Mexico Legalizes Drugs

Mexico is on the verge of legalizing virtually all drugs for personal use. The LA Times reports:

Mexican President Vicente Fox will sign a bill that would legalize the use of nearly every drug and narcotic sold by the same Mexican cartels he's vowed to fight during his five years in office, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The list of illegal drugs approved for personal consumption by Mexico's Congress last week is enough to make one dizzy -- or worse.

Cocaine. Heroin. LSD. Marijuana. PCP. Opium. Synthetic opiates. Mescaline. Peyote. Psilocybin mushrooms. Amphetamines. Methamphetamines.

And the per-person amounts approved for possession by anyone 18 or older could easily turn any college party into an all-nighter: half a gram of coke, a couple of Ecstasy pills, several doses of LSD, a few marijuana joints, a spoonful of heroin, 5 grams of opium and more than 2 pounds of peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus.

As someone who uses none of those drugs, let me applaud our neighbors to the south for doing this. It's not total legalization, as it should be, but it's a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it still leaves too much incentive for a black market to really get rid of the ills of drug prohibition.

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I for one, applaud Mexico for doing something we need to do in the USA.

I have never used drugs and wouldn't if they where available on each aisle of the supermarket. But the amount of money we spend to fund the 'war on drugs' is ludicrous.

It's a rathole.

No, no, no, no, no. This is not a step in the right direction. It sounds like it is, but it's not.

Under the legislation, police will not penalize people for possessing up to 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of opium, 25 milligrams of heroin or 500 milligrams of cocaine.

People caught with larger quantities of drugs will be treated as narcotics dealers and face increased jail terms under the plan.

-- source

These are not personal amounts; they are miniscule amounts. A person who is a drug user, and not even a big user, is going to have more on them than this. And if they are caught, they will not be prosecuted as users but rather as dealers and sent to jail for longer.

Don't know about the amounts, but would legalize only "soft" drugs and leave heroine and cocaine illegal.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Roman said:

Don't know about the amounts, but would legalize only "soft" drugs and leave heroine and cocaine illegal.

That's not what the press release says. From UPI, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,193616,00.html :

Mexico's Congress approved a bill Friday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin for personal use.

(Emphasis added)

By Jeff Hebert (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

I think Roman was saying that's not what he would have decriminalized.

I'm taking bets on how much border security will be stepped up in order to arrest Americans returning home from Mexico if this ever gets signed into law. The illegal immigration problem will be a thing of the past to make way for the escalated war on your neighbors, oh sorry, I meant war on drugs.

Gretchen: you're probably right, but the specific amounts were probably the result of a political compromise between the various factions. Also, if the various drugs have been available in increasing concentrations and strengths over the years (as happened to pot in the '80s), then maybe the amounts aren't as "miniscule" as you or I might think. An ounce of "Columbian" pot in the '70s was considered a personal stash; but an ounce of "sinsemilla" in the '80s was considered "quantity."

I remain to be convinced that legalizing hard drugs is a good idea. I don't have any evidence that doing so would make things worse, but I believe we simply don't know at this point if such a move will help in the long run.

Raging Bee-- Okay, but we're not talking about an ounce. We're talking about 5 grams. I think even if it were the most quality stuff in the universe, that wouldn't be much. Plus we have no reason to assume that everybody's (or anybody's) going to be toting around the most quality stuff. ;-)

Not only would I legalize drugs like cocaine, but I would also legalize all prescription drugs. At the same time, I would make the FDA approval process voluntary. If a pharma company decides to obtain FDA approval, it would receive qualified immunity from product liability suits. Fraud/failure to disclose during the approval process would of course, negate any immunity.

The government simply should not have the right to tell me what I can legally ingest. If I am suffering from MS and I find that Tysarbi (or marijuana or Vioxx or whatever) works for me, I should be able to use it. Banning a drug because of rare, fatal side effects is not a choice for the government. I should be able to make that risk assessment myself.

By David C. Brayton (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Hear, hear! One of the first things our poofy-haired governor in Illinois did on taking office was to illegalize ephedra because a few idiot people had taken overdoses of it and discovered their latent heart problems. But it was the ONLY effective treatment for my son's ADHD and since it is no longer available he struggles in school. I'd buy it in another state but of course the president made it illegal nationwide.

The FDA should be an informational agency.

Not only would I legalize drugs like cocaine, but I would also legalize all prescription drugs. At the same time, I would make the FDA approval process voluntary. If a pharma company decides to obtain FDA approval, it would receive qualified immunity from product liability suits. Fraud/failure to disclose during the approval process would of course, negate any immunity.

Ack. Terrible idea. That would send us back to the good old days of the snake oil salesman. Did you not notice the havoc caused recently by the Vioxx fiasco which was caused by the slightest lapse in effective oversight by the FDA? Most people can't even tell you where Louisiana is on a map of the USA (see recent news reports) and you expect them to sort through an unregulated maze of toxic medical drugs? I don't think so.

DOF - I sympathize with your plight. No system is perfect, but abolishing the FDA (or even pulling all its teeth) would make things much worse overall.

Can't you still get ephedra with a doctor's prescription? (Yes, I understand the problems of finding a sympathetic doctor/medical plan for such things.)

The Vioxx fiasco is mostly fictional. Read this column from yesterday's Washington Post for an excellent expose on what's happening with Vioxx in the courts. Everyone and their mother who ever took Vioxx and had a headache is suing Merck and finding ignorant juries who refuse to look at the actual scientific data to award millions.

Most people can't even tell you where Louisiana is on a map of the USA (see recent news reports) and you expect them to sort through an unregulated maze of toxic medical drugs?

Well, they already do that. Just illegally. And the FDA is an extraordinarily unnecessary bureaucratic agency warped by political agendas which causes much-needed drugs to spend years being tested and re-tested or simply denying them from being sold to the people who need them. I say, let those people make up their own minds about whether they are prepared to take a drug that the FDA hasn't approved. And making the FDA voluntary will open up the potential for a competing certification organization (like Consumer Reports), which might make them actually get off their collective ass and do something useful. That, or go out of business.

The column you quote is about the fiasco of every man and his dog jumping on the Vioxx lawsuit bandwagon. I agree, it's pathetic. But please don't change the subject.

The FDA knew of serious concerns about the effect of Vioxx on the heart years before the drug was withdrawn and yet did nothing to prevent Merck from spending millions on a highly effective marketing campaign aimed at consumers with the intent of having them pushing their doctors into putting them on to that medication (why else would they have ads for it in primetime). This article is more to the point I'm trying to make: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-10-12-vioxx-cover_x.htm

First, drugs have not been legalized... the main idea behind this law is make a clear distinction that consumers ARE NOT necessarilly criminals. As Brayton says, in a free contry, what you put in you body for your consumtion is your own business. I must be allow to choose myself. About legalizing drugs, well, why not use the alcohol prohibition as an example? Banning alcohol didn't work, because at the end, people wanted their hooch, so a big underground organization emerged to provide it (Al Capone, anyone?). Why are marihuana, cocaine, etc, treated different from alcohol or tobacco? Alcohol far surpasses cocaine as a health problem, and it's legal. (Just for the record, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs, and I only like beer, and I never get drunk).

By GPPlascencia (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

I say, let those people make up their own minds about whether they are prepared to take a drug that the FDA hasn't approved.

And do you think any of the drug companies would even bother with the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to obtain FDA approval if it was purely voluntary? Why not just spend a fraction of that on a slick TV advertisement to sell the new miracle drug all the while saying "Trust us, it's safe"? That's much more efficient and effective use of shareholder's money.

The FDA is there to ensure due dilligence is done to make sure new drugs are (1) safe and (2) effective. And anyway, without all this "testing and retesting" you would simply not know if the drug treatment worked and worse, wouldn't kill you.

Sure, the FDA may be bureaucratic and flawed, but it's far better than the dangerous free-for-all that would result from its demise.

And do you think any of the drug companies would even bother with the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to obtain FDA approval if it was purely voluntary?

It wouldn't cost hundreds of millions of dollars if it were voluntary, because the FDA wouldn't be a fat slothful government monopoly anymore.

Sure, the FDA may be bureaucratic and flawed, but it's far better than the dangerous free-for-all that would result from its demise.

I disagree. We wouldn't have aspirin right now if it had had to go through the FDA approval process. And marijuana, despite its proven medical benefits, will never get through the FDA. For crying out loud, it can't even approve Plan B to be sold over the counter because it might cause people to form sex cults! The FDA is worse than a private agency because it has complete control and no incentive to actually care about the health of American citizens.

This debate is similar to one on another thread about libertarianism. I can see where you guys are coming from. Ideally, everyone should be able and allowed to decide for themselves what they do with their own bodies. That's great in theory, but you have to assume (a) that everyone is being honest, (b) people are well-informed and (c) there is a level playing-field.

I think (a) needs no further explanation--there are crooks and con men out after your money around every corner.

As for (b) fine, suppose it's buyer beware? If you choose not to inform yourself first then you should suffer the consequences, right? Well, what if the person we are talking about is a desperate single-mother wanting to find a treatment for her sick baby? Any ill-informed decision could she makes could kill her child. Or what if the medication is for her? She gets sick and dies because she was not informed enough to make the right choice. Then who looks after the baby now, and how much will cost the state in the long run?

And that assumes (c), a level playing field, exists. We, the informed masses, laugh and shake our heads at the stupid people who waste their money all sorts of pseudoscientific gadgets and supplements, but the truth of the matter is that slick marketing works. And with billions at their disposal, the drug companies already bombard us with effective ads for their latest money spinner. It's a sad fact, but in the faces of such a bombardment of sales pitches, anything an "information-only" FDA could put out would simply be undetectable signal noise.

So, abolishing the FDA might be fine in priciple, but it would be a disaster in practice. Sure reform would be good--allowing dying patients to take unapproved new treatments as a last resort would be fine by me--but please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

My personal test for which drugs should be legalized: If there exists a responsible way to use a drug regularly that will not cause permanent serious harm and/or eventual death, it should be legal.

OK, the definition's sort of crappy in that "regularly" is ill-defined, but legal definitions are often sort of crappy. This would put alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana safely in the legal pile, probably put cocaine and heroin in the illegal pile and, well, I'm not entirely sure about the rest (given Lee's post on LSD, that'd probably be legal, too). It pretty much separates out the immediately addictive, extremely damaging drugs from the ones that you can abuse, but you also can use without abusing.

Somewhat related: I also think that we should start, as rapidly as possible, fighting for the slogan "legalization does not equal endorsement." (Hmph, that doesn't rhyme at all..."just because we don't abort it doesn't mean that we support it?") Of all of the things I've heard Rick Santorum say, the one I disagree with most is that we should "legislate the ideal." Ugh, can you think of anything less American?

By ThePolynomial (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Tactitus, you make it sound as if those are things that would happen if the FDA were abolished, rather than things that are happening already. There are already crooks and con men out to get your money. There are already mothers abusing children by giving them the wrong medicine (and you make it sound like we're suggesting banning doctors, too). And there is already loads of pseudoscientific crap out there which will be a waste of money at best and downright harmful at worst.

So why should the people who know what they need or want, and are prepared to accept the consequences, be punished arbitrarily?

Plan B is being blocked by political appointees of the Bush administration. That can be fixed by abolishing the Republican presidency. :-) I agree with you about marajuana, but I never said the FDA was perfect.

To go from that one case to suggest that the FDA as a whole doesn't care about the health of the nation is a gross mischaracterization and a slur on the reputation of many good and consciencious doctors and scientists who work there. It doesn't help your argument one jot.

To go from that one case to suggest that the FDA as a whole doesn't care about the health of the nation is a gross mischaracterization and a slur on the reputation of many good and consciencious doctors and scientists who work there.

I said it doesn't have an incentive to care-- not that it doesn't care. I am sure some individual doctors who are part of the FDA do actually care about people's health. It is because individual doctors care that the FDA as a mandatory testing agency doesn't have to exist. Testing agencies don't have to just go away just because the government isn't in control of them. The need is still there, and the need will be satisfied.

There are already crooks and con men out to get your money. There are already mothers abusing children by giving them the wrong medicine (and you make it sound like we're suggesting banning doctors, too). And there is already loads of pseudoscientific crap out there which will be a waste of money at best and downright harmful at worst.

Agreed, but my argument is that abolishing all government control would make things much worse. At least today when that mother goes to a doctor and asks a certain medication is safe and effective the doctor can, with a degree of confidence, say yes, with the assurance that there have been rigourous trials to back up his assertion. Without FDA oversight all he/she could say is "well, the drug company says it is". Which answer would you prefer to hear? Does the doctor or patient have the time, knowledge and resources to ensure the drug company isn't simply pulling the wool over their eyes? Of course not.

Testing agencies don't have to just go away just because the government isn't in control of them. The need is still there, and the need will be satisfied.

I think you have too much faith in human nature. I've been in the computer business long enough to know that if you don't like the results from one test, you simply pay someone else to do one and publish their results instead. I've seen it happen more than once at my company over the years (and it's generally a fine, upstanding company too).

I'm sorry, I would love for you to be right, we would all be living in a much better world, but reality bites and we need system that is not at the beck and call of the drug companies. (And yes, the FDA should not be partially funded by the drug companies as it is today--it should be completely independent--but the veto power it has is far better than none at all).

Tacitus, why not meet halfway on this and have drugs be approved by the FDA or other independent private labs? That way, there is incentive for the FDA to become faster and more efficient in order to not become obsolete. We don't have to abolish the FDA right off the bat, just make them govern themselves into obsolescence. Drug companies will have the choice of going to the FDA with full disclosure to get absolved of liability if they are proved to be honest, or they can go to individual labs and their own insurers to certify their drugs. Some tort reform that is NOT sympathetic to big pharma/business would be nice to have as well while we're making a wish list that we'll never get in our lifetime.

As a tax payer, I'm certainly not opposed to anything that would make the FDA more efficient and better at its job. Independent private labs might well work, but you will always need some form of oversight to ensure that the labs are doing their job properly and there is no collusion. (I didn't think the FDA had labs anyway, aren't they are essentially a expert review body that studies the results from drug company sponsored testing?)

But I just can't see how any amount of tort reform would level the playing-field enough to make the drug companies behave themselves without oversight. There's simply too much money tied up in the whole thing.

You're right though, this debate is largely academic since very little is going to change in the next few decades.

I'm with tacitus on the FDA issue. I don't think we all should have to become pharmaceutical experts just to find a pain medication we can trust to not kill us. I don't think many companies would voluntarily got through the FDA.

But back to the original thread, I think this is a major step in the right direction. And possibly a solution to our immigration problem as millions of hippies migrate south. I kid. But seriously one drug that I would NOT legalize is methamphetamines. It's difficult enough to control as it is. Meth addicts are in no position to make rational choices to use or not.

Look at the industry which has a rapid pace of technological development and a variety of producers: PC components. Each time I buy myself a PC component, I spend at least few days reading reviews and various foras. People who don't do it end up often buying trash.

Now multiply the problem 100 times and get an idea what would happen if anyone could market a medication.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Thing is, the more timid consumers could opt only to buy meds with the FDA seal of approval, and insurance companies would only reimburse for them.

I have heard that in some countries, you can get registered as a heroin addict by your doctor, then receive free heroin from the government. No way can the pusher compete with those economics so he has no incentive to get people hooked on heroin. So their rate of heroin addicts is low. No idea if this is true but it certainly would work as it is economics 101.

As for ephedra, why the hell do I have to hunt around and find a sympathetic doctor for a prescription for something I used to be able to buy over the counter? Yes, 200 people died from ephedra misuse. Something like 7000 people a year die from stomach bleeding from NSAIDS which are OTC. And I eat breakfast at McDonald's twice a week. Where does it end?

Well, don't forget to consider the fact that there are many countries that do not have a prescription system or an FDA where these drug companies actually sell their wares and there are no mass deaths. That's because people go to their doctors (and doctor visits are cheap in certain places that have no AMA to monopolize the supply of doctors) and the doctor actually discusses with the patient what drugs would help, their availability, effectiveness, etc. and leaves it to the patient to procure their medication of choice.

For instance, I was recently travelling in Thailand and got the worst case of diarhea imaginable. Went to see a doctor, (got in the same day, maybe had to wait about 10 minutes to see a doctor, I paid out of pocket because it was so cheap) there and he told me what it could be, ran the tests and it ended up being amebiasis. I had a couple choices for drugs, unfortunately I picked one that was not approved in the USA so the meds got confiscated at customs barely halfway through the full dosage needed. So back in the USA, I called my doctor, took me 1 day wait to get in to see a doctor at the hospital since mine was all booked up - the guy I ended up seeing didn't trust the diagnosis, ran more tests. I was annoyed enough to call my doctor to complain about it all and he got me a prescription for the only meds availabe for treating amebiasis in the US despite the fact this this one gave me the most aggravating stomach cramps.

Lesson to learn from this - Thailand has faster and cheaper access to medicine, doctors and diseases than the US, and all this despite them not having an FDA or an AMA to ensure monopolistic quality. Honestly, if I ever needed medication or a medical procedure that insurance didn't cover in the US, I'd go to Thailand because it's so much cheaper and I don't need to jump through hoops for it.

Thing is, the more timid consumers could opt only to buy meds with the FDA seal of approval, and insurance companies would only reimburse for them.

Thing is, when people are in distress, they tend to clutch at straws. Imagine the commercials: "your kid is dying with cancer? our SnakeOil(tm) can help!"...

When I buy a power supply I'm not that desparate and won't fall for empty promises.

Soldat: the reason doctors were so cheap in Thailand fo you was mostly the different purchasing power of your dollars.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Tacitus--I did not propose abolishing the FDA. I proposed making approval by the FDA voluntary. In exchange for obtaining voluntary approval by the FDA, the pharma company would be absolved of product liability.

Other caveats include: the phama company would only get immunity for the use approved. In other words, if Merck started marketing Vioxx for erectile dysfunction without first doing a study for that indication, then there would be no immunity.

I've done a lot of work in the pharma industry. There are drugs and medical devices that are effective but are never approved because the risk profile doesn't justify it in the mind of the FDA. These drugs and devices can be very life saving and the only option tat works for some people.

I should be the one that makes the decision about what type of risk I am willing to tolerate. The government really has no place in making these decisions.

Would I be willing to use a drug that was never approved by the FDA? Generally no, but if I have no other choice, then probably yes.

Finally, even if the snake oil being sold is simply sugar water, some people will get better regardless. The placebo effect is real. These people really do get better albeit it was caused by the power of suggestion.

By David C. Brayton (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Interestingly, there was just a very interesting ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on the issue of whether a terminally ill patient has a right to try drugs or procedures that have not yet gotten FDA approval on the advice of their doctor. The case is Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. Eschenbach. There are many interesting things about this ruling, which will no doubt be appealed to the Supreme Court. First, it is based upon substantive due process. Second, the court decided that the "right to make the decision about her life free from government interference" is a fundamental right implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. I'll probably write more about this ruling tomorrow.

I think Tacitus' point was that few companies would bother with FDA approval if voluntary. I tend to agree, and I don't think freedom from liability is enough to make many companies choose to use it. Solve that problem and I'd be on board with your idea.

The other "stick" is that insurance companies wouldn't cover non-FDA approved remedies. So a company that makes an unapproved product has two strikes against them; tremendous liability and no insurance coverage. I would also add a section on the FDA website for unapproved drugs where everything that is known could be presented. "Drug X is marketed for treating X, Y, and Z. It is used in countries A, B, and C, with mixed results and the following side effects..." After that, let the consumer decide for themselves.

I agree with the previous post about countries that don't have a monopolistic FDA-like agency; they manage about as well as we do.

I'm not convinced that getting rid of the FDA entirely is a good idea. Many of my fellow libertarians would argue that the risk of lawsuits would keep the drug companies in check, but I think we've seen that, if anything, lawsuits go too far in the other direction - the company almost always loses, no matter how frivolous the claim. If anything, that control would make it less likely that a drug would hit the market, not more likely. In fact, I would guess that most pharmaceutical companies wouldn't want to get rid of the FDA approval process because it at least provides them with some minimal protection in such lawsuits. But we clearly do need to change the system, and part of that requires tort reform I think. I don't think you should ever be able to sue a drug company for side effects of a drug unless you can show that they covered up evidence. If you're given a warning of potential side effects and you choose to take the drug anyway, you accept those consequences. Doctors prescribing the wrong medication would still be prone to malpractice suits, however.

Well, don't forget to consider the fact that there are many countries that do not have a prescription system or an FDA where these drug companies actually sell their wares and there are no mass deaths. That's because people go to their doctors (and doctor visits are cheap in certain places that have no AMA to monopolize the supply of doctors) and the doctor actually discusses with the patient what drugs would help, their availability, effectiveness, etc. and leaves it to the patient to procure their medication of choice.

Has the possibility occurred to you that this system only works because the data doctors can discuss with their patients comes from drug trials funded by the FDA and equivalent agencies in other countries?

Ack. Terrible idea. That would send us back to the good old days of the snake oil salesman.

I've got news; the good old days are almost here anyway. All the snake oil salesman has to do is call their oil a "food supplement" and they can sell as much as they like.

Update: This just in; Mexican President Vicente Fox has just announced that he will not sign the bill and instead will send it back to the legislature to be reworked to make it clear that drugs will remain illegal in Mexico.

By Troy Britain (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Most of the trials are funded by the drug companies, not the FDA. That would not change, if the company wants liability-indemnifying, insurance coverage-allowing, FDA approval.

I'm in mind of the story about the guy driving down the road tossing pieces of paper out the window. Cop pulls him over, and asks him; "What the hell are you doing?" Guy says; "I'm keeping lions away!" Cop; "How does throwing pieces of paper out the window keep lions away?" Guy answers; "You don't see any lions, do you?"

What would happen if the government didn't make our decisions for us? What!??? It's a security blanket. Yes, some bad things would happen. Under the present system, some different bad things happen, and many of the same. People still die from approved drugs. Give me the information and let me pick out my own brand of parachute.

What's missed in all these comments is the realization that the major weather patterns in the SW come from Mexico. Seeds from all the plants that will be cultivated for "personal use" will be blown across the boarder into the southern US. This will reduce the importation of illegal drugs into the US since wild crops of high quality poppies, marijuana, etc. will be freely available in the national forests and parks along the boarder. Illegal aliens of a whole new variety could be on their way.

By Bruce Thompson (not verified) on 03 May 2006 #permalink

Governments makes decisions for us all the time--that's why we elect them in the first place, to represent us. Of course they are a security blanket. Without some form of governance all we're left with is anarchy, survival of the strongest be it via money or firepower.

The argument is about how big that security blanket should be. Saying that the legal system would keep the drug industry in check is wishful thinking. How many poor, uneducated people do you think have the resources to take billion-dollar industries to court, let alone beat them? Even today, an individual going up against a wealthy company can be faced with endless legal manoeverings that delay court proceedings for years until they run out of money or simply give up. Just ask some of those retirees trying to sue their former company for reneging on their pension plan promises. Several of them have died while waiting for courts to process all the motions filed by the company.

Maybe I'm being too cynical, but often it's those with the best lawyers who win (OJ anyone?) in court and guess which side can afford them?

The argument is about how big that security blanket should be. Saying that the legal system would keep the drug industry in check is wishful thinking. How many poor, uneducated people do you think have the resources to take billion-dollar industries to court, let alone beat them?

One word: cigarettes.

How good a reputation is a company going to have when it becomes known for killing its customers?

So you mean people stopped smoking them?

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 04 May 2006 #permalink

Of course not. I mean that everybody knows how dangerous cigarettes are, they've been made aware precisely because people took on a billion dollar industry, and yet cigarettes are still legal. As they should be. It's hypocritical that the FDA should prevent medical marijuana (and countless other drugs) which have an actual medical use from being legal, whereas cigarettes which are vastly more harmful and addictive can be bought for less than $10 a pack in most places.

The Vioxx fiasco is mostly fictional. Read this column from yesterday's Washington Post for an excellent expose on what's happening with Vioxx in the courts.

The Vioxx "fiasco" certainly isn't fictional. Even that WaPo article cites the internal Merck study which identified the heart attack risk as legitimate. Yes, there have been abuses, but the health risk is not fictional.

As an example of an error that even the WaPo article makes, the author points out that the minimum time of use is 18 months, but one individual had a heart attack after 8 months, then concludes that this was unlikely due to Vioxx. But any trained biostatistician knows that all natural populations distribute on a normal curve, and there are going to be tail ends, sometimes far to the extreme. In any given population, there could be highly sensitive individuals to any drug or treatment. Causing a heart attack in one individual after eight months is not beyond the realm of possibility, although the shorter times, like one month, are increasingly less plausible.

Fox changes his mind and sends the bill back to congress. This is going to cost Fox his head, whether people agreed with the bill or not, because it's blatantly obvious this "flip flop" is entirely due to U.S. embassy pressure.