Headline of the Month, Maybe the Year . . .

The Editors

Journalists and politicians have been hitting pharma companies pretty hard and heavy these days over high drug prices.  But we think a recent headline at STAT news about drug effectiveness might be going too far.  

The following appeared in my email inbox:

Opinion:  Drug effectiveness should influence what doctors prescribe.

What?  Drugs should work?  Isn’t this asking a bit much from physicians and pharma?   STAT is really going out on a limb here.  Next thing you know they’ll be saying people should get their genome sequenced.  Or asking that the American healthcare system make us healthier.  It’s just a gutsy call.

Remember the Woody Allen joke about the two old ladies going out for a fine dinner in upstate New York?

“This food is terrible!”  complains one.

“I agree,” says the other.  “And the portions are so small!” 

“Drugs don’t work,” one might say.

“I know, and they’re way too pricey.”

Perhaps to shield themselves from any liability for such an outlandish headline, STAT has labeled it as “Opinion.”  Unfortunately this didn’t mean the article was very creative. 

One can quickly think of several reasons why doctors should be prescribing drugs that have nothing to do with effectiveness.

1.  A tangible product.  Doctors need something to give us when we go see them, preferably something that doesn't work so we'll be back shortly.   And a little white pill that is ingested daily is much easier to produce than a brochure.  It doesn’t have to be shiny with neon colors.  It just needs to be bright enough to find when we drop it on the floor.     

2.  Target practice.  Here’s one I’ll bet you didn’t think of:  Drug prescribing could be a new Olympic sport.   Track and (medical) field.  A friend of mine who has recently been treated for breast cancer came up with this one.   She found it comforting to know that doctors have multiple drugs in their quiver to increase their chance of actually hitting something. 

3.  Exploration.  Drugs are the new frontier.  And there are all those awesome side effects out there to experience.  Gosh, dude.  So little time, so many side effects.

4.  A backup plan. For those squeamish doctors who don’t want to see blood and perform surgery, a little white pill is just the ticket.  In fact, all you need to do is write a ticket.  The patient can go find the pill themselves.

5.  Ritual.  It’s in our basic nature to need regular repetitive activities.  Taking a pill every morning can put one’s day together, without the need to avoid your spouse.  And at night, swallowing a little pill (not too much water) can assure one that the universe is continuing to expand at just the right rate for dropping off to sleep.  Our parents took whatever pills the doctor gave them proudly and without a fuss.  Let’s keep up the tradition.