Unforeseen Obamacare Consequence #156: Government-Defined Science
Here’s another warning about Barack Obama’s impending Med-State (in a tribute to the founder of medicine, would this be called a Hippocracy?)
The Cato Institute’s Dr. George Avery, a public health professor at Purdue, uses a recent briefing paper to look at how science has been manipulated for political purposes in both the health care and climate change debates. But while his examination of the “Climategate” scandal out of the University of East Anglia is old news by now, his insights into health care are chilling. To wit:
In health care policy, critics have long worried about the inordinate influence of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers on research to show the safety and viability of new products. Recent information, however, shows that government agencies may cause more problems in this area — a worrisome development considering that health care legislation recently passed by the United States Senate would allow federal agencies to punish organizations whose researchers publish results that conflict with what the agency feels is appropriate.
The specific language in the bill relating to comparative effectiveness research (essentially a way of studying medical best practices) allows the federal government to withhold research dollars when the results are not “within the bounds of and entirely consistent with the evidence.” Apart from being absurdly vague, this is also a threat to intellectual honesty in science — obviously every new breakthrough is, by definition, not “entirely consistent with the evidence” that preceded it.
Another interesting note: Dr. Avery concedes that medical research underwritten by a company that stands to make a profit on the underlying product often results in pressure on the researchers. No real surprise there (you budding economists will recognize a principal-agent problem at work). However, he notes that similar pressure from government is much more omininous, since the monopoly power of the state can much more effectively suppress contradictory findings.