15 October 2010

Cigarettes, StemCells&AtomBombs

Poor planning? A lack of coordination? Government failure? Private sector failure?

The Yomiuri Newspaper has just reported that the Champix drug supply in Japan has run out.

Champix, from Pfizer Japan, is an oral smoking cessation drug which blocks the part of the brain that receives nicotine, making it difficult for smokers to enjoy the taste of cigarettes.

The government of Japan had a great chance and they blew it!

As of 1 October cigarette prices increased by a whopping 35%. A massive increase that was part of the governments anti smoking measures. This increase was supposed to get people wanting to quit smoking. So why is the best anti-smoking drug on the market in short supply?

The Yomiuri reported that the, "demand greatly exceeded Pfizer's expectation." A doctor at the famous Tokyo Medical University was quoted as saying, "In no way did I expect that the about 100YEN increase in cigarette prices to cause demand for the drug to surge."

Well, I don't blame the doctor and I don't blame Pfizer Japan. I'm shocked that they were shocked by the massive increase in demand for this drug, but it's not their job to consider the overall health of people in Japan. That's the government's job.

I'm not saying that the government isn't able to plan these things out, I'm saying that they DIDN'T, and that's the problem.

It's an ideological problem. Actually, it's an ideological problem which is interfering in practical health delivery matters. This ideology says that governments shouldn't interfere in the marketplace. According to this religion-like-ideology, Pfizer should have expected the surge and naturally met the market need to maximize profits. So what went wrong?

It's easy. Pfizer didn't increase the supply in case there wasn't a demand. They played it safe and maybe lost some sales, but more importantly they didn't risk losing money by increasing the supply of something that maybe no one wanted.

So what should have happened?

The government should have...
...planned an increase.
...educated people about this very easy way to quit smoking.
...surveyed smokers willingness to quit.
...then secured an adequate supply of this drug to MAKE SURE it met demand.

It's easy to understand why people are cynical and think that this was never intended to be a public health measure but a pure and simple tax grab.

This could have been an excellent stop smoking plan in a country where over 30% of the male population smokes, but instead the drug maker has asked hospitals to postpone prescribing the drug to new patients as they will not be able to get the drug until next year.

By next year, the shock of the increase will have worn off and this golden opportunity missed.

You'll notice that governments never run out of uranium to fire atom bombs. No! Even a failed state like North Korea can secure this evil.

I guess there is no need to talk about why there is no stem cell based cure for spinal cord injury yet.

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