Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thoughts on the FDA

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague the other day about the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). he claimed that they do not perform the necessary checking of new products, thus producing products whose negative side effects far outweigh the benefits they supposedly produce. My counter-argument, also against the FDA, was based on the idea that a panel of government bureaucrats could do a better job determining what is or is not good for society than consumers as a group, seeing as how no regulation can guarantee to eliminate all bad results (name one that has. Can you? I cannot.)

However, I read a fascinating post today on the FDA over at Fight Aging. The main thrust was to point out that the the FDA, like most regulatory bodies, is not in the business of enabling progress. Quite the opposite, in fact. Author "Reason" writes,
There is no open marketplace for medical technology in the developed world, however. Instead, we see a very different set of incentives dominating the state of research and development. Regulatory bodies like the FDA have every incentive to stop the release of new medicine: the government employees involved suffer far more from bad press for an approved medical technology than they do from the largely unexamined consequences of heavy regulation. These consequences go far beyond the obvious and announced disapproval of specific medical technologies: the far greater cost lies in all the research, innovation and development that was never undertaken because regulatory burdens ensure there would be no profit for the developer. Personal gain for the regulator is thus to destroy the gains of people they will never meet, the exact opposite of what occurs in an open marketplace.

I myself abhor the effects of the HMOs and the vast regulatory and legal stranglehold that government has put on health care. if government and lawyers would simply allow the medical market to work. I believe that we would be surprised at how fast our medical technology and mastery advanced. But of course, that would eliminate the massive paydays for imagined malpractice suits, and the chances for government functionaries to flex their power without worrying about consequences.

As we approach a Presidential election in which at least two of the possible candidates (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) want to hand over control of our health to the same functionaries who have managed to blunt medical progress for the past twenty years, it is something to consider. As for me, I want less government interference, not more. And the sooner we can get the lawyers out of medicine, the better off we all will be. Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds

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