Government health care restrictions are costing lives

Government health care restrictions are costing lives
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Free to Choose Medicine (FTCM) is a policy proposal that would lower the cost of pharmaceutical drugs while expediting approval of potentially life-saving treatments. In short, FTCM would relieve needless pain and suffering and save lives. So, why is the government anti-FTCM?

FTCM allows health care choices to be made by patients and doctors, not the federal government. In the drug approval process, after Phase I safety testing, and at least one Phase II efficacy test, drugs that are awaiting approval in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug approval pipeline would be available to patients via a Free to Choose Medicine Track (FTCMT). FTCM would also create a Trade-off-Evaluation-Drug-Database (TEDD) so patients and their doctors could track the performance and results of therapies and drugs. Patient privacy would be vigorously protected in TEDD, which could only be accessed by patients and doctors to determine the risk-benefit analysis of specific drugs and treatments.

The need to implement FTCM has never been so pressing. Millions of Americans are battling COVID-19. Some doctors are attempting to treat the virus with chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine combined with zinc, which is showing positive outcomes for some. These drugs have already been approved by FDA for uses in disease groups including arthritis, lupus and many other autoimmune disorders. Yet doctors who want to prescribe these drugs to patients suffering from coronavirus are being forbidden from doing so. As of now, these drugs fall under a category of “off label use,” which the government is currently restricting by controlling supply. 

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As such, doctors are being arbitrarily restricted in their ability to prescribe chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to patients diagnosed with COVID-19. This constraint comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Shockingly, the FDA is actually blocking the ability of patients to access life-saving treatments. To combat this, doctors from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) are suing the FDA and HHS for what they call “irrational interference.”

To date, more than 150 million doses of hydroxychloroquine have been bestowed to the strategic national stockpile. Yet, the rigid restrictions remain. And the government continues to limit use, except in cases wherein the patient is hospitalized and admitted into an approved clinical trial. Keep in mind, hydroxychloroquine has been approved by the FDA and used for more than 65 years.

Millions of people could benefit from these drugs. Yet the federal government had authority to restrict supply, which it did. Restrictions have been put in place at the federal level and are included in the National Institute for Health’s COVID-19 Treatment Guidance document, which restricts use of the drugs except in a clinical trial setting. This decision has potentially cost lives and caused needless pain and suffering. 

Health care is an extremely personal decision. Doctors and patients take serious consideration in making these life-or-death decisions. Yet, the government is limiting patient choice, and putting lives at risk. This is un-American. 

America was founded upon principles of freedom, individual liberty and personal responsibility. Obviously, these principles should apply to one’s health care choices.

Patients suffering from COVID-19 have the right to attempt to save their lives, whether the government agrees with their choices or not.

Christina Herrin (cherrin@heartland.org) is the director for Free to Choose Medicine, a project of The Heartland Institute, a non-partisan, free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.