Sunday, August 15, 2010

Burger With A Side of Lipitor

     You could not make this up. Sure we knew that the fast food industry and pharma were natural partners, but we now have medical researchers joining the kabal, the perfect middle men.  Soon it may be possible to take your burger over to the condiment counter at your favorite fast food joint and grab a packet of lipitor by the ketchup and mustard tubs. They have suggested that such dosing of statins, the medications that reduce cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, could neutralize the risk associated with eating a quarter-pounder with cheese and small shake every day. The researchers suggest that it is unreasonable for individuals to be free to consume fatty food but not have equal access to a statin. I anticipate a right-to-statins movement.

     The idea is presented in the language of this being a natural extension of the right to health care. In order to embrace this thinking it is necessary to overlook some basic ideas such as; maybe an individual should be responsible for what he puts in his mouth, or if the government has the power to subsidize medicating disease caused by self-destructive behaviors why doesn't it have the power to make it either illegal or expensive to do such things, or why should people who take care of themselves pay the same taxes or insurance premiums as those who will be doubling up on the burgers and reaching for the statin pack?

     From a medical perspective, it is important to point out the limitations of this fast food/pharmacy approach. While statins may reduce cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, they do not safeguard against the other consequences of a fast food diet such as obesity, diabetes, hyperetension, and colorectal cancer, to name a few.  

     One other problem with this kind of thinking relates to risk homeostasis, which I've spoken about before. The theory states that when people think a situation is safe, they take greater risk, and vice versa. The example I'd used was when the auto industry introduced disc brakes, a great safety feature, accidents increased. People felt safer and drove more recklessly. This applies to the fast food med counter equally well. If I think you've just undone the risk of eating this burger, give me two of those babies!

     When the medical community is suggesting that if you're going to eat a certain food, you should take this medication so it doesn't make you sick and eventually kill you, maybe we should stop eating that food.

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