On Babies and Bathwater

You know the first thing that hit me when I heard this Vioxx (search) news? Everyone — and I mean everyone — will overreact.

First things first: I'm not a Merck (search) shareholder and I don't give a rat's pat-toot about Merck stock. I do give a rat's pat-toot, however, about drugs that have nothing to do with Merck. Drugs that aren't out yet — and might never come out — all because of this.

Doctors and researchers wasted little time reminding me that this one action Thursday could significantly delay any new drugs coming to market. Some, for very good reason, of course: You don't want stuff out there that's going to give people heart attacks.

But what about the people with no hope? What about the people certain to die of cancer or some other malady? What about them?

What about those desperately clinging to the slightest hope that some experimental drug just might be the Hail Mary pass they've been looking for?

But the Hail Mary pass might now get passed along the research channel a little more slowly. And when you're dying, "slowly" isn't a word you want to hear.

I think for those folks, they'll take their chances. They'll even sign a waiver on their chances — heart attack risks, any risks — just for a shot at life.

Again, don't get me wrong. A drug like Vioxx, where there could be the increased risk of a heart attack for people who otherwise aren't at risk of dying, by all means, take it off the market. Just don't throw out the baby with the bath water or drown the baby "in" the bath water.

Dying people need to be told, this could kill you. But dying people don't need to reminded that what they've already got almost certainly will.

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