Monday, May 10, 2004

Sen. Clinton on nano-inequities and nano-economics

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton mentions nanotech in this reprint of a New York Times Magazine piece, but does it within the context of "cost" and health-care inequity.

    The pace of scientific development in medicine is so rapid that the next hundred years is likely to be called the Century of the Life Sciences. We have mapped the human genome and seen the birth of the burgeoning field of genomics, offering the opportunity to pinpoint and modify the genes responsible for a whole host of conditions. Scientists are exploring whether nanotechnology can target drugs to diseased tissues or implant sensors to detect disease in its earliest forms. We can look forward to ''designer drugs'' tailored to individual genetic profiles. But the advances we herald carry challenges and costs.

    ... The increasing understanding and use of genomics may also undermine the insurance system. Health insurance, like other insurance, exists to protect against unpredictable, costly events. It is based on risk. As genetic information allows us to predict illness with greater certainty, it threatens to turn the most susceptible patients into the most vulnerable. Many of us will become uninsurable, like the two young sisters with a congenital disease I met in Cleveland. Their father went from insurance company to insurance company trying to get coverage, until one insurance agent looked at him and said, "We don't insure burning houses." More here.

It's an excellent point, and one that one of my doctor brothers -- who also ran an HMO for a while -- brings up whenever I talk to him about all the wonderful things nanomedicine will bring. "Who's going to pay for it?"

Sen. Clinton was a co-sponsor of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, and her constituents in Albany are reaping the rewards of nanotech-related economic development.

Last November, the Business Review of Albany quoted Clinton:

    "Nanotechnology research and development is important to the economic future of New York and the nation," Senator Clinton said. "This legislation is an example of our continuing commitment to promoting New York's extremely skilled workforce, high-tech capabilities, and world class research facilities."

    Clinton said New York is "playing a leading role in the development of nanotechnology. Our state is rich with tremendous economic development opportunities and our nanotech facilities are prime examples of what the state has to offer to researchers, developers and investors." More here

I'd hope and expect that she will keep an eye on these possible health-care inequities even when she is promoting nanotechnology as an engine of economic development for her state.

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