Skip to comments.Free lunch 'safety' (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 12/28/2004 6:35:39 AM PST by The Great Yazoo
In the midst of all the alarms being sounded about the health risks from taking Vioxx and Celebrex, there is a story about National Football League players using less padding than in the past. What is the connection?
The NFL players know that padding gives some protection against injuries -- but at a price. Carrying the extra weight of padding around slows players down, making them less effective on the football field and perhaps less able to quickly get out of the way of tackles and collisions. In short, they understand that safety is not a free lunch but something you have to pay for, in one way or another.
Most players wear some padding, just not as much as they are allowed to, or as much as their teams make available to them. In short, NFL players recognize a trade-off, as most other people do in most other aspects of life.
Where do people not recognize trade-offs? Where they are making decisions for other people. That's where they make unrealistic demands, including demands for "safety."
Maybe Vioxx or Celebrex is too dangerous, all things considered. Maybe not. The problem is that all things are not considered.
Too many people seem to think that if the risk of stroke or heart attack is doubled when you take some medication, that is the end of the story. But they would never apply such reasoning to practical decisions in their own lives.
Suppose you learned that the risk of being killed in an automobile accident doubled if you drove to work on the highway instead of driving through the city streets. What if the odds that you would be killed driving to work every day on the highway were one in a million, while the risk of being killed driving to work on the streets were one in two million?
And what if it took you 15 minutes to get to work on the highway and an hour driving through city traffic?
Some cautious people might prefer driving to work on the streets while other people would take the highway. Regardless of which group was larger, the point is that each individual could make the trade-offs when the facts were known. But that is not the way decisions are made, or even advocated, when there are "safety" issues, including issues about drugs like Vioxx and Celebrex.
Studies indicate that the great majority of people taking even heavy doses of these drugs over an extended period of time did not have either a stroke or a heart attack. However, the small number of people who did was greater than among those who did not take these drugs.
Obviously people would not be taking these or other medications unless they had a problem that these drugs were intended to help. The question then is whether the benefits exceed the costs or vice-versa.
This is a medical decision which can vary from patient to patient. Doctors are there to advise about these things, since these are prescription drugs -- not something that a layman can pick up off a counter at the local drugstore.
But that is not good enough for "safety" advocates, many of whom have no medical training. If a drug is not "safe," they say it should not be allowed on the market. But nothing is categorically safe.
Some people can die from eating ordinary wholesome foods like salmon or peanut butter. If the government banned every food that was fatal to someone, we might all die of malnutrition.
If a drug is not safe, neither is the illness for which the drug is prescribed. Nor are alternative drugs likely to be perfectly safe, since nothing else is. Life involves weighing alternative risks, whether in football, pharmaceutical drugs, or a thousand other things.
Politically, it is always easy to be on the side of the angels with ringing pronouncements about making sure our medicines are safe. Ideologues are in their glory denouncing "corporate greed" among drug companies. But ideology never cured any disease. Neither do lawsuits.
Maybe we need to cure ourselves of listening to rhetoric and ignoring realities.
40,000 (and still counting) people in Asia killed by dihydrogren monoxide over the weekend.
I'm with the brilliant professor Sowell on this one. If Vioxx had put a warning on it's label saying stuides had shown an increase risk of heart trouble then people could make an infomred choice.
But they removed it from the market, and the lawyers are lining up clients right now- the worst of the ambulance chasers are advertising (fishing) for clients.
You can test for every possible thing. some things you just cant know until you have 20 years experience.
Michael Moore is LINING up for this...just wait and see how Mr. Moore DESTROYS one of the last American institutions...American Phamecuetical companies and the universities and the researchers that keep this country great...that fat pig won't be happy until every American comapny is forced to do business overseas because of the cost of doing business in a land run and destroyed by lawyers...just costs too damn much!
Let drug companies market a class of drugs with that warning and the clear understanding that there no liability on the part of the manufacturer.
The average life expectancy in the free world has gone up nearly thirty years since pre-WW2 and it is mostly due to the miracle of modern chemistry--
We should ban all transportation as well, we have solid evidence that points to the hazards of moving metal on wheels, tracks, and in the air...
This is what was overlooked during the DDT scare of the 1960's and 1970's, and third-world countries have paid a heavy price for their "safety".
You wonder how many of the excess cases of heart trouble with Vioxx and Celebrex are caused by the fact that the users are not taking asprin, which has been shown to have a protecttive effect.
Yeah, but those environmentalists who got DDT banned are damned proud of themselves for standing up to the chemical companies.
Thanks for the post. You can't go wrong with Thomas Sowell.
Neither aspirin nor penicillin would likely be approved for use today due to the incidence of life threatening anaphylactic reactions. We are a people who fear everything, including discomfort.
Learning that a tiny risk, (1/1,000,000)has increased by the use of a drug that relieves daily pain with an increased risk of double the past risk (2/1,000,000) would be decided by most people in favor of the reduction in pain. We really need facts and less regulation.
Yeah, tha makers of VIOXX should have just added a warning - instead of withdrawing it from the market
Someone has been watching Penn and Teller's "Bu11S$%t!
OK. Sorry for the defensive tone. I don't watch television and was unaware of the program.
Sounds interesting, though.
You can download WinAmp, and on the TV channels you can get with it, there are two streaming channels that show nothing but back to back episodes of Bu!!$#!%. It is a great show...JFK
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