Santa Clara County, CA November 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter

Improvement of Health Care

By Edward J. Klein

Candidate for United States Representative; District 16

This information is provided by the candidate
Research has shown that the immense cost of disease care could be significantly reduced by proper preventive health care
Important issues for all Americans are quality of life and length of life. It is well known that Americans rank 25th in the world in life expectancy, while having the most expensive medical care system. If our conventional belief systems were correct, you would expect that the best medical care would result in the longest life expectancy. It turns out our belief systems are not accurate. Research has shown that medical care has little effect on the diseases from which most Americans die, specifically heart attack, cancer, and stroke. A 1998 study published in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE is the 5th study to find that those who underwent invasive therapy, such as angiography, angioplasty, and/or bypass surgery, had 2-3 times greater risk of death than those treated conservatively (NEJM 1998;338:1785). Likewise, a 1997 article in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE reviewed statistics on mortality. It concluded that treatments for cancer are largely disappointing, and that the most promising approach to the control of cancer would be a national commitment to prevention. (NEJM 1997;338:1569-74). Heart attack, cancer, and stroke are diseases of western lifestyle, and can be prevented much more effectively than they can be treated. Depending on which review of the scientific literature you read, cancer is 30-68 percent preventable, and heart attack is 57-90 percent preventable. A recent Surgeon General's report concluded that 68% of diseases in America are diet related. Research published in the journal PREVENTIVE MEDICINE concluded that dietary changes alone could result in a savings of $28 billion per year in reduced medical care. With all this evidence, Medicare regulations specifically exclude coverage for preventive care. Presumably, that exclusion stems from an attempt to limit costs to only the most necessary care. However, research also tells us that healthier people, even though they live longer, require less total medical care during their lifetimes than shorter-lived, less-healthy individuals. The Natural Law Party proposes we follow the findings of science and emphasize prevention in health care, especially in Medicare coverage.

Another cause of reduced life expectancy in the U.S. has recently been discovered. Statistics show that the U.S. ranks 25th in the world in life expectancy, while Japan ranks number one. Correlated with those statistics is the fact that Japan has the least gap between rich and poor, while the U.S. has the widest gulf in the developed world, statistically about twice as bad as that of India. Researchers for the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH recently examined the records of 282 of America's 283 urban areas, and found a direct relation between income inequities and shortened life expectancy, both for the rich as well as for the poor. Huge inequities produce a breakdown of social cohesion that leads to poor health, as well as to the worst crime rate in the developed world. Dr. Klein proposes intelligent changes in the tax code that would lead to a more humanitarian and healthy society. These changes are explained in position paper number one.

Safety of medication is another important issue for Americans. In 1998, THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION estimated that 106,000 Americans die per year from the side effects of properly prescribed medication. Those adverse drug reactions, then are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. This is in addition to the 44-98,000 who die from errors and malpractice. In the past two years, four drugs and one immunization have beeen withdrawn from the market because they were killing people. How did these unsafe products get released? In 1997, FDA approval standards were cut in half by the "Food and Drug Modernization Act" (FDAMA), a law written and heavily pushed by the drug industry. This law reduced safety standards to unacceptable levels, and needs to be repealed, so that we return to the standards that had evolved over decades for proper drug regulation. Our present standards are so low that Ralph Nader's PUBLIC CITIZEN HEALTH RESEARCH GROUP recommends that no one take a drug for the first five years it is on the market, unless it shows marked superiority to everthing else on the market for that ailment.

Another signifiacant health care problem is the advertising of presciption drugs directly to the public. This is clearly not in the public interest. The drugs that are advertised are not those that are most effective, but those that are most profitable. For example, the most-prescribed blood pressure medication is a calcium channel blocker. Although it costs 100 times more than competing medications, it has no published studies demonstrating that it reduces the risk of heart attack. It is prescribed over other less-profitable and more effective medications, simply because it is so heavily advertised. Polls of patients have indicated that 15% of patients are willing to change doctors if the doctor refused to prescribe the medication the patient requests. Such a system can easily lead to improper medication. We propose prohibiting drug companies from advertising directly to the public. This would also result in significant reduction in drug prices due to the savings of advertising costs, estimated to be $2 billion per year.

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