Drug Wars

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Dec. 25, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: There are new questions about drug safety as we go “Beyond the Beltway.”

First it was Vioxx (search), then Celebrex, and now the main ingredient in Alleve. With potential health risks now associated with these drugs, Americans are wondering if they can trust their medicine and whether the Food and Drug Administration is looking out for them or for the big drug companies.

Now, the larger context of this is that there is a political jihad under way against the drug, the drug companies. And their reputation in the polls is down there with trial lawyers, with gun manufacturers, tobacco makers.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Journalists.

KONDRACKE: And journalists.


KONDRACKE: Exactly. The Democrats, and an increasingly number of Republicans are charging that the FDA (search) is being controlled by the drug companies and is not doing its job of policing public safety.

Now, this, to the extent that this is true, and what, if there are reforms needed at the FDA, fine, they, they should go through. But the larger context is that these same people who are bashing the FDA and complaining that it didn’t police Vioxx adequately are the same people who want to allow mass importation of drugs from overseas, not only from Canada, but also from Europe, which means that drugs will seep into Europe and then get exported to the United States from who knows where, China, Bangladesh, you know, Honduras, wherever anybody can make them. They might be adulterated drugs, they might be ineffective drugs.


KONDRACKE: They may be counterfeit drugs, but they’d let them, they’d let them right into the United States. It wouldn’t make any sense.

BARNES: It would be cheaper drugs, probably.

KONDRACKE: Yes, but they kill people.

BARNES: Look, with drugs, there’s always a tradeoff between risk and benefit, and look, even with aspirin and Tylenol and Advil and things like that, there’s always this risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, which, you know, every year kills some people.

So you have to weigh those things. I don’t think they ought to be weighed by trial lawyers and judges. It ought to be doctors and patients who decide.

Now, Vioxx, you know, they had this study, Vioxx, the arthritis painkilling drug, very popular, I think Merck makes it, they found that if you took a high dosage over 18 months, it doubled your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. But even so, the chance of that happening was very, very remote.

Now, if you’re somebody who really needs Vioxx and does well by it, you may want to use that drug anyway. In fact, I think millions would. And yet it’s been taken off the market. I’m sorry that we have now a panic that’s set in. The Wall Street Journal called it the painkiller panic that set in, and, and scaring people from using drugs that they ought to use.

KONDRACKE: Yes. You know, the, the drug industry has a new top lobbyist, Billy Tauzin (search), former congressman from Louisiana. He has a big job ahead of him.

BARNES: Sure does.

KONDRACKE: And, and what he’s got to do is to remind people that what drug companies do is save lives by the millions and they ultimately save lots of money as well.

And the second thing he needs to do is to get the drug companies to reform in certain ways, to be more open about what they spend things on. And they’ve got to stop, to the extent that they do it, wining and dining and junketeering doctors, you know, asking their opinion and counting that as a research cost. That’s not a research cost that’s marketing.

BARNES: I know, but that’s minimal. They, the drug companies are the goose that lays golden eggs. And, and it’s because they can get high profits. All right.

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