The Road to Hillarycare Is Paved With Bad Intentions

And it still ends you up in Hades.

Hillary hasn't released many details about her "new" health care plan.  She says she's learned from her earlier fiasco and that she plans to keep parts of what we have now, but we know that she plans to expand government's role in the health care system.  Before we welcome additional government involvement in health care, we ought to ponder what the government does now.

Banning a Harmless Drink

Wilson Quarterly had an article "A Kick to Cocaine" on p 13 of their Summer 2007 issue.

In September 2006, Redux Beverages started selling a cherry-flavored energy beverage called Cocaine.  Each ... drink had 280 milligrams of caffeine, more than three Red Bulls though less than a Starbucks "grande" coffee. ... sales toped $1.5 million in three months ...

Attorneys general in Texas, Connecticut, and Illinois banned the beverage, and the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter.  "Our product doesn't have any cocaine in it.  No one thinks that it does," Reduc partner Clegg Ivey told the Associated Press.  Elsewhere, he maintained that the drink target demographic, people in their 20's, "love our sense of humor, our attitude."  But humorless officialdom prevailed, and Redux pulled Cocaine from the shelves in May.  "We tried to get hold of Yves St Laurent to warn them that Opium perfume could be next, but they were too busy enjoying the freedom of expression guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution."

You have to read the FDA's letter several times before you can believe that they're serious.  It's too long to quote it all here; this is from the first paragraph:

As explained in greater detail below, dietary supplements are products that are intended to supplement the diet . Street drug alternatives, i.e., products that claim to mimic the effects of recreational drugs, are not intended to supplement the diet and, as a result, cannot lawfully be marketed as dietary supplements. In addition, a dietary supplement may not bear claims that it prevents or treats a disease, except for authorized health claims about reducing the risk of a disease. Other disease prevention and treatment claims render the product a drug subject to the drug requirements of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

It's no surprise that FDA bureaucrats would claim jurisdiction because bureaucrats are always looking to expand their turf and budget, but this is ridiculous.  The fact that the FDA was able to ban the drink because of its name even though a) there were no illegal substances in it and b) the warnings about taking that much caffeine are well-founded shows that the government already has far too much power over what we eat and drink.

The FDA already has the power to put a company out of business for no real reason and Hillary wants more government involvement in health care?

Responding to Political Pressure

Tyrpotphan(e) is an amino acid which occurs in many foods, including milk.  Tn 1989, there was an outbreak of 1500 cases including at least 37 deaths of a disabling autoimmune illness. There was a flurry of investigations and the FDA banned human use of tryptophan, putting all but one of the manufacturers out of business. This ban has not been lifted in spite of the fact that most users did not become ill and the evidence linking the illness and death to tryptophan is weak and very much debatable.

Most tryptophan was banned from sale in the US in 1991, and other countries followed suit. Tryptophan from one manufacturer, of six, continued to be sold for manufacture of baby formulas. A Rutgers Law Journal article observed, "Political pressures have played a role in the FDA's decision to ban L-tryptophan as well as its desire to increase its regulatory power over dietary supplements."

Why would there be political pressure to ban something that occurs naturally in food?  If it's really dangerous, why does the FDA let manufacturers put it in baby formula?  What's going on?

The trouble with tryptophan is that it helps some people go to sleep.  When it was available, I often used it to overcome jet lag, and it worked splendidly.  If people can overcome jet lag and other sleep problems by taking a natural food product, where's the profit for big pharma?  There isn't any.

The article The FDA Ban of L-Tryptophan: Politics, Profits and Prozac which first appeared in Public Policy describes the politics:

Elevated levels of serotonin in the body often result in the relief of depression, as well as substantial reduction in pain sensitivity, anxiety and stress. Prozac, as well as other new anti-depressant drugs such as Paxil and Zoloft, attempt to enhance levels of serotonin by working on whatever amounts of it already exists in the body (these drugs are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). None of these drugs, however produce serotonin. In contrast, ingested L-Tryptophan acts to produce serotonin, even in individuals who generate little serotonin of their own. The most effective way to elevate serotonin would be to use a serotonin producer rather than a serotonin enhancer.

The continuing FDA public ban of L-Tryptophan prevents popular access to this most effective serotonin producer. The millions of Americans who for decades safely have relied upon L-Tryptophan to relieve depression, anxiety and PMS, as well as to control pain and induce natural sleep, have been forced elsewhere for solutions.

Routinely, such solutions are pharmaceutical in nature...

This article compares banning tryptophan with banning aspirin.

There are no legitimate reasons for the FDA keeping L-tryptophan supplements off the market. The FDA keeping L-tryptophan off the market is like keeping aspirin or penicillin off the market because one manufacture somewhere in the world once made a series of contaminated batches of the product. The situation we have here is corrupt administrators and lawyers in the FDA using the FDA's unchecked legal powers, in the guise of public safety, to remove from the market place a safe, effective, and cheap competitor compound to the dangerous and expensive prescription drugs supplied by the pharmaceutical companies and pushed by the AMA drug pushers, who cannot seem to remember their Hippocratic oath (..."do no harm"...).

By banning natural foods, the FDA forces "millions of Americans" into "pharmaceutical solutions."  It's bad enough that big businesses can advertise that their products are better than natural foods, at least we can still choose.  What's worse is a government agency with the power to ban natural foods so we have no choice.  The FDA has shown over and over that businesses can manipulate it by paying bribes-- oops, campaign contributions to politicians.  Do we want this agency to have even more power under Hillary?

Banning Cough Syrup

The FDA is considering a ban on children's cough syrup.

Suydam says the real problem is "misuse" and "overdose." The labels on most boxes suggest that parents "consult with a doctor" about the appropriate dosage for children under the age of 2. The FDA review called that warning "confusing," and said it appeared to be contributing to "medication errors, which can result in fatal overdoses." [emphasis added]

The article cited 54 reported deaths from decongestants over the past four decades, mostly in children under the age of 2.  The article admits that the real problem is misuse and overuse.  54 deaths over 40 years, the problem is "misuse," and they're talking about a ban?

One of the most vivid memories of my youth is my parents sitting up all night rocking my younger brothers when they had colds.  Decongestants that let kids breathe help kids and parents sleep at night.  Staying up all night holding a sneezing, coughing infant often spread the cold to my parents.  The FDA isn't interested in the good a medicine can do, they try to ban any medicine when there's issues, even issues about parents not knowing how to use it.

The article quotes a mother whose child had a bad reaction to cough syrup:

She says she has learned to be wary.

"I'm trying to be a little bit more selective and proactive, ..." Goldner says.

Parents should be "selective and proactive," mine were, that's how I stayed alive.  One wonders how Mrs. Goldner expects her children to survive at all without her being at least selective if not proactive.

Just because some parents don't know how to use cough medicine doesn't mean that we should all give it up.  But "one size fits all" is a bureaucratic mantra.

Banning medicine because people don't know how to use it is a bad precedent.  As our educational system gets worse, fewer parents will be able to follow directions.

But does that mean that those of us who can read shouldn't get medicine?  Do we want Hillary's ideas to lead to more government control so they can dumb medicine down even more?

Control of Information

Newsweek reports that more and more patients are involving themselves in their treatment:

"The doctor was the repository of information," says Cosgrove, now the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. "The patients came to you, you told them what they should do and they generally did it."

Most of Cosgrove's patients in recent years have been sophisticated consumers of medical services who did their own research and arrived in his office armed with detailed information about their conditions, their treatment options...

An estimated 8 million Americans seek health information online every day.  They expect to question doctors and discuss treatments. When was the last time a government employee in a service-related agency like the Department of Motor Vehicles had a discussion with you about what to do?  Government employees would rather tell people what to do than discuss. When was the last time a government employee explained something to you and got it right?

Bureaucrats hate sharing information.  How are the millions of Americans who do their own medical research going to like being told that they can't see their medical records?

Control of Treatment

A friend's daughter was bitten by a tick and got Lyme disease.  She was given the recommended course of antibiotics, but she continued to suffer a great deal of pain from elevated spinal fluid pressure.  Finally, her doctor called the Center for Disease Control.  The CDC told her doctor that the treatment for Lyme disease had been administered, she didn't have Lyme any more, and to stop all treatment.

Are millions of Americans who do their own medical research going to like being told that their research doesn't matter, the book says "do this," so that's what's going to be done?  When treatment doesn't work, are they going to like being told that the system has done what the book says so there's nothing else?

Health and the IRS

Our tax code, for all its complexity, isn't as complicated as the human body.  IRS employees can't deal with the tax code even though it's simpler than medicine.  At least half the time, when taxpayers call the IRS for advice, the advice is wrong.  When they want to fine you for a mistake, the fact that you can show that the IRS told you to do what you did won't help you; IRS management knows better than to trust IRS employees.

When IRS goofs up, all it costs you is money and aggravation.  When health bureaucrats goof up, it will cost your your life.

Hillary's been in government for the last 25 years instead of being on the receiving end.  Her trust in the bureaucracy to oversee us ignorant peasants who can't even be trusted to decide whether to give our kids cough syrup shows amazing optimism, given that government can't even administer the tax code properly.  Should we trust Hillary's bureaucrats with any more power than they already have?

People complain about insurance companies refusing to pay for treatment but somebody has to decide what to treat and what not to treat.  When someone tells you they won't treat you, would you rather be turned down by a private company you can sue or by a government agency whom you can't sue?

The Coming Train Wreck

The Newsweek article shows the way:

At the Cleveland clinic ... patients are even given access ... to their medical charts. This taboo-breaking initiative ... has shown results. Diabetes patients ... do a better job of controlling their glucose levels.

Imagine that!  Mere patients improving their own care!  As we know, bureaucrats hate the idea of treating taxpayers like customers and hate the idea of people doing anything for themselves.  When parents start homeschooling, teachers are likely to accuse them of child abuse to force them back into the system.  When Bernard Goetz defended himself against a New York subway mugging, he went to jail for having an unlicensed weapon.

The best way to protect ourselves against violence is to protect ourselves.  The best way to select treatments is to do the research ourselves.  Imagine the collision between patients wanting to do select treatments and Hillary's bureaucrats who don't trust us to choose our own cough syrup!

Von Hayek is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Von Hayek or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

The author said "The FDA already has the power to put a company out of business for no real reason and Hillary wants more government involvement in health care."

Does this mean that no one should interfere with the current state?  I don't want Hillary-Care either, but if the current system is screwed up, someone needs to do something.

I don't follow your logic on the FDA's problems being Hillary's baggage.  She wants big government.  So do most politicians (including the Republicans).  Should the FDA not exist?  I think they should.

December 13, 2007 1:26 PM

It's a good thing that people like the Clinton's exist.  Otherwise, the right would have nothing to talk about.

December 13, 2007 2:09 PM

I believe that Hillary has dug her own grave with her big government vision or "Hillarycare" as you call it.  Even the label of  "Hillarycare" is telling with respect to people associating statism with her versus her Democrat associates running for President.  They all have her same statist views, yet she is the one that is clubbered with them.  Why?  Maybe the reason is because the people of the United States see a longterm, hard core sociatist in her that they don't see in the others.

December 13, 2007 3:28 PM

Yeah, ok...  She has been "clubbered" because she's a "sociatist".  At least liberals can spell.

December 14, 2007 8:48 AM

As if incompetence weren't enough, now the FDA turns out to be corrupt, too:

We DON'T want these guys controlling medicine.....

December 18, 2007 5:41 PM

Some people just don't get it.  I saw an article in "The Progressive" magazine Nov 2007 p 12 railing about the private health insurance company.  In speaking of the hundreds of thousands of employees of health insurers, the author said, "I have a plan for them.  It's called unemployment.  What country in its right mind would pay so many people to deny other people health care?"

All health care plans have employees who decide whether to pay or not to pay.  Nobody can get all the health care they want, not under any system.  I think Will put it well, would we rather be turned down by private people we can sue or by government employees we can't sue?

December 20, 2007 6:44 PM
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