Thursday, June 12, 2008

Overregulation in overdrive

Today, my brother went to the dermatologist for his acne, and my friend went to see a doctor for a urinary tract infection. He got the standard treatment (doxycycline), and she got the standard treatment (nitrofurantoin). Both had to pay more for the visit to the doctor than for the medications to cure the ailments, neither of which are under patent protection. However, both had diagnosed their own illnesses before seeing the doctors, and the standard treatments for both are relatively uncontroversial – surely in these cases, both of them could have correctly chosen what drug to take. And even if you think it's abhorrent that people can make their own decisions with regards to standard antibiotics, both conditions and cures could have been easily diagnosed by a nurse or pharmacist. Neither of the drugs were addictive or in any way pleasurable unless you needed them (I know from experience that doxycycline makes me nauseous if I take it before eating – and the doctor didn't even tell me that; I had to figure it out on my own!), and yet both require a visit to someone with an MD in order to acquire. A waste of time, a waste of money, and an obvious case of rent-seeking, in my opinion. And also a cause of spam and computer viruses, apparently. And yet, with all the hubbub this presidential campaign season about the soaring costs of healthcare, no one seems to be proposing loosening restrictions on consumers' access to prescription medications. (Unless, of course, you're a rural Alaskan, in which case you don't need a doctor to get a prescription.)

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