Originally posted on February 26, 2010.
It’s no secret that the cost of prescription drugs continues to rise with no immediate signs of slowing down. In 2009, Americans spent a massive $243 billion on prescription drugs. The White House seems to believe that more health care regulation through government bureaucrats is the only solution for making medications more affordable. However, libertarian John Stossel has a perhaps radical health care reform proposal that has received media coverage within the last few days. Simply put, Stossel believes that the “FDA (Federal Drug Administration) should butt out and let us take care of ourselves.”
In John Stossel’s recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner he questions Uncle Sam being in our medicine cabinets, he asks a multitude of questions such as: why should the FDA tell me what medicines I can or can’t put into my own body? Especially if I’m dying, shouldn’t I be allowed to take an experimental medication that may save my life? According to Stossel, it takes the FDA an average of 10 to 15 years to approve a new drug. During this extensive approval time, it is illegal for anyone to try the medication. Countless Americans die each year waiting for the FDA to approve a drug that could have benefited or prolonged their life. Therefore, Stossel claims that the FDA is “protecting us to death.” Some desperate terminally ill patients have resorted to going to other countries to legally purchase beneficial prescription drugs that are currently stalled in the FDA. John Stossel gives an example of a potentially beneficial retinal implant delayed in the FDA that could cure some people’s blindness:
Dr. Alan Chow invented a retinal implant that helps some blind people see (optobionics.com). Demonstrating that took seven years and cost $50 million dollars of FDA-approved tests. But now the FDA wants still more tests. That third stage will take another three years and cost $100 million. But Chow doesn’t have $100 million. He can’t raise the money from investors because the implant only helps some blind people. Potential investors fear there are too few customers to justify their $100 million risk.
So Stephen Lonegan, who has a degenerative eye disease that might be helped by the implant, can’t have it. Instead, he will go blind. The bureaucrats say their restrictions are for his own safety. “There’s nothing safe about going blind,” he says. “I don’t want to be made safe by the FDA. I want it to be up to me to go to Dr. Chow to make the decision myself.
Some would argue that the high cost of approving a drug through the FDA is passed onto the customer in the form of high prescription drug costs. While Stossel’s plan to abolish the FDA is unlikely to be considered by Congress anytime soon, it does raise some questions. Should the federal government dictate what medications we aren’t allowed to put into our bodies– despite the wishes of a patient and doctor? In addition, if the slow process of government approval at the FDA makes medicine more expensive, what will happen to the cost of our health insurance if it has to go through Washington to get approved?