by CRISTIN STRINING
Freshman U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., says she wants to shift the focus of American health care away from corporate profits and toward patient benefits.
Drawing on her previous career in the pharmaceutical industry, Boyda said that while working for Marion Laboratories, a private drug company, she saw the industry advocating policies that she thought were detrimental to the pharmacies operating in small communities.
“The pharmacist is an essential health provider … especially in rural communities,” she said.
Boyda also supports restricting the ability of pharmaceutical companies to market directly to consumers. Before the Food and Drug Administration first permitted widespread advertising for prescription drugs in 1985, pharmaceutical companies could advertise only in professional publications. In 1997, the FDA relaxed advertising regulations.
Boyda said this has resulted in patients telling doctors what medication they should be taking.
“We were over-medicated before we started advertising to consumers, and now we’re worse off at this point,” she said.
According to Boyda, new drugs are aggressively marketed after they are initially approved but before their long-term side effects are known. Citing the recent discovery of negative cardiovascular health effects associated with pain killers called Cox-II inhibitors, she said pharmaceutical advertising is a public-policy problem that has many complex issues. For instance, Boyda said the pharmaceutical industry, which spent about $1.9 billion on advertising in 2005, views advertising as an issue of free speech.
To reform the overall health care system, Boyda said she does not favor allocating more money toward health care.
“We’re already spending enough money,” she said. “We have the resources. We have the infrastructure. We just need to put the pieces together in a different way.”
Boyda said that it will take the stakeholders, including doctors, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, to “get above the politics” and come together to demand a bipartisan solution to the American health care crisis.
In January, Boyda voted to approve a bill that would allow the government to negotiate directly with drug makers for lower prescription drug prices for people on Medicare. She also voted in favor of the bill that would allow the use of human embryonic stem cells donated by in vitro fertilization clinics, provided that those embryos were to be discarded and the embryos were distributed with informed consent and without economic incentive.
“They already exist,” she said, referring to the embryos. “They have the potential to contain life-saving cures. â€¦ We’re throwing these potential cures in the trashcan.”
Boyda said her first year in Congress has been rewarding and fascinating, and she thinks she has already made a difference.
“‘Freshmen should be seen and not heard’ was what I expected,” Boyda said. “I have found it to be exactly the opposite.”