This kind of populist us-against-them rhetoric about drugs is disturbing. A new prescription drug benefit for Medicare, for example, will be a great thing -- but unless carefully designed it will lead to price controls that will throttle new innovation, new investment and ultimately new life-saving drugs. Politicians may get elected, but people will die needlessly as a result. Health-care reform requires balancing different, vital competing interests between making current products more affordable and encouraging the private investment that is leading every day to new wonder drugs. I don't see any sign Gore gets this. Al Gore's solution? Demonize the big drug companies just as tobacco companies have been demonized -- with this important difference: While tobacco companies produce a legal product that is also at least a minor vice, drug companies invent products that save peoples' lives. By contrast, George Bush's prescription drug plan is carefully balanced to provide financial help to all seniors, especially low-income seniors, without moving toward a national health insurance plan that would eliminate the market incentives that drive new medical progress.
I'm certainly not opposed to government research, especially for basic science, but it is no substitute for the creative efforts of thousands of the best and brightest minds, eagerly trying to make their own fortune by developing new products to cure my illness and yours. How much profit is too much? Depends how much money you want flowing into the search for a cure -- the best kind of money, too: not directed by a government bureaucrat's political decisions, but by private researchers' opinions about where the best paths to a cure lie.
From where I sit, the more the better. We need to find ways to help make health care affordable. But any powerful politician who runs against the drug industry is running against the guys I'm counting on to save my and my children's lives.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.