On Fox & Friends, Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel recently seized on a report of drug shortages to fearmonger about "government-controlled rationing" and to baselessly attack the health care reform law. Fox regularly turns to Siegel for commentary on health care reform despite his history of baseless fearmongering and pushing false claims about health care reform.
Siegel Seizes On Report Of Drug Shortages To Fearmonger About "Government-Controlled Rationing"
Siegel Seizes On Report Of Drug Shortages To Claim, "We're Moving In The Direction Of Government-Controlled Rationing." On the May 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Siegel seized on a recent report about drug shortages to claim that the drug shortage is "actually a form of rationing" and that "we're moving in the direction of government-controlled rationing." Siegel later baselessly claimed that government subsidization of the drug development process is "[a]nother example of Obamacare costing us a fortune." From Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: So what are doctors doing to counter the drug deficit? With us now is Fox medical contributor and author of this brand new book, it's excellent, called The Inner Pulse, Dr. Marc Siegel. Welcome to the show, I never thought in my lifetime I'd hear about a drug shortage. What's going on?
SIEGEL: It's actually a form of rationing and it worries me because, as I write in my book, you need one-on-one medical care in order to really make people better. And hospitals have a tremendous shortage right now of the most important medications, intravenous, antibiotics, chemotherapy, medicines for cardiac arrest to bring people back. There's a few reasons for this. Number one, they're generic, meaning that they're not making a lot of money off this, the drug companies. Number two, there's an arduous process to sterilize the drugs and number three, our military, rightly so, takes off the top, you know, the ones that are first and foremost: heparin, intravenous, antibiotics, gotta go overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan first.
CARLSON: So, could anything, can anything be done to change the trend of having a shortage?
SIEGEL: Well, I'm actually thinking that doctors need to play a very strong role here. We're moving in the direction of government-controlled rationing and I, again, as I write, it's got to be on a patient by patient basis. In my book, I have patients who survive from comas, one because families are saying--a family is saying this patient is going to survive. In another case, it's the nurses and doctors who say so. I'm worried that in the future if there's a shortage of medications patients like that will have the plug pulled on them.
KILMEADE: Can the FDA to say 'listen, there's not enough of medicine x? We need to make more.' Can they mandate that?
SIEGEL: Absolutely. But look, there's more money. That's more money flooding in from the government in order to subsidize that because the drug companies can't be forced to do it. Another example of Obamacare costing us a fortune. You know, I had a patient that lived with liver cancer for 10 years, they, he would have not gotten the treatments, the chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is in the big shortages today because of the fact that it's not making money for the drug companies. They spend a billion dollars in research and development. They have to in order to keep going, keep the drugs that they're pushing out front, the brand name drugs. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/31/11; The Associated Press, 5/30/11]
In Fact, Reporting Points To Normal Market Forces For Drug Shortages, Not Rationing Or Health Care Reform
AP Lists Contamination Recalls, Raw Ingredients, Demand As Causes For Shortages. A May 31 Associated Press article listed numerous potential causes for the shortage, but did not mention "rationing" or the health care reform law as possible causes. From the AP:
There are lots of causes, from recalls of contaminated vials, to trouble importing raw ingredients, to spikes in demand, to factories that temporarily shut down for quality upgrades.
Some experts pointedly note that pricier brand-name drugs seldom are in short supply. The Food and Drug Administration agrees that the overarching problem is that fewer and fewer manufacturers produce these older, cheaper generic drugs, especially the harder-to-make injectable ones. So if one company has trouble -- or decides to quit making a particular drug -- there are few others able to ramp up their own production to fill the gap, says Valerie Jensen, who heads FDA's shortage office. [The Associated Press, 5/31/11]
FDA Lists Normal Market Forces As Reason For Drug Shortages. The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Drug Shortage Program lists numerous market and business decisions as causes of drug shortages. From the FDA:
Why are there so many drugs in shortage?
Over the last ten years, the number of shortages has continued to increase. There are many reasons for this increase in shortages and some of the causes are as follows:
- Manufacturing issues - this may include problems with manufacturing, enforcement activities, raw material shortages, packaging shortages, and other reasons
- Business decisions may be made by firms to discontinue manufacturing of a drug - newer products continue to replace older products due to better safety profiles, better efficacy, more convenient dosing regimens, etc.
- Limited manufacturing capacity - often multiple products are produced on the same equipment which means that an increase in production of one product will usually result in a delay for another product produced on the same production line
- Market concentration - as firms discontinue manufacturing of various products, only one or two firms may remain as producers of a product. [Food and Drug Administration, 3/30/11]
Siegel Has A Long History Of Fearmongering, Misinforming About Health Care Reform
Siegel Seized On Story Of Canadian Baby To Fearmonger About Health Care In U.S. On the February 24 edition of Fox & Friends, Siegel used the story of a 13-month old Canadian baby in a permanent vegetative state to fearmonger about health care reform. Siegel claimed that, unlike in Canada, parents in the United States have the freedom to make decisions about their children's health, but that "we're worried about" issues such as health care rationing "happening here." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/24/11]
Carlson And Siegel Fearmonger That Health Care Reform Will Cause "People With Heart Attacks" To Not "Be Seen" By Doctors. On the September 17, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, Siegel and co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that the coverage proposals in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) could "bankrupt America." Siegel further claimed that health care reform will mean "people with heart attacks are not going to be able to be seen [in the emergency room]" because "it will be loaded with people with Medicaid cards with colds." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/17/10]
Siegel Used "Not Scientific" Poll To Attack Health Care Reform. On the March 17, 2010, edition of Fox News' America Live, Siegel cited a 3-month-old email survey which found that 46 percent of primary care physicians would consider leaving their profession if health care reform passed. Siegel claimed that the poll "reflected what was found in an IBD/TIPP poll that was done back in September  where Investor's Business Daily also surveyed over a thousand physicians." But even Fox News acknowledged that the poll Siegel cited was "not scientific," and statistician Nate Silver called the poll "simply not credible." [Media Matters, 3/17/10]
Siegel: Task Force Recommendations On Mammograms "Absolutely" About Health Care Reform. During the November 17, 2009, edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, co-host Martha MacCallum asked Siegel, "You hinted at something that I want to just close with here. Are you suggesting that there's a link between health care reform and the battle to bring down costs overall and the decision to tell women not to get mammograms?" Siegel responded, "Well, absolutely," and, "[T]his kind of health reform is not what we need. We have the technology and quality of care in the United States. We don't need to see it sacrificed." In fact, as Media Matters noted, the recommendation made by the United States Preventive Services Task Force that fewer women younger than 50 receive regular mammograms was not legally binding on health care providers or insurers; also, the task force made similar recommendations before health care reform was passed, under the Bush administration. [Media Matters, 11/18/09]
Siegel: "[U]nder ObamaCare, Guidelines Will Quickly Become Mandates." In a November 19, 2009, New York Post column, Siegel again used mammogram screenings to claim that "under Obamacare, guidelines will quickly become mandates" and that reform efforts will "create lots of new panels and other bureaucrats empowered to 'suggest' things doctors shouldn't do." From the New York Post:
This week's decision by a government panel to discourage most women in their 40s from having routine mammograms isn't just bad medicine, but also a small taste of what ObamaCare will mean.
Happily, these rulings from on high don't have much force now. But under ObamaCare, guidelines will quickly become mandates, and patients will routinely face the choice of paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket or accept higher risks of cancer. It will take government bureaucrats years to admit mistakes, if they ever do -- and by that time thousands of women will have needlessly gotten sick or even died of cancer.
All the major "reform" bills create lots of new panels and other bureaucrats empowered to "suggest" things doctors shouldn't do -- and even to penalize doctors who order "too many" tests. [New York Post, 11/19/09]
Siegel Compares War in Afghanistan To The "Bloodbath Going On Over Mammograms." On the December 2, 2009, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Siegel used a controversy over mammogram screening recommendations to claim, "[Y]ou're going to see another war. You have the war in Afghanistan; you're going to see -- there's a bloodbath going on over mammograms." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 12/2/09]
Siegel On "Rationed Care" Under Health Reform: "[I]n A Way, It's A Form Of Eugenics." Discussing "rationed care" that he said would occur under health care reform, Siegel asserted: "There's going to be more people trying to get in [to my office]. I'm going to have less and less time to take care of them. Reimbursements to doctors and hospitals are being cut. If I'm being paid less, I got to work faster. That means I send more and more people for expensive tests. He's going to try to cost cut, which means he's going to ration care. So he's going to tell me what I can order, what I can't." After co-host Steve Doocy suggested that "unfairly, the elderly are the ones who are going to get shortchanged," Siegel responded: "That's so true. I mean, in a way, it's a form of eugenics: 'Oh, you're not good enough to live.' " [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/22/09]
Siegel Promoted End-Of-Life Counseling Myth. In an August 3, 2009, New York Post op-ed, Siegel promoted the myth that the House health care reform bill would have required end-of-life counseling for seniors every five years. Siegel falsely claimed that a "prime example" of the health care bill introducing too much medical oversight "comes in the section starting on page 425 of the House bill. This dictates that an Advanced Care Planning Consultation must take place every five years from the age of 65 -- with the intervention of so-called counselors, trained and appointed by the government." As Media Matters has documented, the bill does not implement mandatory counseling sessions, and Politifact rated claims like Siegel's "pants on fire." [New York Post, 8/3/09; Media Matters, 3/22/11]