Robert Kaestner, Engy Ziedan, 26 September 2019

Since 1999, the US has experienced a three-fold rise in opioid prescriptions, a four-fold rise in prescription opioid-related mortality, and a ten-fold rise in non-prescription opioid deaths. In response, many states have enacted laws to monitor opioid-prescribing behaviour. This column finds little evidence that such laws have had significant effects on wellbeing or mortality. Recognising the grave risks associated with prescription opioids, the column also considers their benefits: the reduction in pain and consequent salutary effects associated with responsibly used prescription opioids. 

Carolina Lopez, Anja Sautmann, Simone Schaner, 29 January 2019

Healthcare systems around the world battle high rates of overtreatment. This column investigates the role of patient demand in this, using a randomised evaluation of malaria treatment at public health clinics in Mali. It finds no evidence of doctors attempting to increase treatment rates or intensity, instead heightened demand from patients sometimes pressured doctors into going against their own professional judgement and writing a prescription anyway. In such situations, interventions that make it easier for doctors to resist patient demands could help sustain subsidies and reduce overtreatment.

Tomas Philipson , Eric Sun, 03 January 2008

From an economic perspective, two critical issues are the speed-safety tradeoff in drug approval and the overlap of regulation and product liability. Research on the US experience suggests that regulatory agencies have historically erred on the “safety” side of the speed-safety balance and there would be gains from better integration of government regulation and product liability laws.

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