No Such Thing as a Safe Drug
truth is, thereís no such thing as a safe drug. Every drug
has side effects. Itís only a matter of degree. And thereís
usually a tradeoff between safety and effectiveness. Powerful
drugs are more likely to have side effects. Everyone who
undergoes chemotherapy understands that life is about tradeoffsóabout
the likely costs and likely benefits.
is always in order when you introduce a powerful drug into
your body. You donít want to die from a dangerous drug.
But you also donít want to suffer or die because the right
drug is not available.
this world of imperfect safety, why do we give the FDA the
authority to make these choices for us? The FDA is the ultimate
one size fits all solution. If arthritis makes my life a
living hell, why canít I decide to take on a greater risk
of a heart attack? The choice between pain and risk should
belong to me and my doctor.
we are heading in the wrong direction, demanding that the
FDA become even more cautious and careful in protecting
us from harm. If FDA approval is harder to get, then drugs
will be safer. But the unintended consequence will be to
make it harder to get FDA approval for drugs that can save
lives. The unintended consequence will be losing the drugs
that we wonít discover because itís simply too expensive
to go looking for anything other than a blockbuster.
costs are in the future. But some of the unintended consequences
have already appeared. Vioxx has shown promise fighting
colon cancer. But clinical trials using powerful painkillers
to fight cancer and Alzheimers are now at risk, all the
findings and benefits potentially wasted.
Roberts is Professor of Economics and the J. Fish and
Lillian F. Smith Distinguished Scholar at the Mercatus Center
at George Mason University. This article is from NPR's
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