Mises Wire

Seattle Seahawks Flee America for Medical Treatment

Baseball may still identify as America’s pastime, but every year consumers prove that football is the country’s true love. In fact, the intertwining of national identity and the NFL can often be troublesome, such as when the Pentagon pays the league to promote the military — or the large subsidies governments grant to help billionaires pay for new stadiums. Yet increasingly America’s best athletes in America’s favorite sport have to flee the country to get medical treatment, because of an opponent more dangerous than Ndamukong Suh: the Food and Drug Administration.

On Monday, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll informed the media that five players on the team had left the country in order to receive Regenokine therapy. With linebacker KJ Wright just returning to the team after his own therapeutic trip, this means that over 10% of the team’s roster has had to go overseas to get ready for the 2017 season.

The treatment, which includes injecting the patient with a serum derived from their own blood, has become popular among athletes ­suffering from joint pain. In 2012, Kobe Bryant famously flew to Germany for the treatment, which he credited with allowing him to continue playing basketball. In fact, Dr. Peter Wehling claims his treatment has a 90% success rate, which has been supported by published studies.

Unfortunately for America’s athletes, Regenokine has still not been approved by the FDA. This means that not only is it more expensive and difficult for athletes to receive the treatment’s benefits — but renders it almost impossible for the millions of average Americans suffering from chronic pain.

Of course this is simply one of countless examples of how the FDA stands in the way of patients from obtaining potentially life-changing medical care. While the episode of Charlie Gard being denied potentially life-saving treatment by the UK’s National Institute of Health rightfully outraged millions around the world, the FDA effectively issued the same death sentence for patients who were denied access to potential life-saving treatment. While the federal government did this year pass a “right to try” bill for those patients suffering from terminal illness, Americans will still have to try to leave the country for non-approved treatments looking to simply improve their quality of life.

Making this situation all the more frustrating is that it appeared possible earlier this year that the Trump administration was considering a change from this outdated view of medicinal regulation. Prior to Scott Gottlieb being appointed head of the FDA, Donald Trump interviewed Balaji Srinivasan and Jim O’Neill — two associates of Peter Theil — who both have the radical belief that everyone should have the “right to try” medical treatments they believe could possibly improve their lives.

O’Neill, for example, has advocated changing the FDA approval process to focus on “safety,” rather than “effectiveness.” Since it’s easier to prove, for example, that a drug is not toxic than it is an effective cure, it would have radically improved consumer choice in medical treatment. It would also effectively end the American ban on Regenokine treatments that our greatest athletes increasingly demand. By going with a more traditional FDA appointment, Trump forfeited one of the most important ways he could have single-handedly improved American healthcare. 

This is also an example that the Republican Party’s single focus on Obamacare has sabotaged the larger goal of improving the US healthcare system. It is precisely the growing regulatory state around medicine — that long predates the Obama administration — that has driven up costs, restricted access, and damaged quality.

Until politicians, particularly those who give lip service to capitalism, understand that basic fact, America’s healthcare system will continue to suffer — as will the general perception of markets being able to handle healthcare. That will mean more Americans will be forced to look elsewhere for elective treatments, and not just professional athletes. 

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