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Viagra Gets the Shaft

January 23, 2007

This little item in my local newspaper caught my attention yesterday. An AIDS advocacy organization is suing Pfizer, alleging that its marketing of Viagra encourages recreational use of the drug, thereby fostering an increase in the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Now, obviously the rise in HIV infections related to the admixture of Viagra and crystal meth – a “party drug cocktail” the AP calls it, which goes to show I’m not attending the right parties – is a troubling public health issue, and I have no particular love lost for massive pharmaceutical companies, but the complete repudiation of personal responsibility implied by such a lawsuit is enough to make one’s blood boil (which I imagine is one of the side effects of that cocktail).

How can I put this in simple enough terms? The drug company – however big, bad and mean – did not make anyone engage in unprotected sex. You might as well indict the cartoon devil hovering above your shoulder, or better yet your own genitals. (I await the “my penis made me do it” defense.) The lawsuit strikes me as so preposterous I have to imagine it’s more of a tactic to gain publicity than a serious effort to litigate in the courts. But the seeping and spreading of such “environmental” notions of responsibility does serious damage to our individual liberty.

Take New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s absurd ban on transfats in restaurants. I should say that I am in general a fan of Mayor Bloomberg’s, but sometimes the Jewish smother in his nature gets the best of him. Of course transfats are “bad” for me, but so what? Is freedom itself not a “good”? And why should I be denied a pleasure that harms no-one else? Granted, society as a whole will be healthier in body if fewer people consume transfats, but without the exercise of personal choice, and of the responsibility it entails, our minds will grow flabby and it is society as a whole that will suffer. I have no objection to the state encouraging healthy lifestyles or requiring that restaurants list the nutritional make-up of the food they serve, just as I have no objection to safe sex campaigns or condom distribution programs. But to make Bloomberg and Pfizer responsible for our appetites would be an indulgence of gentle tyranny and should, quite definitely, be a turn-off for anyone.

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