Walter E. Williams

 The attack on the pharmaceutical industry is particularly vicious, led by lawyers looking to make a financial killing like their colleagues who sued the tobacco industry and Microsoft. One target of today's talkers is Merck drug company, the maker of Vioxx, because for some individuals it poses an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But for other individuals, it is safe and effective for pain relief from arthritis. The operational question for any drug is whether its benefits exceed its costs -- not whether some people are harmed. Moreover, some patients would willingly accept the risk of heart attack and stroke to obtain relief from painful, crippling arthritis. Why should the FDA or the plaintiff's bar prevent them from doing so?

 If we developed the practice of removing products from the market because some people are harmed by them, we might starve to death. Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, potentially fatal reaction that some people have to foods such as milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, fish, shellfish and eggs. Each year, food-induced anaphylaxis sends about 30,000 people to hospital emergency rooms and about 200 of them die. Since many people are harmed by these food items, should they be removed from our supermarket shelves? If not, why not? The next time we hear a talker attacking a doer, we just might ask: What have you done to further human progress?


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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