Governor Shumlin Dispenses Opinion on Supreme Court Ruling

By Angela Chagnon

Angela Chagnon

A July 3rd Bennington Banner article penned by Governor Shumlin blasts the Supreme Court decision to overturn a Vermont law that banned prescription drug companies from using prescription information to tailor the companies’ marketing approaches.

Shumlin compares the decision to the 2010 “Citizens United” case which found that corporations have a right to give money to political campaigns under the First Amendment. See a summary of the Citizens United decision here http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/rpt/2010-R-0124.htm.

In his article, the Governor even goes so far as to accuse doctors of prescribing certain medications purely for profit.

“The [marketing] tactic works,” he writes. “Unfortunately, it works so well that doctors in Vermont were increasingly prescribing expensive brand-name drugs instead of cheaper, and just as effective, generic drugs.” (See article here http://www.benningtonbanner.com/columnists/ci_18403991.)

Not only are these “greedy” doctors prescribing unnecessary, expensive medications, according to Shumlin, they’re also responsible for contributing to sky-rocketing healthcare costs.

“As a result, Vermonters and their insurance companies were paying ever-increasing prices on the same drugs they could purchase at a far lower generic rate. Those higher prices put pressure on insurance premiums and our already out-of-control health care spending kept going up.”

Then come the usual scare tactics so often used by politicians.

In 2004, the anti-inflammatory and pain medication Vioxx was pulled from the shelf after 5 years on the market due to health concerns associated with long-term, high-dosage use. Shumlin anxiously declares:

“This drug was used to treat certain conditions for which over the counter Motrin or Ibuprofen could be used. The result? Increased heart attacks, because the drug had not been fully vetted and was eventually deemed unsafe by the FDA. If drug company sales representatives had not pushed doctors to prescribe Vioxx, consumers would have been safer, because doctors would have used the tried and true choice instead of what they were convinced was the newest, best thing.”

Although Vioxx was clearly an unsafe drug, “Dr.” Shumlin should realize that all prescription drugs carry some risk of increased health problems. Even Motrin (which is a brand name for Ibuprofen) increases the risk of stroke and cardiovascular problems. Vioxx and Motrin are both NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) drugs. Complications from the use of NSAIDs are outlined here http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/drugs-medical/Advil_Motrin-00231.html. Serious injuries from over the counter drugs have occurred in children with sometimes devastating results http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-18/j-j-failed-to-warn-parents-about-motrin-s-risks-lawyer-argues-at-trial.html, due to allergic reactions or dosage errors.

So before “Dr.” Shumlin starts preaching about the perceived evils of doctors’ prescription methods, perhaps he should first talk to a doctor or pharmacist and consider why they make the choices they do, instead of pointing fingers and self-righteously proclaiming judgment on them. It is not only ludicrous, but embarrassing for someone of Governor Shumlin’s position to level wild accusations at certain groups, especially on a subject he has no expertise in.

In closing, Shumlin manages to pull some political gymnastics and indicts Republicans in his case of ‘Shumlin vs. The Evil World’.

“The Supreme Court disagreed with the Legislature’s decision and theirs is the final word. But those who agree with the decision — the big drug companies, and apparently the state Republican Party, which last week embraced the decision — are putting corporate interests ahead of Vermont consumers.”

One reader with the screen name “VermontAmerican” commented on the story:

“This article does a disservice to Vermonters in that it gives no legal reasoning for the Supreme Court’s decision for striking down the VT law. Instead, it cynically states without a shred of evidence that the Court’s decision is motivated by an (illogical) desire to protect corporate greed. Shumlin does not make his case. The very first paragraph, in which Shumlin demagogues on the Citizen’s United case (the same case Obama grossly misrepresented in his 2010 State of the Union speech) should have alerted the reader to Shumlin’s specious claims and “class warfare” tactics.”

Well said, VermontAmerican.