Industry and Medicine
Industry and MedicineElizabeth Blackwell, First Female Physician...208
Age First Premarital Petting...210
Gentlemen of the Class of 1878...214
Nightingale Home and Training School for Nurses, St. Thomas Hospital...217
Bayer Pharmaceutical Products...220
The Flexner Report...227
State Registration of Trained Nurses...230
Letter by Dr. A. S. Calhoun to Franklin D. Roosevelt...232
Private Health Insurance Originates with Blue Cross and Blue Shield...233
President Lyndon Johnson Signs Medicare Bill...236
The Belmont Report...238
Helicopter Rescue of Air Crash Victims...245
Is there a Doctor in the House?...247
Shaman Loses Its Magic...249
Medical Tourism Companies Luring Americans Abroad with Surgery-Vacation Trips...252
America, Pull Up a Chair—We've Got Something Good to Talk About...255
E-mail from Hurricane Katrina...260
Medicine is the second largest industry in the United States, and the medical industry continues to broaden its modern social, economic, and cultural importance on a global scale.
Oversight of programs designed to regulate the medical industry and to facilitate access to health care requires large and complex governmental agencies. In most Western countries, such agencies both administer and consume significant economic resources. In the United States, for example, the Department of Heath and Human Services (DHHS) accounts for approximately twenty-five percent of all federal spending.
The medical industry has roots that extend back more than a century. Many companies that began with another purpose are now primarily associated with health care and/or the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. Bayer, now known globally as the leading manufacturer of Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), existed as a marketer of chemicals related to dyes in 1880, but by the turn of the twentieth century, had broadened into a pharmaceutical maker. Bayer's sales of the "wonder drug" aspirin generated considerable revenue for the company, and paved the way for modern mass-produced and mass-marketed drugs.
Especially in an age of heightened awareness of terrorism, quality control of drugs is a high priority for the pharmaceutical industry. In 1982, after over-the-counter medicine was deliberately contaminated with lethal amounts of cyanide, resulting in deaths in the United States, recalls and packaging laws were quickly enacted to reduce the risk of further incidents. Such acts and oversight inextricably link and draw the medical industry into a close relationship with government and other social institutions.
The influence of pharmaceutical companies over legislators and oversight groups has been a matter of concern. Other contentious social issues that involve the medical industry include the training of physicians and nurses, the provision of health insurance by private companies, and issues related to the public image of the medical industry, especially as reflected, even indirectly, through advertising as discussed in "Is there a Doctor in the House?" Also at issue is the inclusion within the medical industry of women and minorities, where diversification regarding race and gender is still considered by some a transition in progress.
Access to health care has perhaps been the most highly-debated issue in recent decades. In some countries, access to heath care is considered a fundamental human right and therefore provided by nationalized services. In the United States, financial assistance for health care is provided by government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid as well as private insurers. Medicare is the largest health insurer in the United States (processing more than $1 billion in claims per year) and Medicare and Medicaid combined provide health insurance for twenty five percent of U.S. citizens. Others are covered by private insurance, either through their employers or through individual purchase. However not all employers provide this benefit and many not covered through government programs or employers cannot afford the cost of individual coverage, leaving more than forty million Americans without health insurance.