Thursday, June 18, 2009

Free market fail

As you may have noticed, I'm not a huge believer in all the promises of the free market. Don't get me wrong, I believe that competition is a good thing and I don't believe in the ability of governments to engineer away problems, but I think that self-interested, irrational humans won't always arrive at the optimal result (see: Wall Street) and that there are some aspects of society that shouldn't be subject to the free market (like roads and, in my opinion, health care).

Interesting story in the Boston Globe today, noting that Genzyme, the largest biotech company in the commonwealth, recently discovered that a vat of CHO cells used to make a drug was contaminated with a virus. As a result, there won't be enough Cerezyme to treat patients with Gaucher's disease (no, I had never heard of either of them).

Admittedly, this is a few degrees away from the current health care debate, but this is a great example of where the free market fails in delivering health care. I highly doubt that the various private insurers have made sure to have back-up supplies of Cerezyme lest their two or three patients who have Gaucher's disease drop dead before Genzyme gets back up and running -- why would it be in their financial interest to waste money on storing back-ups for a variety of drugs? Or, to put another way, please note that, for the next few months, in the absence of a public health care option, Cerezyme will now be rationed by a private pharmaceutical company to private insurers...