Sometimes Think-Tanks Should Rethink

The right-wing think-tank, The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, has put up a study showing the relationship between longevity and “medical innovation” defined as the overall age of drugs being prescribed.

Siting a study prepared by Frank R. Lichtenberg from Columbia University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, the study shows that, surprise, new drugs do increase life expectancy.

Lichtenberg then set out to examine why this “longevity increase gap” exists by measuring the impact of several factors that researchers agree could affect life expectancy. He found that, although some obvious suspects—obesity, smoking, and the incidence of HIV/AIDS—played a role, the most important factor was “medical innovation.”

Specifically, Lichtenberg found that longevity increased the most in those states where access to newer drugs—measured by mean “vintage” (FDA approval year)—in Medicaid and Medicare programs has increased the most. In fact, about two-thirds of the potential increase in longevity—the longevity increase that would have occurred if obesity, income, and other factors had not changed—is attributable to the use of newer drugs. According to his calculations, for every year increase in drug vintage there is about a two-month gain in life expectancy. These represent important findings given the fact that the costs of prescription drugs continue to receive a great deal of attention in the ongoing debate over health-care policy, while their benefits are often overlooked.

Lichtenberg also estimated impacts on productivity and per-capita medical expenditure. He concluded that states adopting medical innovations more rapidly had faster labor productivity growth, conditional on income growth and other factors, perhaps due to reduced absenteeism from chronic medical ailments. He also found that states that use newer drugs did not experience above-average increases in overall medical expenditure, which contradicts the common perception that advances in medical technology inevitably result in increased health-care spending.

I would expect this to be a bit of propaganda attempting to show that big pharma isn’t the global evil everyone seems to think it is. Pharma companies are good and only have your best interests (and sex lives) at heart. Profits? Banish the thought!
But hey, since the graphics the institute put up were a bit dull, I thought I’d go in and do a little paint by numbers.

The paper has two main tables. The first shows the states ranked by life expectancy. I simply colored the chart according to the way the states voted in the 2004 presidential election.

US States Ranked By Life Expectancy

The second table shows increase life expectancy. Here the coloring was a little easier.

US States Ranked by Increase In Life Expectancy

Interestingly, as far as I can tell the measurement being used is the vintage of drugs supplied by Medicare and Medicaid. Strange that there would seem to be that big a difference in how federal programs are being operated at the state and local level. Perhaps all those who decry the evils of Medicare shouldn’t look at the evil heartless Federal Government and spend more time looking a little closer to home at how the federal guidelines are implemented.

But it would also seem to me, that those think-tanks fighting the good fight for Republican values shouldn’t use studies showing how much better life is in Democratic states.

I guess I think they should have rethought their article.

6 comments so far

  1. Teresa on



  2. blc303 on

    I just couldn’t believe they actually put that up.

    I haven’t been overwelhmed by right wing commenters yet. I guess they haven’t read it. Or maybe they are busy redoing the charts.

    I notice Minnesota does pretty well in both cases. Texas – less well but pretty good actually. Living in the deep south looks to be a real bitch.

  3. Teresa on

    I’ve lived in the deep south.

    The people who live there seem to like it. They also seem to be basically decent people who have a right to live as they wish.

    I did not wish to live that way, so I returned to the place I like living. Unfortunatly, there are people (cough – Republicans – cough) who are valiently striving to turn my new home into the deep south.

    You want to bring grits and gravy to Minnesota, OK. Fire away. The dirty old men who feel free to call you honey and grab women’s asses, you can keep…along with the women who wear leapard-print, skin-tight leggings, gold hoop earings, agressivly large blond wigs, and tropical-fish make-up spackled on their faces who call a simple Minnesota gilr “trashy” for her minimalist make-up and simple clothing.

    Oh yeah, and the perfume “baths”. Those I could do without as well.

  4. blc303 on

    Don’t you love that perfume in elevators.

    That’s why you never used to have all that many high rises in the south until the Yankees started moving down there because there are fewer snow days.

    I inherited 5 acres of land in Arkansas from my grandfather when I was 12. I visited it twice and then sold it when I was 21 because I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what I would do with it. The neighbors last name was Cumby – a name that to this day tastes of deep fried bacon and someone drawling “Boy, we gotta get the dawgs togethu n’ go huntin’.”


  5. Teresa on

    That’s why we like the snow days. Historically, they have functioned to “keep the riff-raff out”…yet another unfortunate side-effect of global climate change. The mild winters the past few years have lead to too many people coming here and saying “Well, it’s not so terrible here after all!”

    As word gets around more, we’re going to have more and more of those “cube farm” neighborhoods…poor man’s gated communities with no visible yards, just six-foot privacy fences as far as the eye can see.

  6. MarkH on

    Ahh, the give up effect, still going strong. The same is true for infant mortality.

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