Feed on

Without the FDA

We’d all die from food poisining and our drugs would kill us all! At least that is what the conventional wisdom is. Rather than go into a lecture on competition, feedback loops, reputation, profits and losses, and humanity, let me pose the question:

Suppose I grant that FDA does its job well. Why does it follow that when it runs its drug tests and food safety tests that it has to do any more than that? In other words, suppose it finds a colon cancer drug that “poisons” 1 in 100 patients, and that the risk of this drug is “too high” to be deemed acceptable. Why would you not allow me, as a cancer patient (hypothetically), to decide whether this is a risk I am willing to take in exchange for the possible rewards? Why ban it altogether? Why not solve the information “problem” and leave it be? Leave aside the possibility that a firm might actually have a self-interest in promoting safe products.

I’d love to see the paternalists crawl down from their high chairs to deal with these sorts of questions.

Further, why is it OK for me to make the choice for myself with Advil and Tylenol? After all, aren’t these harmful to my liver if I take too much? Or how about this, why are we not allowed to make choices on food and drug safety, but we are allowed to make choices regarding other far more serious risks? After all, driving is much more dangerous than most drugs out there? If we truly cared about saving lives, we would ban all driving. But I’ve never heard anyone argue we should ban driving … and once I hear the reason for why it is silly to ban driving, I’d like to hear how that same argument does NOT apply to drugs. And no sir, it is not reasonable to argue that drug companies have an incentive to kill us. It is generally not profitable to kill your customers, unless you are Mao, Stalin, or Genghis Khan.

No one inspected my computer. I know nothing about how it works. Yet I am pretty sure it will not blow up and kill me. No one inspected my apple from the local farmers market. Yet I wash it and am confident that eating it will not kill me. What gives me such confidence? Take a look around at all of the things you interact with every day, and add up those interactions over the course of a year. What percentage of those interactions were inspected? And what percentage of the ones that were not ended up doing harm to you? Why? What is this magic?

Leave a Reply