Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 11, 2004

Price controls on prescriptions hurt consumers

The Sun's editors are correct: Buying from Canadian Internet "pharmacies" is not a long-term answer for high drug prices ("Mother may I?" editorial, April 5).

Canadian Internet drug sellers are anything but "pharmacies." They may only be warehouses selling drugs manufactured anywhere in the world. The risk to patients is so significant that neither the Canadian government nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will vouch for their safety.

Additionally, the provision of the prescription drug bill that prevents Medicare from interfering with the cost of drugs protects patients and makes the most of their purchasing power.

The provision also prevents the government from establishing a national formulary list (a limited list of covered drugs) and drug-price controls, which would limit patients' medicine choices and reduce incentives to do research into new medicines.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office determined that private-sector competition would yield the most savings of all Medicare drug proposals it considered.

Finally, academic and government basic research and grants are important, but more than 90 percent of medicines developed in the United States over the last 30 years were developed solely by industry.

Government price controls would stifle the innovation patients rely on to create new cures and protect their health.

Alan F. Holmer

Washington

The writer is president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Fetal nerve cells cannot feel pain

The assertion that a 20-week-old fetus feels the pain of abortion is unsubstantiated by biological evidence ("Fetus feels pain of abortion, specialist testifies," April 7).

Pain is a sensory and emotional experience that requires the processing of sensory information in a part of the brain called the cortex. The neurons that will make up the cortex are only put in place during the second trimester of a pregnancy and only the most rudimentary of connections between these neurons has formed by the end of the second trimester.

More importantly, there is no connection between the developing cortical neurons and lower brain structures until the end of the second trimester. Consequently, no sensory input from the body is able to reach these cortical neurons at the stage of development when these abortions are performed.

In the absence of sensory input, there will be no experience of pain. So while it is true that a 20-week-old fetus may show physiological responses to stimuli that you or I would find painful, these responses do not translate into the sensation of pain.

Michael S. Gold

Baltimore

The writer is a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Rice passes buck on Sept. 11 again

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice simply joined the chorus of buck-passers in her testimony to the 9/11 commission (" `Bush understood threat,' Rice says," April 9).

She complained about the FBI, CIA and other agencies' inability to communicate with each other. But isn't it the purpose of the national security adviser to collate information from various sources? Isn't it her function to facilitate communication?

If the answer to those questions is yes, she clearly didn't do her job. If the answers are no, just what is her job?

If buck-passing were an Olympic sport, the Bush administration would be a favorite for the gold medal. Nothing seems to be anyone's responsibility.

How does this mesh with the conservative mantra of "personal responsibility?"

Joe Roman

Baltimore

Our own uranium harms U.S. troops

A small item in the National Digest section reported illnesses in soldiers exposed to depleted uranium from U.S. artillery shells ("Troops inhaled radioactive dust in Iraq, doctor says," April 6).

That reminds me of the cartoon character Pogo, who said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

Molly Kinnaird Johnston

Glen Arm

A sickening surge of cruelty to kids

When I read the account of Nicole Ashley Townes' beating, I was sickened by the savage nature of the beating of this young girl ("Prognosis `very poor' for girl beaten at party," April 3). It is shocking that such a beating could take place and even more shocking to realize it was condoned and encouraged by an adult.

Reading that an adult in attendance, and apparently in charge of the young people attending a birthday party, actually instructed the partygoers "to close the windows and turn up the music so party guests could beat Nicole and Brenda without anyone hearing their cries" was absolutely sickening.

What's happening in our society that promotes this kind of violent and horrific treatment of children? Far too often we are reading about children, in Baltimore and nationwide, being sexually abused, neglected, scalded, locked in closets and starved, or beaten by family members or family friends.

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