Well, I haven't much energy to give to you, my comrades, for I have found myself stricken with a vile disease. High fever, aching tiredness, sore throat, body aches, and headaches appear to be amongst the symptoms. Natalie has come to attend much to my side.
I am recovering now, but I have been sick for most of the week. Most of it was spent at Natalie's, but a couple of days were at home where Daniel did nothing but complain about not wanting me to cough on him. After some research into the matter I realized that my immune system is a bit... out of date, which is probably why it hit me so hard. It gave me time to think about some things, though.
Good friends, I wish you all the best of health & prosperity.
- TH. Jefferson
Today's entry, mainly focusing on the FDA, covers a few bases. Not even a hundred years ago (1918), influenza (or the "flu") was one of the world's most deadly diseases, killing people faster than almost anything else in human history. In fact, that particular strain was resurrected recently by scientists, the "bird flu" (or the "avian flu"). Today though, we can provide vaccines on a regular basis to stop the highly flexible, mutating disease. Still, I think we take modern science for granted, and that it is too broiled in bureaucracy. Back in the early days, doctors making personal visits and ascribing simple solutions to people's problems was the norm. Perhaps it was a simpler time, more susceptible to quackery, but our modern-day response is extreme.
We, as a society, can produce sensible cures that are tested and safe without having to abide by the multi-million dollar approval process that the FDA currently promotes. Drugs should be allowed to be used in the U.S. if they have proven track records outside the U.S., and drugs currently in testing should be provided as options for patients who otherwise have no other options. Especially in terminal cases for which there are no known cures. Rejecting these treatments should always be in the hands of the patient... no one is suggesting we create a system where drugs are randomly injected into corporate slaves or anything silly like that.
A quick look at why this is a problem of efficiency that we desperately need to correct:
- 3,500 kidney cancer patients died during the 3 1/2 years that the FDA refused to approve Interleukin-2, which would have drastically cut down such fatalities. This is in spite of the fact that 9 European nations had approved the drug.
- 14,000 heart attack victims could have been saved by a cardio-pump device delayed for 2 years by the FDA, again another example of a life-saving device that was delayed needlessly. The expensive approval process has made the cardio-pump a spendy item indeed, most people could not afford the treatment even if they wanted it.
- 46,000 deaths a year are caused by breast cancer, yet the FDA refuses to approve the Sensor Pad, an early-detection system that greatly improves the ability of doctors to detect and treat breast cancer... Canada took 60 days to approve this device, while the FDA has taken over 9 years and still has not approved it.
- It took 10 years from the inception of the FDA for it to take cardiovascular disease treatments seriously.
- Various estimates state that the FDA's delays kill tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of people, by forcing them to wait for drugs and treatments the FDA refuses to approve, for whatever reason. This is in spite of the fact that many of these treatments are widely regarded by national and global professionals to be fit for use, and may even have proven track records in the field. Unfortunately, we cannot get an accurate estimate, but we can estimate that these totals are lofty, since most drugs tested by the FDA cost well over an average of $800 million per drug to conform to regulations, and that these drugs can be delayed from 5 to 10 years after their discovery before they go to the market (and sometimes even longer than that), contributing to their unavailability.
- More recently, the FDA was so paranoid about health concerns that it prevented MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) ration packets from the British government (which the British government has used for years within its military) from being sent to the U.S. for Hurricane Katrina relief. The FDA's rules state all meat must be destroyed upon importation, and the MRE's contained meat products (in long-term preserved packets, that is). American soldiers use the same rations when under NATO command, and there has yet to be any reported health problems.
- The FDA costs society almost $50 billion a year in regulatory expenses, and nearly $2 billion a year in administration expenses.
These are just a few small examples of the inefficient bureaucratic nightmare that is the FDA. You can come to your own opinions about the way modern science develops cures to conventional ailments, however I think that quackery prevails in the form of groups like the FDA, who spend more of their time approving cure-all super-drugs (complete with cheesy television commercials) to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, instead of cheap drugs that serve as practical solutions to real health concerns.
At the very least, we need to rely on something less political when it comes to sensitive, objective sciences such as medicine. In short, we need to A) reform the FDA so it is less weighty and unyielding and then B) consider alternatives to the FDA (many other nations use successful methods, many of them private)... and take those alternatives seriously. Assuming that the FDA is too "risky" an organization to reform, and that it should keep its anti-comptetitive monopoly on the final diagnosis of all modern medical treatments, is sheer lunacy.
As it was put by Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute... "If the government approves a drug that will save lives tomorrow, how many people died yesterday waiting for the government to act?"