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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press In Pushing Trials of Heart Device, Economists Would Argue Money Plays a Role

In Pushing Trials of Heart Device, Economists Would Argue Money Plays a Role

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 05:57

The NYT had an interesting piece on a dispute over continuing a clinical trial of a heart device that has been tied to a number of incidents of blood clots. While the device had originally been used in patients who likely risked death without it, the trial is designed to examine its effectiveness in patients with less severe heart disease. The incidents of blood clots raise the possibility that the risk exceeds the potential benefit.

At one point the article noted that the doctors working with the device maker continue to defend the safety of the device and intend to continue the clinical study. It then quotes a cardiologist at Duke, one of the authors of a study showing the higher incidence of blood clots, who notes that these doctors had spent years setting up the trial:

"They are more apt to look at the data that suggests there is less of a problem, ...”

It would have been worth noting that in addition to the time they spent setting up the study, they also likely stand to make a substantial amount of money if the device is approved for use in a larger group of patients. This is a function of patent support for the research and development of medical devices.

It is likely that researchers will want to defend their research in any case, since they will be reluctant to accept that years might have been wasted. However the incentive to pursue a line of research even if new evidence suggests it is counterproductive will be much greater if there is potentially a large monetary reward. At least, this is what economic theory predicts.

Comments (5)Add Comment
New American Heroes: Damn the Blood Clots! Full Speed Ahead!
written by Last Mover, December 10, 2013 6:48

Obviously another big commie lie from Dean Baker, who continues to claim that supply curves slope upward to provide more of whatever for a higher price ... more crime, corruption, fraud, deception, monopoly profit ... take your pick among the market failures ... that drive health care costs through the roof.

Listen up America. This is not how free markets work. Property rights must be protected at all cost, to guarantee that supply curves continue sloping upwards.

Now get out there and round up some more desperate down and out Americans ready to fall on their swords and test this heart device in more medical trials for the 1% to keep the economy moving along, shall we?
Also, damn the internal bleeding! full speed ahead!
written by Kat, December 10, 2013 7:35

So, it all evens out in the end.
Problem solved.
wasted time?
written by ethan, December 10, 2013 11:40
Time spent proving something doesn't work isn't wasted. Remember Thomas Edison said something to the effect that when he had tried scores of filaments that didn't work, he had made progress since he then knew what wouldn't work.
wasting time, lives, and money for profit isn't Edison-ian
written by jaaaaayceeeee, December 10, 2013 1:31
A patent monopoly system, instead of an alternative that includes govt testing, fosters the opposite of Edison's valuable time wasting; it fosters research data, trial data, and adverse reaction data suppression, among other things. For profit, not for progress.
The forest
written by Nick Batzdorf, December 10, 2013 2:38
This also underlines an important aspect of how human endeavor (including medical research) is *supposed* to work: much of it isn't a runaway success!

Point being, a big part of progress is brute force - lots of people working on things. That's true of the arts (only a percentage is any good), scientific progress, even business ventures.

Obviously we'd all rather have our own endeavors be the ones that work, but this point seems missing from public policy debates too much of the time.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.