Holistic Approach to TRIPS Flexibilities.”  It was pointed out that the COVID-19 response required looking beyond patents towards a more “integrated approach to TRIPS flexibilities that include other various types of intellectual property (IP) rights including copyrights, industrial designs and trade secrets” (IP/C/W/666). As such, the recommendations submitted by South Africa are cross-field as they also touch upon the production and distribution of essential medical devices such as masks, ventilators, personal protective equipment.

Though proposed out of the noble motives, South African communication is ignorant of the need to protect IP rights instead of eroding them. Opponents of intellectual property rights often make the mistake of taking innovation for granted thereby turning a blind eye to the driving force of every kind of entrepreneurship: economic incentives. Patents and various other forms of intellectual property are not biased towards the inventor. On the contrary, they ensure that companies can continue to innovate and deliver on their products to consumers. 

The short-term result of eroding intellectual property rights would be increased access to innovations, but in the long-term, there would be no innovation. With the second wave of coronavirus on the way putting brakes on the economic recovery, it is not something we can afford.

In fact, we need to stay as firm as ever in our defence of intellectual property rights if we want to defeat coronavirus and many more diseases. Patients who may one day be diagnosed with incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes, or HIV/AIDS should benefit from the chance that a cure will become available, and protecting IP is the only way to give them that chance. If we act boldly now and weaken intellectual property rights even further – and expand the scope of TRIPS flexibilities – we will cause the damage that will be hardly reversible, and the post-pandemic world will have to foot the bill.

As the former Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer pointed out, “Patents and other intellectual property protections enshrine the incentives that compel drug companies to take such extraordinary risks. By temporarily barring copycat products, the rules give innovators an opportunity to try and recoup their huge development costs. A substantial portion of the revenues achieved from the sale of those innovative drugs are dedicated to fund new projects, and enable the pursuit of path-breaking R&D in the first place.”

If we want more prosperity for all, we need to protect intellectual property rights. TRIPS flexibilities, and the call to extend their scope beyond patens, in particular, are an attempt to erode IP, and should be seen for what they really are: a threat to our economic recovery from COVID-19 and future innovation.

By Maria Chaplia, European Affairs Associate at the Consumer Choice Center

Scrapping Public Health England should only be the beginning

Scrapping Public Health England, a body with the ambition of nannying every Brit, is a significant step towards enhancing personal responsibility and allowing greater freedom. But there’s much further to go.

The UK government should drastically change its approach to healthcare and lifestyle regulations to create an enduring change. With 320,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the country and close to 41,000 dead, there is an urgent need to find a scapegoat. PHE is problematic for many reasons, but it is hardly the root of the UK’s failed Covid response. Enormous centralisation and bureaucracy, on the other hand, are what the UK government needs to do away with. The response to the pandemic gives us clear examples.

It took the UK over six weeks to catch up with other developed countries’ testing capabilities. Germany’s decentralised and private laboratory network had already tested over two per cent of its population while the UK had tested a meagre 0.7 per cent. Britain’s centralised testing system, and its failure to scale up Covid-19 tests, might help explain part of the mortality gap between the two countries.

Testing, as we have learned, should be decentralised, which makes it more easily accessible to all groups of the population. The US government failed to stop the pandemic early on for a similar reason. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s initial regulations prevented state and private labs from developing their own coronavirus diagnostic tests.

During the crucial weeks of February and March, it was only possible to get tested for Covid-19 in the US at the Centre for Disease and Control (CDC). The consequences were devastating. As a result of a massive shortage of tests, many undetected cases speeded up the spread of Covid. On 29 February, the US government allowed private labs to begin developing their own tests.

On 16 March, the procedure was decentralised further, making it possible for commercial manufacturers to distribute and labs to use new commercially developed before obtaining an FDA’s Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA). Not long after the red tape had been cut, private labs went on developing tests that were notably more effective, allowing many more people to get tested.

The centralisation at the NHS has also contributed to its vulnerability towards external shocks such as Covid-19. Decentralised hospital systems that promote private competition and patient choice have proven to be much more resilient, as Germany’s system demonstrates.

With that in mind, introducing more market mechanisms in the NHS would not mean that patients would be denied care – you can have universal healthcare in a social insurance model too. Having more private hospitals does not necessarily lead to fewer hospital beds, but a better allocation of skills and resources. Indeed, it allowed Germany to scale up its ICU capacity, as well as keeping services such as cancer treatments and screenings open in different locations.

Another reason not to get overjoyed about the season finale of the Public Health England’s reign is that it would continue to deal with the agency’s other non-Covid public health work, such as obesity policy, until the spring. Boris has set out to introduce radical anti-obesity measures, and there is every reason to expect the PHE will contribute its most poisonous ideas to that debate. One last time.

While free-marketers like me have been cheering the fall of the PHE with sugary milkshakes and burgers, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that nannying will be “embedded right across government… and in the work of every single local authority. We will use this moment to consult widely on how we can embed health improvement more deeply across the board.”

Even without PHE, we need to look at health issues, such as obesity, through the prism of innovation, education and personal responsibility. PHE’s better health marketing campaign to promote a healthy lifestyle is just one part of Boris’ anti-obesity approach, which tells us that even without institutions such as PHE, nannying will likely continue to flourish. That’s where we need a fundamental mindset change, not just an institutional one.

Abolishing old agencies and setting up new ones often gives the impression that such actions will have a positive lasting impact on our lives. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While it is tempting to think that merely putting an end to the PHE will help make the UK better prepared for health crises, it is naive, to say the least. Neither will it move the needle away from paternalism. But it’s a great start!

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

In Kamala Harris, do consumers have an ally or a foe?

This week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden revealed Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate for the November general election against President Donald Trump.

Because Harris’ influence on the Biden campaign will loom large, and be important to whomever American voters choose in the fall, it’s worth looking at some of her ideas and policies and how they would have an impact on consumers.

Let’s take a dip, shall we?

HEALTHCARE

On her original presidential campaign website and throughout the Democratic primary debates, Harris was adamant about banning private healthcare insurance in favor of a Medicare For All plan. She later backed out once she was questioned by party activists.

With that in mind, considering Biden was nominated to be his party’s candidate on a platform of not seeking Medicare For All, a plan to expand the government health insurance program to seniors to the entire population, it seems there may be healthy disagreement on this point.

As I’ve written in a few outlets, the idea of a Medicare For All health insurance system would rob consumers of competition and choice, and likely lead to less quality of healthcare than we actually receive. It would mean that healthcare decisions would be placed in a complex hierarchy of bureaucratic agencies immune from market forces. That would inevitably lead to higher costs overall – no matter who foots the bill.

Harris being on the ticket doesn’t mean M4All is now on the docket for the Democratic Party, but it does mean that ideas about the government reorganizing health insurance will certainly be a part of a potential Biden Administration in the future. That’ll be something to keep an eye on.

TECH

As we covered during the debates in 2019, Sen. Harris petitioned Twitter to remove President Donald Trump from its service. Those calls weren’t central to her rhetoric on tech regulations, but they at least revealed her mindset regarding content on social media platforms, and who should be allowed to have an account. In some speeches, she’s come out as more hawkish on online censorship, which should good everyone worry.

Unlike some of her past primary opponents, she was rather soft on the question of antitrust and whether the tech giants in Silicon Valley should be broken up, which is a relief for consumers.

Most of the animus against tech companies has very little to do with concern for consumers, and much more to do with the new generation of gatekeepers using technology and innovation to provide better services. Most consumers prefer these new innovations and want them to thrive, not be broken up.

For some observers, her political career in California and proximity to tech firms mean she’ll be an asset rather than a liability on future tech regulation. The outlet Marketwatch dubbed her a “friend, not a foe, of Big Tech” and the Wall Street Journal similarly gave her praise, though with some caution.

VAPING

What isn’t a surprise to listeners of Consumer Choice Radio is that Sen. Harris is no friend of vaping and harm-reducing innovations.

She penned a letter last year accusing the FDA of being soft on vaping and for not banning all vaping products outright. That would have been disastrous for the former smokers who rely on these products.

She took it a step further by linking legal nicotine vaping products to the bootleg THC vaping devices that caused lung injuries throughout 2019, which we’ve debunked in our own work at the Consumer Choice Center.

If Harris’ worldview remains the same, vapers won’t have a friend in the potential future VP.

CANNABIS

And lastly, we come to cannabis, a favorite topic of those who dub Harris “The Cop Who Wants to be (Vice) President,” like Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason.

During Harris’ time as a prosecutor in California, her reputation as an anti-cannabis voice was well-known.

But as our friends at Marijuana Moment mention, she’s changed her mind over the years, from being a staunch opponent to advocate:

Though she coauthored an official voter guide argument opposing a California cannabis legalization measure as a prosecutor in 2010 and laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about the issue in 2014, she went on to sponsor legislation to federally deschedule marijuana in 2019.

Where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

Since dropping her campaign to be president, she’s become more vocal, making the argument for legalizing cannabis at the federal level, though she’s

Overall, there’s a lot to digest on a potential Kamala Harris Vice Presidency. On behalf of consumers, let’s hope there’s more good than bad.

Think of the children! How to find cures for rare and children diseases.

The European Commission just published a working document assessing the EU’s orphan and pediatric drug strategies. Read here why incentives for research are key to extending patients’ lives:

A rare disease is a medical condition that meets the criteria defined in Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 141/2000; a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition affecting no more than 5 in 10,000 persons in the EU. Although so-called rare diseases affect a limited number of people per disease, collectively they affect one person in every 17 people within Europe. There are over 7,000 different rare diseases patients suffer from.

Regulators see an ‘imbalance of risk and reward’ for the industry to find cures and treatments for those diseases. Hence US, Japanese and EU regulators increased options for longer market exclusivity for drugs tackling diseases in children and rare diseases. In 2000, Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 and  2006 Regulation (EC) No 1901/2006 were adopted by the European Commission. The ‘standard’ incentives provided by the general legislative framework for pharmaceuticals in the EU are 10 years of market protection and 20 years of patent protection. For pediatric and orphan drugs manufacturers can apply for extended market exclusivity.

The purpose of this strategy is to improve and expedite patients’ access to safe and affordable medicines and to support innovation in the EU pharmaceutical industry. Adding prolonged exclusivity worked: A massive increase in orphan drugs could be seen in the last 20 years! Between 2012 and 2017 over three times as many orphan drugs entered the EU compared to 2000-2005. The EU Commission estimated that between 200,000 and 440,000 additional quality-adjusted life years were gained thanks to more incentives for these drugs.

Added IP Protection for Orphan Drugs correlates with more drugs entering the market

Voices who call now for less protection of orphan and pediatric drugs want to undo the successes of the last two decades. The 142 orphan medicines authorized between 2000 and 2017 have helped up to 6.3 million patients in the EU to either cure or cope with their health conditions.

But there are still millions of patients waiting for a breakthrough that can help to treat their rare or pediatric disease – For this, we need to have incentives and not populism. Intellectual property is key in allowing the inventor and her investors to reward them for their massive risk they undertook in trying to find a cure or treatment for a rare disease. The EU’s approach to orphan and pediatric drugs by increasing incentives for inventors and manufacturers has worked. The successes of the past 20 years should not be undermined by populist calls to nationalize research and IP. If we care about patients with rare diseases, we should not question the importance of protecting intellectual property but see it as a precondition for future innovations.

To sum it up: Think of the children and allow medical innovation to take place!

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