Author: Kyle Varner

Dr. Kyle Varner is a practicing hospitalist and expert in health care policy. In his upcoming book, White Coat Cartels, Dr. Varner uncovers the dark side of the US healthcare market. Dr. Varner passionately stands for freeing the market and advocates cash-based services and medical tourism as the prevailing alternatives to the compromised healthcare system we are faced with today. He is a highly sought after writer and speaker, and has spoken at a number of conferences around the world. He shares his insider's knowledge on the website DrVarner.com to give people the tools they need to take back control of their lives and start making informed decisions about their health.

What Economics Should Teach Trump About the Opioid Crisis

By Dr. Kyle Varner | United States

For a business magnate, Donald Trump is surprisingly ignorant about basic economics.

Back in August of this year, he was offered a copy of Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson and he would have done well to take a look at what it had to say. The missed opportunity to educate himself on the subject is particularly painful now that Trump is trying to apply his economic ignorance to tackle the country’s opioid crisis.

Just last week, the President called on the Chinese government to apply the death penalty against distributors of Fentanyl, a dangerous opioid drug, because “the results will be incredible!”

America, this is not going to end well…

Governments have been trying to reduce the social harm of opioids by restricting their supply since at least 1729 when the Emperor of China issued his first decree against opium. This did not go well for the Chinese, giving rise to a highly profitable business of opium smuggling and culminating in the disastrous Opium Wars of the late 19th century.

The results have been similar in the modern war on drugs, which America has been waging for more than 100 years. Despite the federal government’s best efforts to protect public health by restricting the supply of opioids, marijuana, LSD, cocaine etc, it has been largely ineffective. Prohibition has consistently failed throughout history–and if you understand the economics of supply and demand, it’s obvious why.

The Basics of Supply and Demand

At the core of supply and demand are prices. Prices provide everyone in the market with vital information. They’re a signal to producers, telling them how to satisfy consumers and what obstacles there are to overcome.

When something as common as toilet paper becomes scarce, prices rise. The higher price prompts producers to act: new suppliers move into the market, lured by the high prices and an opportunity to undercut the competition. As supply increases, prices fall.

Market pricing mechanisms ensure that shortages are temporary and supplies of goods are available. This, however, only works in a free market. When the government intervenes, supply and demand are prevented from finding equilibrium, leading prices to stay artificially high or low.

So what happens when the government tries to restrict the supply of drugs like Fentanyl?

The Economics of Prohibition

Prices will rise. There will be a greater incentive to smuggle Fentanyl (and the even more dangerous drug Carfentanil) into the United States. And with so much money to be made, there will also be a greater incentive to divert narcotics from medical supplies in the U.S.

Narcotics obey the same rules of any other goods: the higher the price goes, the harder the suppliers work.

On the buyer’s side, there are severe consequences as well. Someone who is truly addicted to a drug is typically willing to pay for it at any cost. As prices rise, addicts often take even more desperate measures to obtain the drugs–even if it means turning crime.

How to Solve the Opioid Crisis

Instead of prohibition, we need to legalize the sale of opioids that are the least likely to kill people. This will provide addicts with less deadly and less costly alternatives to Fentanyl such as low potency opioids like oxycodone IR, hydrocodone, or buprenorphine.

We must be realistic. If people are going to take harmful drugs, the best course of action is to make the market and consumption of these drugs the least harmful. Legalizing these drugs for over-the-counter will reduce overdose deaths. By eliminating covert distribution and administration of drugs, HIV infections will fall as will hospital admissions for cellulitis and endocarditis. Billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives will be saved.

Without the cruel and unwise policy of prohibition, fewer people will die because they won’t have to use unsafe means to get high. It’s literally the difference between choosing a simple Percocet tablet or a dirty heroin needle. Prohibition pushes people towards the dirty heroin needle.

Conclusion

For centuries, governments have been trying to protect the public by restricting the supply of opioids and with no positive results. They’re doing the same today by pressuring doctors, sending militarized police to bust down doors, and begging foreign regimes to execute people. Instead of saving people through prohibition they are spreading death and destruction.

Coercion is deadly and immoral. To help fight the ongoing opioid crisis, let’s try freedom.


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Should Doctors Stay In Their Lane? Physician Says Yes

By Dr. Kyle Varner | United States

The National Rifle Association ruffled a lot of feathers recently when it published a tweet that said doctors should “stay in their lane” on the subject of gun control.

As a practicing physician, you might be surprised to hear that I side with the NRA.

There’s something fundamentally different between diagnosing and treating a disease in a patient and recommending a new law because you treat people injured by guns.

While I can sympathize with how sad it is to see one shooting attack after another in the news, the fact remains that gun violence is currently at a historic low in the United States. The FBI reports that gun violence was actually at its all-time highest in the mid-1980s. The rate has gone from 6.2 shooting deaths per 100,000 people in the 80s down to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2016. That means shooting deaths actually went down almost 50% in the last 30 years!

But whether or not gun deaths are going up or down, the key issue is in presenting partisan political proposals as medical recommendations.

When you push for a medical recommendation to become law, you are essentially trying to make the entire nation your involuntary patient. When doctors put on their white coats in political discourse and recommend authoritarian policies, they’re acting outside the scope of their expertise–and trying to force their opinions on millions of unwilling subjects.

The idea of informed consent is paramount to medical practice. As doctors, we should never force our therapy on our patients. Not only is this immoral, but the results can be deadly.

For decades, medical professionals have advised low fat, high carb diets, which studies increasingly show is completely misguided. Had this been just advice from doctors to their patients, that would be one thing. Instead, with the government’s support, this advice was established as indisputable fact and taught to an entire generation. The result has been to kick off a diabetes epidemic that’s set to make my generation the first in American history to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

This is also the same profession that refused the idea that stomach ulcers could be caused by H. Pylori for twenty years. This stubbornness prevented people from getting the appropriate treatment for easily curable stomach ulcers, leading hundreds of thousands of people to suffer or die unnecessarily.

Today, because of irresponsible medical prescription practices, the US is currently facing an opioid epidemic that claimed the lives of an estimated 72,000 people last year. This is roughly the same amount estimated to have been killed by guns in that same time period.

Clearly, “staying in our lane” and focusing on the problems being perpetrated by our own industry could have a much more significant impact on the country than getting involved with gun politics at a time when guns have never posed less of a safety threat.

While many of my colleagues think of laws as helpful rules that let people get along, the truth is that laws are enforced by governments with the use or threat of violence. This isn’t hyperbole–if people fail to comply, they will be arrested and locked in a cage.

Medicine and public policy have no legitimate relationship to each other. Medicine concerns itself with diagnosing and healing individuals. Public policy concerns itself with the use of state violence against peaceful people.

As healers, we should always reject the use of violence. Even if we think a law might make the world a safer place, it remains immoral to condone the use of violence to stop violence.


This article was originally published on KevinMD.com

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