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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

John Edwards and the miracle of federal government 

While campaigning in Newton, Iowa, John Edwards promised that a Kerry Administration would cure the great debilitating diseases of our time:
"We will do stem cell research," he vowed. "We will stop juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases. America just lost a great champion for this cause in Christopher Reeve. People like Chris Reeve will get out of their wheelchairs and walk again with stem cell research."

That's quite a promise! Drudge has been making fun of him all day, and the story is heating up on the right o' center blogs. Most of the criticism involves snarking at Edwards' fairly breathtaking hubris or picking to death the science around stem cells.

I have a different objection. On the off chance that fetal stem cell research does lead to cures for these or other horrible diseases during the next four or eight years (or reasonably thereafter), who will have done the work to discover those cures, and who will actually provide the treatments to implement those cures? You can bet your bottom dollar that it won't be the university professors who are today complaining that they can't get federal subsidies for their work. Professors working with federal funds can often discover important basic concepts, but we can only cure actual patients with medical products -- which require pharmaceutical and medical device companies -- or surgical procedures -- which require workaday surgeons who can be quickly trained to exploit a new technique or deploy a new product. The "cures" from stem cells will not derive from any bureaucratic triumph of the Kerry Administration or a lab at Harvard. Actual cures will come from the entrepreneurial wing of the life sciences industry. Venture stage firms will supply pharmaceutical and medical device companies with saleable research projects that convert into drugs and medical devices that can be manufactured in volume, studied in animals, tested in humans, approved by regulators and distributed commercially.

Today, the private sector is working away at the promise of fetal stem cell research, all without the miracle of (massive) federal subsidy. There's a conference here in Princeton on that very subject next week. The Bush Administration, unlike virtually the entire mainstream media, understands that technology can flourish without taxpayer subsidies that are morally offensive to many Americans.

Of course, it is beyond rich that in the very same speech Edwards called again for the reimportation of drugs from Canada. If, by some impossible chance, that tactic actually succeeded in lowering drug prices for Americans in general, it would destroy the rate of return on investment in ethical pharmaceuticals. Would that increase or decrease the amount of capital available to commercialize therapies derived from fetal stem cells? If you do not know the answer to that question, you are almost certainly going to vote for Kerry and Edwards.

UPDATE: Put Brainshavings down as undecided.

8 Comments:

By Blogger Thorath, at Wed Oct 13, 07:07:00 AM:

Well I understand your thoughts but as always Kerry's team just say what will get them elected.

Stem cell research will never ever help with complete paralysis, why Reeves never claimed it did. It can only be done with ADULT bone marrow genetic mapping. At any rate if stem cell could help it would take decades not 30 days as Edwards seem to suggest.

Doug Stein
Director of Albany Genetics Studies  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Wed Oct 13, 09:48:00 AM:

Unfortunately - medicine for profit demands that whatever comes out of the lab has to be a moneymaker. This limits the range and scope of research. Kucinich has it right when he says that Health Care for Profit is an unsustainable, inherently prejudicial method of allocating precious human and medical resources.

I'm not afraid of Socialized Medicine, but I'm terrified of where we're headed with Capitalist Medicine.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Wed Oct 13, 09:50:00 AM:

Here's a link to Kucinich's thinking on this subject. And, no, I didn't support him for President, but this line of thinking is worth your time and consideration.

Universal Health Care  

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