Scientists Question New York’s Crime Lab DNA Analysis

Many thrillers and murder mysteries rely on some aspect of DNA evidence to solve the crime. This is true in the make-believe world of written fiction as well as in movies and television. Certainly, it is true in the real world of forensics.

So, I was fascinated to read an article in the New York Times about two generally-accepted DNA analysis methods being called into question.

Earlier this year, the DNA laboratory in the office of New York City’s chief medical examiner discontinued using two methods of “high-sensitivity testing” of trace amounts of DNA. These methods of analysis had been used for years and were considered cutting edge science by many. These methods were said to go beyond even the standards set by the FBI and other public labs for trace evidence.

These unique analysis techniques allowed for DNA identification from microscopic samples of evidence and even for separation of DNA that contained a mix of more than one person’s genetic material. As the city’s lab reputation spread, more than 50 jurisdictions, besides the New York police department, used the lab to process DNA samples, and this included the FBI.

In a statement to the professional community, the city’s lab replaced the old analytical techniques with “newer and more broadly used technology.” The medical examiner’s office stood by the science of these discarded techniques, and considered them well-tested and valid. The reported reason for the change was to adopt to newer methods that were “more aligned with changing FBI standards.”

This change, however, has initiated an inquiry by a coalition of defense lawyers. The coalition recently requested the New York State inspector general’s office to launch an investigation to determine if the previous—and now discarded—DNA analysis techniques were flawed.

Such an inquiry, if it goes forward, could put into question the outcomes of thousands of criminal cases in which the DNA analysis methods were used to gather incriminating evidence.

The Legal Aid Society and the Federal Defenders of New York informed the inspector general that they now question the medical examiner’s office lab results in numerous previous cases. Their statements implied that the medical examiner’s office engaged in neglectful conduct that undermined the integrity of conventional DNA testing with these previously unproven analytic methods. If an eventual investigation proves that flaws existed in the previous DNA testing methodology, this could prompt a tsunami of litigation to overturn and/or reconsider previous convictions.

One specific trial could become a test case for the legal defense community. DNA from the beating of Taj Patterson in December of 2013 was tested using the disputed techniques. A group of Hasidic men attacked Mr. Patterson in Brooklyn. Six days after the attack, the police found one of Mr. Patterson’s shoes on a nearby roof.

This shoe was sent to the New York DNA lab and technicians recovered a minute amount of DNA from two people. Using software developed by the lab, it was determined that most of the DNA belonged to a young father who lived and worked in Brooklyn near where the attack took place.

The man had no criminal record, no other defendants were identified and no other physical evidence linked the man to the attack on Mr. Patterson; but, the man was convicted for gang assault by the judge and sentenced to four years in prison. The man’s attorney is appealing the conviction and the potential for flawed DNA evidence will likely be used in this appeal.

If the defendant’s appeal is successful with arguments to throw out the DNA analysis, it could call into question almost 3,500 other cases in which both of the discarded trace analysis techniques were used as evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

I was thinking what an interesting plot twist this would make for a murder mystery in which the perpetrator gets off scot-free because of perceived flaws in previous DNA testing.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, About James J. Murray, Blog Writers, Blogging, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, DNA Testing Flaws, DNA Testing Tainted, DNA Testing Techniques Called Into Question, Fiction Based on Facts, Fiction Based on Real Life, Fiction Writing - A Believable Lie, Flaws in High Sensitivity DNA Testing Techniques, James J. Murray Blog, New Blog, New Research Technology, New York Crime Lab Crisis, Plot Development, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Story Development, Taj Patterson Case Appeal, Taj Patterson Trail, The Science of Murder, Unique Murder Plots | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commas, Em Dashes, and Ellipses—Their Proper Use!

In a recent blog, I discussed how to properly use the three types of dashes in writing.

Today, I’d like to further the discussion on punctuation marks, namely those used specifically to clarify or to emphasize a point. They are the comma, the Em dash and the ellipsis—the plural being “ellipses.” Sometimes, these three punctuation types are used interchangeably in modern writing, both in dialogue and narration, but there are specific rules for their use.

The question I present is this. Is their use solely at the discretion of the writer . . . or should the precise rules of language be followed? Let’s take a closer look at the three punctuation marks in question before forming any conclusions.

The Comma: The comma is used to separate elements within a sentence. It’s often said that anytime the writer intends the reader to break for a breath, that’s where a comma should be placed. But people breathe at different times when reading the same sentences, so that rule doesn’t hold up. For today’s discussion, a comma is used to separate phrases that intend to clarify previous words (such as, “He was a handsome fellow, with hair the color of gold.”).

However, the comma often doesn’t create the emphasis or drama that a writer needs to convey, and that’s where the next two punctuation marks are used more effectively.

The Em Dash: Most grammatical rulebooks indicate that the em dash is used as an interruption in dialogue or to emphasize a phrase in both dialogue and narration. It’s a much stronger punctuation mark than the comma but less formal than a colon, and it’s a more relaxed form of punctuation than the more technical use of a set of parentheses to explain or emphasize a specific point (such as, “He was a handsome fellow—with hair the color of gold that shimmered like the setting sun.”).

The em dash creates more drama and can be used as a strong aside in narrative (such as, “He was a handsome fellow—with god-like golden hair that turned every eye in a room he entered.”), or used for dramatic interruption of speech (such as, “He was a handsome fellow—I’m sorry, I know talking about him makes you feel uncomfortable.”). For a more in-depth description of em dashes, please refer to my recent blog on the types of dashes.

The Ellipsis: The use of ellipses denotes a small pause (“He was a handsome fellow . . . with great hair.”), a stutter (“This guy was . . . so . . . so handsome.”) or for dialogue and narrative that trails off (“When this guy walked in that room, it was like everyone turned and . . .”).

Some of the most heated discussions that writers have involve the distinction and proper use of em dashes vs ellipses, but the rules are quite clear. Ellipses are reserved for when the writer wants the reader to momentarily pause or for phrases that trail off. The complete thought, whether it is in dialogue or narration, is not stated but the meaning is understood never the less.

An ellipsis is always three dots, no more and no less. Style guidelines vary as to whether or not to use an ending period if the ellipsis comes at the end of a sentence. Most guidelines are satisfied with no final period.

And there is an on-going discussion as to specifically how ellipses are presented, depending on if the writer follows the Associated Press (AP) style or the Chicago style.

The AP style of ellipsis consists of three non-spaced periods, with a space before and after (“He was a handsome fellow … with such golden hair.”). The AP style often is referred to as a closed ellipsis. This contrasts to the Chicago style that presents as three spaced periods, with spacing before and after (“He was a handsome fellow . . . with such golden hair.”).

And then there’s the complication that arises in modern literature where we see more use of the AP style without the spacing before and after (“He was a handsome fellow…with such golden hair.”), but the rules in both the AP and Chicago styles are clear about using spacing before and after the three-dot ellipsis.

Grammatical rules assure that uniform guidelines are followed so that the reader’s experience is all about focusing on the story rather than about negotiating unique writing styles. I should point out, however, that many writers have been successful with unique styles of writing.

Although there may be established sentence structure rules, individual styles of writing sometimes preclude the rules. Above all, a GREAT WRITER is consistent with his or her punctuation style to enhance the reader’s experience and to avoid unnecessary grammatical distractions.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A Writer's Psyche, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, Accuracy in Editing, Accuracy in Writing, Achieving Writing Perfection, All About Writing, AP Style of Ellipsis, Better Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Chicago Style of Ellipsis, Comma Use, Correct Use of Punctuation in Fiction Writing, Developing a Writing Career, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Writing Skills, Difference Between Commas, Ellipses Use, Ellipsis Use, Em Dash Use, Em Dashes and Ellipses, Grammar and Punctuation, Growing As A Writer, How to Use Commas Properly, How To Use Ellipses Properly, How to Use Em Dashes Properly, James J. Murray, James J. Murray Blog, Learning the Art of Writing, Mastering Your Craft, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, Obsession with Proper Usage of the English Language, Practicing Your Profession, Prescription For Murder Blog, Proper Punctuation in Writing, Proper use of Commas, Proper Use of the Written Word, Punctuation Marks, Punctuation Rules, Rules of Punctuation, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, Tools of Fiction Writing, Writing As A Special and Rewarding Career, Writing Skills, Writing Techniques | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Emerging Viral Infections and Genetic Engineering – A Lethal Mix!

Yesterday, I posted an introductory piece regarding the launch of a new science thriller by an author friend of mine, Amy Rogers. The novel is called The Han Agent, and it promises to be another bestseller for Amy. I’ve read her previous two novels, Petroplague and Reversion. I’ve enjoyed both and they’ve received excellent reviews on Amazon.

Today, I’d like Amy to give insight into some background regarding the plot development for The Han Agent. So, without further ado, here’s fascinating information on emerging diseases and how they can affect the modern world.

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Emerging infections By Amy Rogers

It’s never good news when a new infectious disease pops up.

Deadly infections caused by viruses and bacteria have always plagued humankind, but our relationships with them are not static. They change over time, as both human and microbial populations evolve. Why?

On the human side, if a new germ arrives in a population, those people who are most susceptible to that germ will die. Those who naturally have some resistance to it are more likely to survive. This is a classic example of natural selection. People who survive to bear children will pass some of their genetic advantage on to their kids. Over time, the human population as a whole will shift toward individuals who are less likely to succumb to the new infection. If the germ migrates to a so-called “naïve” group of humans, its lethality will suddenly increase. (This happened with smallpox after Europeans arrived in the New World.)

On the germ side, believe it or not, the most deadly ones are not necessarily the most successful organisms. The purpose of a virus isn’t to kill. Its purpose is the same as ours: to reproduce. Sometimes that means killing the host. But an “ideal” virus would save itself the trouble of always having to find a new home. It would chronically infect and make new viruses without causing the demise of the host. A virus that kills too efficiently runs the risk of dying with the host, or killing off all the fresh hosts in the area.

When a new virus emerges, both of these evolutionary balances are out of whack. An “emerging” infection is by definition unstable and less predictable than one that has coexisted with humans for a long time—and it’s more likely to kill.

Emerging infections are a fact of life. The diseases that plagued humans thousands of years ago have changed and sometimes disappeared, and new ones are constantly taking their place. For example, the first recognized outbreak of syphilis in Europe happened in 1495. In the 20th century, HIV/AIDS appeared, along with Ebola, SARS, hantaviruses and others.

What causes new infectious diseases to emerge? Movement is a big reason. Armies or masses of refugees moving across continents can bring a virus in contact with people who have no immunity against it. The transportation of animals and plants across the globe in ships and airplanes can carry unwanted microbial passengers. Population density is another factor. An infection that in the wilderness would afflict one person and then died can spark an epidemic if it reaches a city or overcrowded neighborhood or prison.

Humans moving into places that used to be wild can also bring us into contact with new diseases. A virus that lurks harmlessly in a deep jungle may discover a taste for humans when they cut down the forest.

Climate change is adding another factor to the emergence of new infections. Global warming is causing animal and plant species to move to higher elevations and to places further from the equator. Instead of humans moving into territory where the microbes live, these migrating ecosystems are bringing their viruses and bacteria to us.

What if someone used genetic engineering to design an emerging virus from influenza. And what if WWII criminals had the power of genetic engineering? THE HAN AGENT by @ScienceThriller #thriller #flu http://www.sciencethrillersmedia.com/publish/han-agent/

Read THE HAN AGENT by Amy Rogers.

“gripping…a surefire genre hit”—FOREWORD REVIEWS

“frighteningly realistic”—James Rollins, #1 NYT bestseller

“a stunning what-if”—Barry Lancet, author of JAPANTOWN

Links:

For the book: http://www.sciencethrillersmedia.com/publish/han-agent/

For the author: http://www.amyrogers.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ScienceThrillers/

Posted in 3D Printed Medicines, A New Science Thriller Novel, A New Thriller Novel By Amy Rogers, A Thriller Novel, About Author Amy Rogers, About Writing, Biological Warfare, Biological Weapons, Bioterrorism, Bird Flu Gone Wild, Blog Interviews, Blog Writers, Blogging, Lethal Virus Cure Research, Lethal Viruses, Medical Research Misadventures, New Blog, New Book Is Published, New Book Release, New Novel Published, New Novel Release, New Publication, New Research Technology, New Thriller, New Thriller To Download, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Han Agent Thriller Novel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Mess With Bird Flu: THE HAN AGENT by Amy Rogers

A good friend of mine, Amy Rogers, is launching a new book today, so help us welcome this new science thriller onto our bookshelves!

“Fans of Michael Crichton, Tess Gerritsen, James Rollins, Robin Cook, and Richard Preston should check out this new science thriller novel by Amy Rogers.”

The Han Agent

By Amy Rogers

Release date: September 5, 2017

Modern biotechnology propels an ancient ethnic rivalry to a terrifying new level… A Japanese pharmaceutical company with ties to war crimes during WWII hires Dr. Amika Nakamura, a Japanese-American scientist, after she is fired for creating mutant flu viruses in a university lab. During a visit to the disputed Senkaku Islands of Japan, Amika becomes entangled in a geopolitical struggle with China. Little does she know that Japanese ultranationalists believe she has the solution to an eighty-year-old quest for the ultimate biological weapon. From the shadows, someone around her is manipulating people, politics, and science. But DNA doesn’t lie. Amika uncovers a shocking truth: a deadly virus is about to put the “gene” in genocide.

About the Author:

Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, educator, critic, and publisher who specializes in all things science-y. Her novels Petroplague,  Reversion, and The Han Agent use real science and medicine to create plausible, frightening scenarios in the style of Michael Crichton.

Video shorts: https://youtu.be/Jngs2STv9A4 and https://youtu.be/_TDd21dpza8

Read THE HAN AGENT by Amy Rogers.

“gripping…a surefire genre hit”—FOREWORD REVIEWS

“frighteningly realistic”—James Rollins, #1 NYT bestseller

“a stunning what-if”—Barry Lancet, author of JAPANTOWN

http://www.sciencethrillersmedia.com/publish/han-agent/

Posted in A New Science Thriller Novel, A New Thriller Novel By Amy Rogers, A Thriller Novel, About Writing, Biological Warfare, Biological Weapons, Bioterrorism, Bird Flu Gone Wild, Blog Interviews, Blog Writers, Blogging, Lethal Virus Cure Research, Lethal Viruses, Medical Research Misadventures, New Blog, New Book Is Published, New Book Release, New Novel Published, New Novel Release, New Publication, New Research Technology, New Thriller, New Thriller To Download, Prescription For Murder Blog, Th Han Agent Thriller Novel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hyphens and Dashes – The Dread of Misuse!

Hyphens and dashes are two distinctly different punctuation marks and a proper understanding of each will avoid embarrassing mistakes in your writing.

Will anyone get MURDERED as a result of using the wrong one in the wrong place? No, but their proper use is part of the process that makes a writer stand out as exceptional. Use them erroneously and your editor or publisher might just KILL your story without reading further.

There are three distinct types of dashes—one is the commonly used Hyphen, and the other two are called the En Dash and the Em Dash

Let’s take a separate look at each for a better understanding of how and when to use them.

The Hyphen: This literary device, a short dash, is used in three areas of punctuation to link words or parts of words together.

They can be used to join compound words (like good-natured). The joining can be between an adjective and a noun (sugar-free), between a noun and a participle (custom-building) and between an adjective and a participle (good-looking). Modern literature has relaxed the use of hyphens some and such connections are not utilized as much as they once were. Often now you’ll see the words smashed together as one, or simply used separately.

Hyphens also join prefixes to other words in such a way as to convey a specific meaning, as in re-cover meaning to cover over something as opposed to recover meaning to overcome some difficulty.

Lastly, hyphens show a word break, like at the end of a sentence when the word is broken into syllables and part remains on one line while the rest of the word goes onto the following line.

Thus, hyphens only join words together and separate syllables. When phrasing punctuation is needed, that’s when the other two, and longer, dashes are utilized.

The En Dash: This mark is used to express a range of values or a distance, and is often used in place of the word “to.” We can express an age range (from 40 – 60) or a distance (from New York – California) by using such a dash. It’s called the En dash because it takes the space of a lower case n in print. Usually, your computer will convert double dashes to an En Dash when adding a space between the previous word and the dashes and a space before the next word.

The Em Dash: This punctuation mark is the most interesting because its use can create heightened drama. For that reason, it’s being used more often by modern fiction writers. This type of dash is a mark of separation, not of words but of phrases or thoughts. It’s used for three specific reasons—when something stronger than a comma is needed, when the writer wants punctuation less formal than a colon or when more relaxed punctuation than a set of parentheses is appropriate. On most computers, it automatically comes up when double hyphens are used without spacing between the previous and following words. It’s a longer dash and called the Em Dash because it takes up the spacing of a capital M in print.

This punctuation device is used when the writer wants extra emphasis on a phrase or part of a sentence. The famous grammarian William Strunk, Jr. is credited with specifying the proper use of the Em Dash. He said that it is used to indicate an abrupt stop or change in tone or thought (such as, “But I thought you’d—wait a minute, what are you doing?”), to insert a second thought, update or correction (such as, “I thought you’d be interested—but then you’re never interested in what I say.”) or to emphasize a dramatic pause (such as, “You said you’d come early—and you’re late!”).

In conclusion, the process of editing the written word is a painstaking process. The proper use of punctuation is extremely important to enhancing your reputation as a GREAT WRITER.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Writing, Accuracy in Editing, Accuracy in Writing, Achieving Perfection, Achieving Writing Perfection, All About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Developing a Writing Career, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Writing Skills, Dreaded Misuse of Hyphens and Dashes, Em Dash Use, Em Dashes and Ellipses, En Dashes and Em Dashes, Grammar and Punctuation, How to Use Em Dashes Properly, Hyphens, Hyphens and Dashes, Hyphens and Dashes and Their Misuse, James J. Murray Blog, Learning the Art of Writing, Mastering Your Craft, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, Obsession with Proper Usage of the English Language, Proper Punctuation in Writing, Proper Use of the Written Word, Punctuation Marks, Punctuation Rules, The Art of Writing, The Proper Use of Hyphens and Dashes, The Writings of James J. Murray, Tools of Fiction Writing, Use of Dashes, Use of Hyphens, Writing Skills, Writing Techniques | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Propofol – The Milk of Amnesia

Propofol is a short-acting sedative-hypnotic that’s used to initiate and maintain general anesthesia. It also decreases levels of consciousness along with a loss of memory for sedation during minor medical procedures. It is administered intravenously.

The drug was discovered in 1977. It is considered an effective and safe medication when used properly in the clinical setting. It has largely replaced the drug sodium thiopental because propofol clears from a patient’s body faster and, therefore, recovery from anesthesia is more rapid. It has been referred to as the “milk of amnesia” because of its milky appearance.

It is sometimes used off-label for “non-medical” sedation, and the Missouri Supreme Court ruled to allow the drug to be used as part of the lethal cocktail given to execute prisoners condemned to death. For that reason, the United Kingdom banned exports of propofol drug products to the United States, and countries in the European Union are threatening to do the same. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, no other state allows its use in the execution process at present.

Profofol became the drug of focus in the death of Michael Jackson in which the drug was used in combination with other sedative and hypnotic drugs in what turned out to be a lethal cocktail.

Recreational use of the drug is rare because of its use only in a clinical setting, its high potency and the need for monitoring to assure safe use. There are reports, however, of recreational use among medical staff, notably anesthetists, who have easy access to the drug. Common side effects with recreational use include extreme respiratory depression, decreased heart rate and possible oxygen deprivation. More extreme, but rare, side effects include dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that resembles a tremor. Seizures and priapism, a long-lasting erection, are also reported side effects.

Although propofol is most effective when given intravenously, there have been studies in which the drug was given orally with mild sedative results. If one considers that the drug given intravenously produces 100% bioavailability (100% therapeutic effect), an oral dose of the same quantity was shown to be only about 20% effective.

In animal studies, a 16-fold higher oral dose was needed to produce a similar sedative effect as compared to an intravenous dose. This is because of the drug’s limited water-soluble nature (oil soluble), and the fact that the stomach lining and liver filter out the potency of the drug before it can enter the blood stream.

I find propofol to be an interesting drug and might use it one day in a murder mystery. Maybe you will too!

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, Better Fiction Writing, Blog About Poisons in Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Deadly Drugs in America, Deciding How to Kill Off a Character in a Novel, Designer Drug Deaths, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Misadventures, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs That Create Memory Loss, Drugs Used For Murder, Drugs Used for Near Death Experiences (NDE), Drugs Used to Murder, Elements of Murder, Growing As A Writer, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Writing, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Chemicals in Murder Mysteries, Methods of Murder, Milk of Amnesia, Misuses of Propofol, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Drugs, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Plotting Murder Scenes, Plotting The Perfect Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, Propofol, Propofol and its Uses, The Science of Murder, The Writings of James J. Murray, Thrilling Short Stories, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Uses of Propofol, Ways to Murder, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Prescription Medications Are So Expensive

In last week’s blog, I discussed how patients can take back control of their medication costs. I suggested seven simple ways to reduce the costs of your prescription drugs.

Taking steps as an individual to hold down prescription costs, however, will only go so far. The core issue is that prescription medications in the United States are some of the highest in the world on a per capita basis. The same medications in other countries are less expensive than in the States, and US citizens spend almost two-and-a-half times (on average) what people in other nations spend on medications.

New treatment options often cost between $100,000 and $300,000 per year. Even older medications are not immune to what some call “outrageous” price increases. The cost of insulin tripled in the decade between 2002 and 2013. The four-decade old EpiPen, a lifesaving treatment for severe allergic reactions, experienced a staggering 500% price hike since 2007.

The American public and many politicians are asking the simple question, “Why?” The simple answer is because there is nothing stopping “big pharma companies” from charging these exorbitant prices. The better answer, however, is much more complex.

In this nation’s free market system, when demand is high for a product, companies often raise prices. That’s the case with prescription drugs. Millions of Americans suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and other lifelong diseases. Demand is high for medications that treat these diseases. Therefore, their pricing is ripe for periodic increases as demand rises.

The supply and costs of new medications are controlled entirely by the drug manufacturer that holds the patent rights. That’s a 20-year monopoly on a new drug before that medication could be offered as a less expensive generic version (competition). In that 20-year period, drug makers are free to increase prices as often and by as much as the market will bear.

I’m not saying that drug manufacturers should not make profits from newly developed drugs. That’s the basis of our capitalistic society and free market enterprise. If drug prices were highly controlled, new drug development would stall and the potential for new lifesaving medications would come to a halt.

Certainly, the US government could step in to regulate medication pricing and even take over all research for new drug development, but that runs counter to the ideals of our founding fathers—and that’s a discussion I’d rather not have in this blog.

The question is, “What is a middle-ground solution to the high cost of drugs?” Other industrialized, democratic nations seem to have developed systems that result in more affordable prescription drugs.

Possible solutions that other first-world nations successfully have adopted include:

Letting Government Programs Negotiate Drug Pricing: Medicare has almost 60 million beneficiaries. That’s tremendous bargaining power to negotiate more reasonable pricing. It’s been estimated that, if Medicare would initiate competitive bidding for similar drugs, the savings could total over $16 billion per year.

Allowing More Drug Imports: The costs of brand-name drugs are typically much higher in the United States than in other developed nations. A system of importation that assures safe and legal procurement of less expensive medications could put pressure on manufacturers to hold price increases to more reasonable levels in this country.

Creating Better Transparency Regarding Drug Pricing: Presently, there is no mechanism to verify a drug manufacturer’s claim that higher prices are linked to costs associated with research and development. Often, higher costs are the result of extensive advertising of a drug’s benefits to the public and healthcare professionals.

Providing Easier Drug Comparisons: The public, and often even medical professionals, have little means of determining whether a newly-approved drug is more effective than existing treatments. There is a potential for tremendous savings on unnecessary duplications that do not exceed the effectiveness of present medications.

Implementing “Value-Based” Pricing: This is an extension of the above idea of more effective drug comparison research. Shifting the United States to a system in which drug pricing is based on how well the drug works (the value) rather than what the market will bear could make a real difference in what a drug costs. An example is a new drug that cures a disease. It would have more value and therefore be priced higher than a drug that doesn’t substantially improve on existing treatments.

This last suggestion is somewhat futuristic in the sense that there is presently no real universal definition of a drug’s value, other than a drug that stands alone as the ONLY effective cure for a disease. Another possible added value for a new drug is disease control or a cure without drug interactions or side effects.

The suggestions for controlling medication costs are numerous, albeit all with arguable faults, but the solutions may well be a composite of all the above to come up with a reasonable, workable plan.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About Medications/Pharmacy, Affordable Prescription Drugs, Blog Writers, Blogging, Controlling Drug Costs, Increasing Costs of US Pharmaceuticals, James J. Murray Blog, Making Medications Affordable, Medication Cost Increases, Medication Safety Issues, New Blog, New Drug Discoveries, New Drug Manufacturing Methods, New Drug Research, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription Drug Safety, Prescription For Murder Blog, Solutions To The High Cost of Drugs, The High Cost Of Medications in the US, The Pharmacy Profession, US Prescription Costs Per Capita | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments