It's been a while since I caught up on the activities of FasterCures (or the Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions), possibly not since the organization was launched back in 2004. At the time I was optimistic that FasterCures would head in the direction of "clearing out the undergrowth of political, regulatory and protectionist parasitism that holds back scientific progress and its commercial application." Their mission statement at the time:
Evaluate the current systems of identifying and delivering cures
Identify barriers to progress that currently exist in these systems
Engage individuals and organizations in our mission to accelerate solutions
Create action plans to clear the path to faster cures
The present version of the mission statement is more refined, but essentially the same: the objective is systemic change. Unfortunately, all the signs are that reducing the influence of government and regulation is not on the agenda. Hence that aspect of FasterCures will wind up just another ineffectual talking shop and political advocacy group debating what color to paint the next damaging regulatory regime to come from the FDA.
Oh well. Hopefully they don't pour too much money down that sinkhole before recognizing it for the waste it is.
On the other side of the coin, FasterCures is sponsoring modest projects in the area of education and medical information exchange. Given the direction their advocacy is headed in, this work stands a greater chance of producing progress towards the FasterCures goal. The present state of medical information infrastructures is abysmal, to say the least, so even small projects have a chance of some beneficial effects ... assuming they are not squashed absolutely by the regulatory steamroller and its ever-expanding trailer of paperwork and requirements.
I'll leave you with a pointer to a letter on disease and aging from the FasterCures president:
If we were gathered here in 1906, not 2006, your lives would be very different - and I don't mean you wouldn't have an iPod. In 1906, one in five of you would have died before the age of five and wouldn't be here. You would already be near your mid-life crisis because you would be nearly halfway to your expected life. But the class of 1906 and all the classes after them created the greatest achievement of the last or any century - they doubled the life expectancy globally and increased it in the United States by 50 percent. Such an increase had never happened before in human history.
What are we to think about such a gift from previous generations? For too many people - people who have not properly learned to think - greater life expectancy means more time to acquire more things like money, houses, cars, power. But you, you who have learned to think, know better. Having received this gift of greater life expectancy from previous generations, I hope you are thinking, 'How can I double my life's expectations?' Whatever you were expecting to do to educate, to care for others, to heal, to nurse, now is the time to realize you can do so much more because you have been given so much more time and so many more tools to do it.
If you increase your life expectations, you who have learned to think about education and health, you can repay the gift of a longer life by giving people alive today, and those to come, a better life. You here today hold the greatest promise to improve and save lives through health education, faster and better research for cures, and improvements in public and global health.
You hold this promise - you need to raise your expectations of how quickly and well you will fulfill it. But I am not asking you to cure death and suffering from cancer and a host of other diseases in your lifetime. I am asking you to do so in MY lifetime. With the Internet, the Human Genome map, modern computers and communication technologies, anything you can think about, you can understand, communicate and realize so much more quickly than any people in the history of the world.
You don't get the whole century to make your mark. I have higher expectations for you than that. I said I was not going to give you advice and I meant it. This is not advice. I am giving you a mission. Your mission - our mission together - is to prevent the slow and painful wasting away of life so that people all over the world can lead full and meaningful lives.
In summary: great promise, presently squandered. How bad will medical regulation in the US become before mainstream organizations form with the declared mission of tearing it all down? How much opportunity for progress will wasted, and how much health and life will be lost along the way? If Europe is any guide, it's a long way down to the bottom yet.