‘Humane meat’ is the ultimate oxymoron

The CEO of the American Humane Association painted a bucolic picture of what life is like for animals raised on the agency’s “American Humane Certified” farms in “On Thanksgiving, set a humane table” (The Hill’s Congress Blog, Nov. 20). Unfortunately, as investigations have proven, animal welfare standards on these farms are far from what most Americans would consider “humane.”

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PETA filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission after the American Humane Association awarded Butterball with the “American Humane Certified” label. When PETA and Mercy for Animals investigated Butterball farms, we found turkeys having parts of their beaks sliced off and male baby turkeys being ground up alive, among other abuses.

It’s par for the course on so-called “humane meat” farms. As Hope Bohanec, author of “The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?”, found during her research, “Painful procedures like debeaking, tail docking, dehorning, ear notching, castration, and teeth filing are the norm; there are no standards for safety and comfort in transport. ... And in the end, all these animals go to the same slaughterhouses as any other unfortunate animal being killed for his flesh.”

“Humane meat” is the ultimate oxymoron. But people can set a humane table by choosing healthy, tasty plant-based foods.

From Michelle Kretzer, The PETA Foundation, Norfolk, Va.


The time is now to tackle high drug prices

In his Nov. 12 Congress Blog post for The Hill, “America’s health system can’t put insurers before patients,” Kenneth Thorpe argues that it is difficult to put a dollar value on a breakthrough treatment that could vastly improve the lives of millions of Americans. It is difficult, but that is exactly the conversation we have to have. There are not limitless resources to apply to healthcare. For every additional dollar spent, there is one less dollar to spend elsewhere. And that impacts us all.

New drugs and devices are entering the market at a rapid pace, with increasingly high price tags. As a country, we must ask the question, “Are we getting good value from high-priced drugs and devices?” To help guide these conversations, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review is assessing new drugs and devices as they enter the market, conducting a full analysis of their probable long-term cost-effectiveness for patients. We’re asking how much better a new intervention is at extending life and/or improving quality of life for individual patients, and then estimating whether the average added costs per patient are within a reasonable range for the amount of benefit gained. We are very grounded in the patient perspective, and we also take into consideration potential broader benefits that drugs and devices might have, including preventing illness in others or improving people’s ability to return to work.

But even for new interventions that offer good long-term value, we still need to worry about the potential short-term costs growing faster than country’s economy — cost growth that might overly strain healthcare budgets and push up premiums quite rapidly.

We perform analyses to estimate the potential budget impact of new drugs and devices, looking at how much they are likely to add to total healthcare spending over a five-year time span, including any and all cost savings that may occur from keeping patients healthier. The potential budget impact analysis is not used to suggest whether a new drug or device should be used or not. It is done to help suggest when the potential budget impact is so high that doctors, insurers and manufacturers must try to reduce prices, change payment terms or limit patient use in some way so that healthcare budgets are not pushed higher at a rapid, unsustainable pace.

It’s time for all of us to work together to bring true value to healthcare and ensure patients get the treatments they need.

From Steven D. Pearson, MD, president and founder, Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, Bostonason.