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From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Cassini opponents (was Re: Cassini flyby of Earth)
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997
Newsgroups: sci.astro,sci.astro.amateur,sci.environment,,sci.physics,,

In <> writes:
>In article <622sim$>,
> B. Harris) writes:
>>In <> writes:
>>>I don't know about any significant medical research that's being held
>>>back now for lack of money.
>>   Then you don't know very much.
>Your opinion.  You're entitled to it, of course.

Having written many biomedical research grant proposals, both
successful and unsuccessful, and being involved in both medical
research and (clinically) the consequences of slow research, it's a
little more than just an opinion.

NIH grant funding level is now at between 10 and 15%, depending on the
institute.  That means most grant proposals don't get funded.

>>  And I'm yet to see somebody who wouldn't claim that he can use
more money.  I suggest, though, that you compare government spending on
medical research versus this on the physical sciences.  Not to mention,
even, the "medical innovations" that actually are the product of
research in the physical sciences.  Being (or at least claiming to be)
an M.D. do you tend to acknowledge such lovely devices as x-ray and
MRI imaging techniques, just for example (hint: they're not the product
of medical research).<<

  Whether the physical sciences get shorted at the expense of the
biomedical sciences is not the issue.  The statement was that
significant medical research is not being held back for lack of money.
That's utter nonsense.

  One example:  The first permanent artifical heart was implanted at my
medical school, the University of Utah, 15 years ago when I was a
medical student there.  It failed, ultimately, because they couldn't
figure out a way to keep clots from forming on the device, and the
users suffered embolic strokes.  Today, Wilhem Kolff, inventor of the
artificial kidney and still at the U of U, has developed a number of
much simpler one-piece vaccuum formed hearts made of special plastics
that have clotting inhibitors built into them, something that wasn't
available 15 years ago.  These beautiful hearts are waiting to be
tested on animals.  No money is available.  Meanwhile, people are dying
for lack of hearts--- half a million a year in this country alone.
There's no reason an artificial heart need cost more than an

   Batteries not included, of course.  Alas, it's beginning to look
like the only really efficient power source for a wearable artificial
heart is a Pu-238 thermoelectric generator ala Cassini.  Just to bring
this around to the thread topic.

                                      Steve Harris, M.D.

From: Steve Harris <>
Date: 27 Jun 2005 10:56:01 -0700
Message-ID: <>

>>  There are also others with this belief. Some would be the
families of people with less than one month to live due to impending
heart failure. The Abiocore heart has been shown to extend their life
expectancey by about four months. Cancer drugs have been approved with
efficacy in this range, yet the artificial heart is apparently not
going to be. Why not?? <<


Those cancer drugs don't cost a quarter of a million bucks.

The longer answer is that even if the thing was only bought for cash by
rich people, the FDA really doesn't care about the problems of a few
rich people.  The FDA isn't dying. It doesn't "feel your pain."  Get

Perhaps the artificial heart makers couldn't pay as much in bribes as
Merck or Glaxo-Smith-Kline. Why knows?

I do know that if these expensive and somewhat rickety artificial
hearts are not approved at some point, they won't ever evolve the cheap
device that anybody can "buy."  Consider what would have happened if
we'd decided that computers were just too expensive in 1952 (when there
were only 2 Univacs in existance), and we'd just quit. Why then, we
wouldn't be where we are today, when even small universities can afford
computers :).

I saw my first big plasma TV in Las Vegas about 3 years ago.  No place
but Vegas could afford them. Today, they are toys of the affluent.  But
in ten or fifteen years, there won't be a picture tube left except, in
trailor parks.   That's how progress WORKS. In aviation transport, in
the auto industry, everywhere.

But the FDA doesn't get it. The people who vote in the idiots who
appoint the FDA and make its rules, don't get it. So you're going to
need an artificial heart one day, and it won't be there and you're
going to die of your stupidity. Welcome to the pitiless universe. It
doesn't suffer fools.


From: Steve Harris <>
Date: 27 Jun 2005 12:10:32 -0700
Message-ID: <>

>>It's not that easy to make a vote that could maximize the medical
progess we want to see. <<


Why isn't it easy?  You let the people with the problem and the market

Did some giant frigging government agency make the decissions that led
to the "progress we want to see" that gave us all cheap cellphones,
digiital watches, computers, color TVs, DVD movies, camcorders, and so
on?  NO.  All that was necessary is they got out of the way.

I remember the first Amana Radar Range microwave ovens. They were
dinosaurs and expensive as hell. Just like the first $400 calculators
and digital watches. Nobody could afford them. But a few months ago I
bought a Chinese made microwave oven at Target for $30 and it works
just great.

There is NO reason whatsoever that medical progress cannot be as fast,
since we spend even more on healthcare than we do on consummer
electronics. We are held back merely by cowardice, stupidity, denial,
ignorance, and lack of empathy for people who need the medical
technology at the moment (while we happen---(briefly---to be healthy).
All of these qualities which the average voter and lawmaker and
regulator has in abundance.


From: Steve Harris <>
Date: 28 Jun 2005 08:05:14 -0700
Message-ID: <>

>>I see this as more of a financial rather than medical
question, and that the FDA should have confined its participation to
the latter. <<


And yet the two are inextricably intertwined.  The Wright Brothers
hadn't been flying for more than 7 years before they killed a passenger
in 1908.  How long before the airplane would became "safe and
effective."?  Can you imagine of the FDA had been involved?  I doubt
we'd be past wooden biplanes yet.

And yet people don't HAVE to fly.  We do have to have medical advances,
though, or we die just doing nothing. Millions of us a year, just in my
own country. You see the problem?


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