[July 22, 2007 @ 10:13 am] David Catron

The geniuses who run Great Britain’s system of socialized medicine have proposed using NHS resources to buy iPods and television sets for crackheads, according to the TimesOnline:

Drug addicts are to be offered gift vouchers and prizes on the National Health Service under plans by the government’s medicine watchdog to encourage them to stay clean.

Considering that the same government entity refuses to provide widely-used and effective cancer treatments to its patients, the perversity of this idea is breathtaking. And that point has not been lost on patient advocates:

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: “Why should these people with self-inflicted problems be given priority over people who have a genuine illness? Some people with genuine disease are being forced to sell their homes for the medicines they need.”

The answer to Ms. Murphy’s question is obvious. When you allow government apparatchiks to control health care, such warped priorities are inevitable. Even if the bureaucrats are well-meaning and intelligent—not always a given—they simply don’t have enough information to allocate resources efficiently.

Only the market has the ability to allocate resources in a way that provides the most good for the largest number of people. The quantity of information contained in a single price for a single good far exceeds the miniscule amount of data that can be possessed and processed any group of “experts.”

Until health care is returned to the realm of the free market, wacky ideas like giving prizes to crackheads will continue to bubble up from the bureaucratic muck.

One comment

  1. Marc Brown Says:

    Oh dear – do I detect knee=jerk neo-con thinking of the first order. It really would help if you actually looked at the material you selectively quote from – the Times article says:

    ‘Under the guidelines expected to be published by Nice this week, heroin and cocaine users will be given the financial rewards if they test free of drugs. The scheme is inspired by one already operating successfully in America.’

    Wow – did you see that ‘operating successfully in America’?

    And it goes on:

    ‘Research by the University of Connecticut found cocaine and methamphetamine users stayed drug free for longer when they had the chance to win prizes such as telephones, stereos, DVD players and televisions. Every time addicts gave a negative drugs test they were given tickets for the draw. They “earned” an increasing number of tickets for every week that they remained drug free.’

    So if it works in America, it could work in the UK – the idea being that we introduce things that actually work rather than, say, locking 2 million people up as you do in the US.

    As for what works, new drugs are not miracle cures, in particular the new targeted cancer agents. Nearly all the evidence so far comes from ongoing trials and there are great trade-offs to be made between a few weeks extra survival and quality of life, given the often major side-effects of drug combinations. No society can afford not to make decisions about what drugs will be resourced and when – and we must look at the evidence of efficacy.

    And of course in the US there are vast dispariteis in access to the best medical care such as preventive screening – not surprising given it’s the developed country with the worst wealth and health inequalities.

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