Is FDA Reporting Drug Shortages Adequately?



For a number of years, there has been a problem of shortages of certain generic drugs for injection. These are often important cancer drugs. In 2012, I wrote a report that concluded over regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was the primary cause of the shortages.

The President and Congress acted, but their actions did not result in improvement for over a year.

Today, the FDA claims to have improved the situation. However, an article in Health Affairs points out that the number of drug shortages reported by the FDA and the number reported by the University of Utah Drug Information Service (UUDIS), the leading private source of this data, are diverging dramatically:

READ MORE

Is Sexual Orientation a Choice?



libertyPresidential candidate Marco Rubio says, “I believe that sexual preference is something that people are born with,” but goes on to say, “I don’t believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.” Let’s consider both of these ideas from a political perspective.

First, whether people choose their sexual orientation or are born with it is irrelevant from a political perspective. As long as people’s actions are not violating the rights of others, their choices about sexual partners and any other personal matters should be of no concern to the government. So, I’ll criticize Rubio for making this statement, not because he’s right or wrong, but rather because as a political candidate he should have said that whether people are born with their sexual preferences should have no bearing on politics or government.

READ MORE

Do Drones Really Reduce Civilian Casualties?



Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as “drones,” have been the subject of heated debate in recent years, especially their role in combat. Without a doubt, the number of air strikes using drones has increased at an astonishing rate. Consider that in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, the U.S. government has launched over 1,500 known drone strikes since 2008. This visualization of strikes in Pakistan is particularly illustrative:

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 8.40.23 AM

READ MORE

Patent Trolls Suffer Setback



patent_trolls_180x270It is always good news to hear about a patent troll taking one on the chin. According to this article from the BBC, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has invalidated parts of a patent claimed by Personal Audio. The patent at issue claimed all rights on “a system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence,” what we might generally call podcasting. The PTO’s decision can be found here. (Personal Audio was the troll that tangled with Adam Corolla last year and lost via a settlement.)

The latest action was brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

READ MORE

Two Reasons to Pay Off Public-Employee Pension Debt Quickly



33243450_MIn a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Pension Reform Doesn’t Mean Higher Taxes,” Andrew Biggs correctly pointed out that new Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) rules require state and local governments across America to be more transparent about the financial health of their public-pension plans. But, as he noted, the rules do not require governments to change how they fund pensions. The new rules are accounting rules, not funding rules.

Then Mr. Biggs said: “there’s no reason” why a public pension plan should “pay off its unfunded liabilities rapidly.” Actually, there are two good reasons for paying off pension debt sooner rather than later.

READ MORE

There Is No Real Increase in Insured under Obamacare



Gallup has released the full results of its first-quarter survey of health insurance. It concludes that the proportion of uninsured Americans has collapsed to the lowest level ever: 11.9 percent.

20150414 Gallup1

Only the people who have employer-based benefits can be said to be paying for their own health insurance. They decreased 0.9 percentage points in the quarter.

READ MORE

Google Agonistes



antitrust_monopoly_180x270News reports on Tax Day suggest that the European Commission wants to nail Google Inc.’s scalp to the wall as punishment for committing alleged antitrust (competition) law violations. At issue is the way in which the company assigns priorities to the links consumers see when they “google” generic search terms like “booksellers”, “cameras”, and “watches”. The links that rank highest are to the sellers of goods and services who have paid Google for advertising space on its search engine.

More recent stories in the Wall Street Journal suggest that the core of the EU’s lawsuit is based on complaints from Nextag, Bizrate, LeGuide and other companies offering comparison-shopping services saying that they have been “crushed” by Google’s online search engine. Additional charges may be looming on the horizon contending that Google’s Android cell phone operating system likewise unfairly favors Google’s own apps over those available from other sellers.

READ MORE

Employers Do Not Systematically and Persistently Pay Women Less than Men for Equally Valuable Work



EqualPayEqualWorkThe quality of economic journalism in the United States is terrible. Day after day, journalists write about the causes and consequences of economic conditions and events without understanding the underlying economics of the situation, and their articles are, as a rule, simply bunk. Here is an example.

I have not examined the actual report whose findings are described in the article, but I am familiar with many studies of the same question that economists have conducted over the years. Moreover, I myself have made many applied econometric studies in a variety of areas, and I know how delicate the findings of such studies are to a variety of details—sample period, sample size, sampling method, data collection details, model specification, estimation methods, and so forth. I know, too, that the best studies—those with the best data, most sensible model specification, and most exhaustive set of controls—have found virtually no difference in the amounts that men and women are paid for doing the same work. The key is “doing the same work,” which is another way of saying “providing equally valuable services to the employer” in the sense of adding equally to the employer’s net income.

READ MORE

Seven of 10 Doctors See Effects of Climate Change on Patients!



Healthcare_ClimateChangeJust within the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen Congressional Republicans join with Democrats to buy into the idea that the federal government knows how to pay doctors for “quality” and “value.” It is the main concept behind the misconceived Medicare “doc fix” bill that the Senate will consider this week. If adopted, it would add $141 billion to the national debt in ten years and increase federal control of the practice of medicine.

So, if we are going to surrender even more of this power to the federal government, it might be interesting to see what the Obama administration thinks is important:

“The challenges we face are real, and they are clear and present in people’s daily lives,” said senior presidential adviser Brian Deese in a telephone conference call with reporters on Tuesday. Seven in 10 doctors are seeing effects on their patients’ health from climate change that is “posing a threat to more people in more places,” Deese said. (Bloomberg Politics)

READ MORE

Another Urban Legend? The Middle Ages Were the “Dark Ages”



Victory of ReasonAs the culture wars intensify in America, let’s consider some of the roots of these contentious conflicts.

With the “Age of Enlightenment” of the 17th and 18th centuries, a “modern” narrative was invented to explain the history of the West, the wider world, and humankind’s place in the universe. This narrative claimed that liberty, democracy, republicanism and religious tolerance could only be achieved through an “Enlightenment project” of secularism taking control of both the public square and the commanding heights of society and that the abandonment of metaphysics and religious tradition were essential for human progress. Proponents of this narrative then included Denis Diderot, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edward Gibbon, and David Hume, and in the 19th century such writers as John Draper and Andrew Dickson White. With some exceptions, this worldview came to dominate western elite and popular thinking. However many historians have since increasingly challenged this narrative as fundamentally fallacious. Such historians as J.G.A. Pocock, Dale Van Kley, Derek Beales, and Jonathan Israel have discarded the claim of an exclusively secular “Enlightenment” and shown that there have been multiple and far more causal Enlightenments, based in various Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions. In addition and since the 1970s, historians of science Ronald L. Numbers, David V. Lindberg, and James R. Moore have refuted the erroneous and indeed propagandistic, secular claims of Draper and White that Christianity and science are adversarial.

Indeed, it has been these religious traditions that were primarily responsible for the revolutionary economic, legal, technological, and cultural changes that have uplifted the West, and that such changes began well before the 17th century. Sociologist Rodney Stark has shown that it was the Judeo-Christian tradition that produced all aspects of progress in the West, including the ideas of objective morality and truth, free-market capitalism, reason and science, natural law, individual liberty and the abolition of slavery and infanticide, civic virtue, and the rule of law. (Among his many notable books are The Victory of Reason, The Triumph of Christianity, How the West Won, and For the Glory of God.)

In “The Secular Theocracy,” I have also discussed the “Enlightenment project”‘s hypocritical and intolerant crusade that “exalts a sovereign and powerful state that pervades all of life and compels obedience not just to its mandates but to the secular nationalism of the Zeitgeist itself, for which the populace is forced to conform to and fund.”

Stark and others have further shown that the “secular Enlightenment” narrative rests upon numerous historical falsehoods that today are still taken for granted and commonly taught in schools. The following video discusses one such fallacy—why the Middle Ages were not the “Dark Ages,” including the “urban legend” that people then believed in a Flat Earth: