Free Market Penicillin?

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Three
of the more popular and effective allergy medications have been
proposed for reclassification as over-the-counter drugs. Bravo!

The
drugs Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec are safe and don't require permission
from a gatekeeper for general consumption, claims Wellpoint
Health Networks
, a California HMO. The newest benefit from the
triad of concoctions under examination is the lack of the common
side effect of drowsiness. The petition is under advisement by the
Food and Drug Administration and hearings will be held starting
May 11th to evaluate the claim.

Schering-Plough
Corp
., which makes Claritin, Aventis
Pharma AG
, which makes Allegra, and Pfizer
Inc
., maker of Zyrtec, will most likely lose money if the drugs
become available over the counter. They will immediately become
subject to Adam Smith's invisible hand if sold on the open marketplace
due to competition from similar but much less expensive drugs such
as Benadryl. Accordingly, the three companies in question are vehemently
opposed to consumers being able to buy their products as if they
were cough drops.

Additionally,
there is a growing movement among pharmacists to free medications
from the shackles of the physician's prescription. Pharmacists are
highly educated in their craft, with an advanced masters degree
as the entry point for the profession and doctorates not at all
uncommon. They feel that they are eminently qualified to advise
patients and prescribe medications. The general medical practitioner
is a middleman, they say.

I
agree. I'll go a step further than the pharmacists though, and suggest
that we should be able to purchase our Zyrtec, Penicillin or Morphine
from a 7-11 where there is not a pharmacist in sight. Place them
on the shelves right alongside the Smith Bros. Cough Drops.

As
radical as this sounds, it was the common state of affairs prior
to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Harrison
Act of 1914. Prior to the enactment of these infamous pieces of
legislation, it was the right of any American citizen to self-medicate
themselves. So it should be today as well.

If
you as a literate intelligent American citizen know you are allergic
to pine pollen, why are you not allowed to freely purchase a medication
to alleviate your problem? The reasons aren't what you may think.
They have nothing to do with obtaining proper advice along with
a pure drug and everything to do with maintaining a cartel. Not
just a pharmaceutical cartel, but an overall medical cartel.

Consider
this scenario: You are afflicted with terrible congestion and attacks
of sneezing in the spring. Quite rightly, you visit your medical
professional of choice and he tells you that you probably have developed
a quite common allergy to pollen and to take a Claritin with your
morning orange juice. You do so and it works!

Fast
forward to the next spring. Same weather, same horrible symptoms.
Why should you be forced to visit an already overburdened gatekeeper
to obtain a permission slip for what you know you need? You are
forced to make that visit to support the cartel financially, every
member from the top to the bottom.

Am
I suggesting the abolition of our medical and pharmaceutical schools?
Not at all. Faced with an unknown medical condition, I would quickly
visit my physician. In the event of needing a drug more powerful
than an aspirin, I'd welcome the opportunity to speak with a pharmacist
for suggestions and alternatives. I heatedly object to being forced
to do so.

Am
I suggesting that pharmaceutical companies be forced to give their
products away or for the government to subsidize their costs to
consumers? Not at all. Sell them over the counter like any other
good and let the marketplace determine their proper cost. If I choose
to make my purchases from an outlet with a pharmaceutical professional
on hand to offer advice, I'll pay a premium price. If I go to a
discount store with a bored clerk on duty, I'll pay less. My choice.

As
a society, we desperately need to put the societal innovations of
the 20th Century under a powerful microscope and make
an honest appraisal of what they have cost us. Handing over responsibility
for our health to the State and the medical cartels are symptomatic
of the larger problem of a general loss of our liberties as citizens
of a once free republic.

I
wish there was an over the counter pill we could take to cure ourselves,
but I'm afraid that radical surgery will be required.

    May
    12, 2001

    Jeff
    Elkins [send him mail]
    is a freelance consultant and writer living in North Central Florida.

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