Debate at Harvard Medical School, May 3, 2012
The Benjamin Rush Society Presents The Arthur N. Rupe Debate Series:
Be It Resolved That:
"Government Is Harmful to Medical Innovation"
Harvard Medical School
Tosteson Medical Education Center (TMEC), Floor 2, Room 227
260 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
Pre-debate reception at 5:45 p.m. Debate at 6:30 p.m.
Neil Minkoff, MD (Sudbury, MA)
Founder, FountainHead HealthCare & Commissioner, Massachusetts Group Health Insurance Commission
Avik Roy (New York, NY)
Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research & Editor, The Apothecary blog at Forbes.com
Jerry Avorn, MD (Boston, MA)
Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School & Chief, Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Brigham and Women's Hospital
John Abramson, MD (Boston, MA)
Lecturer on Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School & Author, Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine
Over fifty medical students and physicians gathered at Harvard Medical School to attend the Benjamin Rush Society's third debate at that august institution. The resolution was that "government is harmful to medical innovation." We were honored that Dr. Jeffrey Flier, Dean of the Harvard Medical School moderated the debate.
Avik Roy, a Senior Fellow of the Manhattan Institute, editor of The Apothecary blog at Forbes.com opened the debate by criticizing the Food & Drug Administration for its risk aversion and slowness in approving new medicines. Echoing themes brought forward in his recently published research, Mr. Roy claimed that patients and doctors should be much more free to use innovative new medicines than the government now permits. The status quo reduces investment and productivity in medical innovation.
Responding, Dr. Jerry Avorn, well-known author and originator of "academic detailing" (the practice of giving clinicians scientifically objective information about new medicines, free from the promotional cant of drug companies) described the government's critical role in promoting innovation, especially through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Neil Minkoff was the second speaker in favor of the resolution. A veteran medical director for private health plans and primary-care physician himself, Dr. Minkoff described how the government's reimbursement schedule makes it impossible to be reimbursed for quality or innovation.
Finally, Dr. John Abramson, also a well-known author, reinforced the idea that government had an important role to play in ensuring that medical innovation be targetted at the highest priorities, and not just based on marketing or financial needs.
The debate was courteous and genial, and followed by a robust question and answer session. Medical students are about to enter a profession that is undergoing dramatic, even chaotic, change. With government expanding continuously into every area of medical innovation, the medical students were eager to hear different perspectives on the government's influence on private innovation.