SEPTEMBER 8, 1961
NEW YORK—I am advised by Senator Hubert Humphrey that my information on the cooperation between Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives on the question of disarmament was not correct. My information stated that only one Republican sponsor could be found in the House and I am now told that there were 14.
This is an encouraging sign because no Congressman—Democrat or Republican—does not consider carefully the tenor of public opinion at home and it means that in communities that are predominantly Republican there are people who feel the urgency of disarmament sufficiently to want to have a United States disarmament agency.
The news in the daily papers makes us more and more conscious of the meaning of real disarmament, and in the United Nations the leadership of the U.S. will be an important factor. We cannot lead unless the people of the country are well-informed.
The demand that came from the meeting of neutral countries that Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev meet does not seem to me very realistic. What can come from such a meeting? It will take the combined pressure of the world's powers to bring about the agreements necessary for world safety.
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I have long wanted to mention in this column the public debt of gratitude which I think we owe to the Senate's Anti-Trust and Monopoly subcommittee and its energetic chairman, Senator Estes Kefauver.
Anyone who has had even a mild illness knows that the cost of drugs is alarmingly high, and year by year becomes more of a burden, especially to the lower-income families.
Modern drugs, like other advances in medicine and surgery, have meant that many more people are alive and well today than would have been a decade ago. Certainly, we must be prepared to pay whatever is necessary for the production and advancement of these life-saving drugs and techniques.
I was shocked, however, by the revelations of eminent medical men before Senator Kefauver's committee that price-fixing and monopolistic practices have raised the cost of drugs far above what is reasonable or necessary.
I was deeply troubled also by testimony charging that hidden and serious dangers in drugs are not revealed in advertising or information supplied even to doctors—that physicians have no reasonable way of evaluating the conflicting claims, the myriad names, and the bombardment of promotional material from the various pharmaceutical manufacturers.
I was amazed to learn that drugs are often promoted and sold before adequate clinical trials have been performed, so that patients very often serve as unwitting guinea pigs to find out whether a new drug is safe or not.
Senator Kefauver and Representative Emanuel Celler of New York have sponsored a drug industry anti-trust bill (S 1552) that will go a very long way toward correcting many of the abuses and deficiencies of current practice. This bill would have the effect of increasing competition and diminishing the temptation to fix prices. It would put teeth into the regulation and control of drug manufacture by the Food and Drug Administration. It would make better known to physicians those drugs which are potentially dangerous and, most imporant, it would stimulate prescriptions by generic name through the provision of long-overdue central control over the naming of drugs.
Prescribing drugs by generic name was first advocated by the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York in its own intensive study of the impact of modern prescription drugs on the family budget, made some three years ago prior to the Kefauver investigations.
The director of one large hospital indicated in his testimony before the committee that prescription by generic name would result in savings annually of ten millions of dollars and would reduce drug costs in his own hospital by some 40 percent.
The raising and policing of standards and the encouragement of prescribing by generic name would, in itself, be sufficient reason for enthusiastic support of the Kefauver-Celler bill. But the strong, well-financed drug industry lobby continues to becloud the issue for the newspaper reading public.