Oh… What to make of the moral in "Dallas Buyers Club"? If you haven’t yet seen the movie, it’s quite good. It’s the story of hardscrabble Texas electrician Ron Woodroof who contracts AIDS as a straight man in 1985, long before anyone really understood the disease.

Oh… What to make of the moral in "Dallas Buyers Club"? If you haven’t yet seen the movie, it’s quite good. It’s the story of hardscrabble Texas electrician Ron Woodroof who contracts AIDS as a straight man in 1985, long before anyone really understood the disease.


The movie could easily have turned into a predictable, PC lecture about a "homophobic" guy who learns to understand gays. To be sure, the movie weaves that thread among many others. But what was really fascinating were the questions the movie raised about government, health care, and, in particular, drugs.


Without giving too much away, Woodroof disagrees with a prescribed treatment regimen that may or may not include an experimental drug called AZT — "may or may not" being the key phrase, as the patient, with only weeks to live, might be receiving only a placebo; the drug hadn’t been fully green-lit for treatment.


Woodroof soon finds himself in Mexico experimenting with — and eventually importing for others — a cocktail of serums that studies showed may help him, but that the U.S. government hadn’t yet deemed safe.


The questions the movie raises are multifaceted: To what degree do high-paid pharmaceutical reps game the drug approval process? Why should a sick man need the government to tell him what he can use to try and cure himself? And most importantly, why do people keep paying Jennifer Garner to be an actress?


But seriously, why should buying drugs be markedly different than buying a tattoo? No one needs the FDA tapping them on the shoulder to tell them their "VANILLA ICE IS RAD" ink might not age too well. Like tattoos, drugs come with risks. The onus should be on the individual, not the government, to bear those risks past a certain point.


In other words, it’s probably a good idea for the FDA to make sure Pfizer isn’t selling people arsenic, but it’s a ridiculous bureaucratic overreach to make thousands of embarrassed, aging men grovel at a doctor’s office before they’re allowed to take Viagra.


The FDA should work like Underwriters Laboratory. UL tests virtually every consumer appliance on the market to make sure it’s safe — go ahead, flip over your coffee maker and you’ll likely find the company’s circular logo. But even if an appliance isn’t UL certified, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy it. It just means the product is sold caveat emptor.


Ron Woodroof shouldn’t have had to fight his own government to medicate his disease anymore than old Mr. Mortimer down the street should have to seek formal approval before treating his high cholesterol. When it comes to drugs, we need consumer risk awareness and acceptance on the front burner, the FDA on the back burner, and our health care choices in our own hands.


NATE STRAUCH is a reporter with the Herald Democrat. Email him at nstrauch@ heralddemocrat.com.