The Conservative Tribune today released a story heralding Herman Cain for blaming the meteoric price hikes on the life-saving EpiPen on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Unfortunately for Cain, the ‘alt-right’ and some more mainstream conservatives, nothing could be further from the truth. Get this, however, the problem isn’t Democrats or Republicans. Furthermore, the problem isn’t the FDA or ‘over-regulation.’
The problem is simply corporate greed and the big money that has infected our politics. Yes, I will explain.
Cain wants to put the blame on the Democrats for a couple of reasons. First off, he goes to the obvious fact (and it is a fact) that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s daughter is the CEO of Mylan, the company that makes the EpiPen. Manchin’s daughter is hardly single-handedly running the price schedule at Mylan and the company’s price hikes go well beyond her tenure as CEO. Yes, her company is culpable for totally taking advantage of their monopoly, but the fact that they have a monopoly isn’t Mylan’s fault or the Senator’s doing. In fact, Manchin hasn’t had anything to do at all with any of it. And while we are on the subject, no one is going to accuse Joe Manchin of being a ‘liberal’ by any stretch as he is certainly one of the most conservative democrats in office. The coal industry has no greater ally than Manchin and he is an undeniable social conservative, as his state’s demographics would dictate these days. Manchin is pro-life and generally opposes regulations by the Federal government as one would expect someone who staunchly supported coal would. Manchin isn’t to blame and there isn’t anything ‘liberal’ about this.
Cain and the Conservative Tribune point to the year the bill was signed into law. That year was 2013, and Yes, Barack Obama was certainly the President at the time. The problem for Cain is, the actual bill that mandated all schools having an EpiPen in them was introduced by a Republican. Namely, Representative David Roe, a Republican from Tennessee.
Before all the Democrats start celebrating, keep in mind that the bill had 36 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives with both parties being well represented. The fact is, bills don’t get much more bi-partisan than this one. Especially in this day and age.
How ‘bi-partisan’ was the bill? I will put it this way, the bill passed both houses with a ‘unanimous consent’ voice vote. No cloture, no real debate — just a ‘yay vs nay’ that cruised through Congress with ease. President Obama promptly signed the bill.
At this point, some might want to just do the ‘false equivalency’ and blame everyone. Those folks wouldn’t be totally off-base, but they wouldn’t be correct either. If we really want to be adults here and solve the problem, we need to keep digging and acknowledge some basic truths.
First off, the bill that mandated an EpiPen in every school was a good one. The thing works and saves lives. If it was your child needing a shot to save them from an allergy, you would want the school nurse’s office to have the EpiPen at hand — no, ifs ands or buts. It had nothing to do with Mylan’s lack of competition. The price hikes that Mylan took advantage of is simply what ‘for-profit’ businesses do. It is what happens when a healthcare system is a slave to stockholders and profits vs saving lives and any sense of empathy.
We’ll get back to that in a bit.
The other usual suspect is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cain and others on the GOP side of things blame ‘over-regulation’ which has caused the lack of a competitive product. The problem with that argument is, it doesn’t hold water. The FDA hasn’t been shown to be over-bearing at all in their demands on competitive products. Let us take a look at the products that have been evaluated by the FDA …
Last November, one potential competitor, called Auvi-Q, produced by Sanofi, ended up having a bad injector that sparked the company to recall all their products. That wasn’t ‘over-regulation’ by the FDA, that was a sub-par product that wasn’t reliable or safe. After the recall, the manufacturer’s marketing partner and Sanofi decided to end the partnership, leaving the product’s future up in the air. Again, not the FDA’s fault.
Last spring, an Israeli company attempted to get a generic version of the pen approved. That product too had problems, not due to any regulations, but by the company’s own admission — they too pulled the product and aren’t expected to try to launch it again in other countries even until at least 2017. Not the FDA’s fault.
The most recent attempt at a ‘competitor’ wasn’t really a competitor at all. It was a different delivery method that really isn’t designed to be used instantly by anyone. It is a prefilled syringe that isn’t as convenient or as easy to use. Its applications would be different than the pen, though it could be theoretically used in a pinch by someone who knew what they were doing. The FDA has asked for more data, not an unusual request.
Keep in mind as well that when people have been harmed by FDA approved medicines and devices, the first thing people do is pontificate and complain about the FDA being ‘too easy‘ on testing.
So, where does that leave us? We know that the decision to require the life-saving device in schools is a good one — one that millions of parents are relying on. We now know, after doing a little digging that the FDA hasn’t ‘over-regulated’ anything. There have been some shoddy products presented to them, and in each case, it is easy to see that rejecting them was a no-brainer.
This all circles back to corporate greed. It goes back to the modern day business philosophies that are prevalent in just about every industry. It leads us back to the question of whether ‘for-profit’ health care is a sustainable model? The answer many are reaching in increasing numbers is no, and there is only one long-term solution — a single payer system. Whether one wants to call it that, or ‘Medicare for All’ the idea is the same. A basic health care system / safety net.
That certainly is a good thing, but to really break this cycle we need to look at how big insurance and pharma have lobbied and bought our lawmakers. Until we force a change in how Washington does business and relies on the big dollars only the one-percenters and large corporations can furnish, the next ‘Pharma Bro’ or ‘EpiPen’ mess / scandal is going to happen.
Before anyone starts bellyaching about how the ‘free-market’ will be hindered and how awful that will be, keep this in mind. The EpiPen was developed entirely with taxpayer dollars. This has nothing to do with the free market. This isn’t a free market product, it is one that the government and the people already paid for.
One last thing. Despite wishes for different systems in health care and changes in lobbying rules, we ‘are where we are.’ Remember the false equivalency thing? That is easy to put to bed. Five lawmakers recently wrote the FDA looking for advice on how to bring a generic that was reliable and safe to market — all five are Democrats.
Not a peep from the GOP, except to blame Hillary Clinton. There is no equivalency there. One side is seeking a solution, the other is doing the same witch-hunt they have conducted for 25 consecutive years.
Featured image via Conservative Tribune under fair use