All four of the leading Democrats who are running in Minnesota's Senate primary Sept. 12 are good candidates.
Here's hoping that whoever wins the primary ... tones down their rhetoric on the coverage of prescription drugs.
The platforms of the candidates have this in common: All call for giving the government a much bigger role in the provision of prescription drugs. And none recognizes the slightest trade-off between that goal and the risk of hindering research.
As candidate Mark Dayton put it, when asked if anyone would be hurt by the prescription-drug plan he'd prefer, "Well, drug company profits would be hurt."
Which means the rest of us practically can have the drugs for free.
But we can't. Facts are stubborn things -- and they must not be ignored, even when they don't fit our view of the world. And the fact is, the reason prescription drugs are such an issue today, is that American drug company research helped create a pharmacopeia of lifesaving pharmaceuticals.
Note the word, "American." That's the first trade-off the candidates should recognize. Canadian drug companies don't lead the way in this industry; American drug companies do. Is it a coincidence that Canadian price controls make pharmaceutical research in that country a much less profitable venture?
True, the American companies are profiting from their industriousness. But as Dayton of all people should know, making a profit in business is not a crime. Drug companies -- as opposed to, say, retailers -- get singled out only because they create treatments that improve or extend human life. That brands them as evil and exploitative in some reformers' eyes and gives government the power to decide how much profit is justified and how much is not.
To repeat, the point is not that the government should keep its hands off the industry. The point is, reformers should acknowledge the costs of their reforms.
If we want Canadian-style prescription drug coverage, we'll get a Canadian-style prescription drug industry. That's the trade-off our society's facing, and the Democratic (and Republican) candidates should address it.
--Grand Forks Herald
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