Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

January 19, 1998

Government prescription for health is bad medicine

No one thing is perhaps more important to the individual than their health. Our health affects literally every aspect of our lives; whether it is our jobs, our families or our recreational pursuits, our level of basic health is a determining factor in what we can and cannot do.

But oddly, our health is perhaps the one aspect of our life over which we often have the least amount of say; a fact which should be troubling to us all, but particularly to those of us concerned about encroachments on liberty.

As a physician, I often recommend to my patients that they never just pursue any one plan for fitness and nutrition; intelligent study, moderation and variety are, indeed, the spice of life and health. But there is an unfortunate trend toward restricting the access people have to factual information about alternatives to commonly accepted nutritional programs.

In fact, there is a move to have the federal government regulate vitamins and minerals, to the extent that it is possible an individual could be required to have a prescription before purchasing Vitamin C. Or, if the producers of bananas continue to state, correctly I believe, that that fruit is among the healthiest things we can eat, the federal government will begin to regulate bananas as drugs. Sound crazy? Yes, it is. Once again, it is a case of the people inside the Washington beltway assuming they know better how to care for us than we do ourselves.

Of course, it is done in the name of protecting people from… whatever; pick the horror of the day. But it undermines the basic, commonsense notion that people have a greater stake in providing for their own health and well-being than some bureaucrat living a thousand miles away. It also points to the ever growing disconnect between corporate concerns for the bottomline, and the desires of the individual.

I will never make the case against the great scientific and technological advances we have made in fighting cancer and the ravages of age. But those methods are not always the most effective in a particular circumstance, and there is a great deal of scientific proof - growing daily - that following various regimes of nutrition and exercise actually cure some diseases and prevent others. I have a friend who specializes in chemical and radiation therapy for cancer patients, but recently he began using one day a week of practice to study and work with nutritional supplements to those therapies. While he is quick to point out his experience is not conclusive and that every patient's case is different, he has been surprised at how many of his patients respond as well or better with the added nutritional therapies as others do in the course of more widely accepted, conventional treatments.

We should not be surprised that the government would want to control this area which is so basic to our very lives. It is just one more example of government control. But unlike so many other areas where government regulation amounts to economic restrictions and time inconveniences, this growing trend can have serious and immediate repercussions in people's lives.

As the population gets older, and people seek ways to cut costs, they will want to look more closely at the benefits of healthy living and nutritional balance. But those who make their living from people using the expensive "mainstream" programs are not excited about that; after all, if someone can achieve good health simply by fortifying their diet with some commonly available vitamins, minerals and herbs, the pharmaceutical companies lose out. So aligning themselves with government, these corporations are trying to shore-up their profits by actually supporting new regulatory burdens in the hopes it keeps new ideas and philosophies out of the public market, prohibiting consumers from getting information on alternative health programs.

It is for this reason I have introduced HR 2868, the Consumer Health Free Speech Act. This legislation will allow consumers to get factual information about the health benefits of natural foods, vitamins and herbs without the sellers of those natural products suffering costly regulatory burdens. Individual consumers should be allowed to weigh for themselves, preferably in consultation with the doctor of their choice, what is best for their particular situation. But for as reasonable as this may sound, and for as much in line with our national heritage of individual liberty it may be, this legislation run exactly contrary to the current direction of regulatory dictates.

As individuals begin to consider ways to live healthier lives to be productive longer, it is imperative that they are able to provide for themselves and their families in the ways which best suit them. And if we have learned anything about federal involvement in just about everything - from education to crime to the environment - we know Washington is the last place we should be looking. Moreover, recent FDA reforms also challenge our national sovereignty by attempting to "harmonize" US regulations with the restrictive policies of other nation's. Fortunately we were able to remove the application of harmonization language to dietary supplements but we still have a long way to go to achieve health freedom.

Decisions about nutrition and treatment for living a healthy life need to be made in the home and in the examining room, not in Washington, DC, or in a pharmaceutical company's board room.