Regulation of Medicine Will Kill Us

Have you noticed how much slower medicine seems to move than other fields of development? It takes a decade to move from news out of the laboratory to first therapies commercially available; compare that to the hectic rush and invention of the computer hardware industry. You can lay every last day of delay and cost down to regulation; just look at the gauntlet that has to be run:

Although some people talk of an anti-aging pill, it is more likely that research will yield therapies that target specific age-related diseases - a vaccine to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, for example. In either case, the road to such a medicine is long and often fraught with wrong turns, dead ends, and detours. According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), it takes 10 to 15 years and up to $1 billion to develop one new medicine from the time it is discovered to the time it is made available as an FDA-approved therapy. Why does it take so long and cost so much? Because drug discovery and development is a time- and labor-intensive process involving thousands of people, from researchers at colleges and universities, to scientists and professionals at pharmaceutical companies, to participants in clinical trials.

Drug discovery and medical research is in fact no more inherently costly or time-consuming than research into new forms of computer hardware - a field that is just as exciting at this present time. But medical research and development is made costly by the heavy boot of regulation for the sake of regulation: an institution of rules and rule-makers that has come to stand for nothing beyond its own self-propagation.

If anything is to be the death of us in this era of potential and revolution in biotechnology, it will be that regulation scared away the innovators, suppressed the discoveries that might have been, and kept disruptive, effective new technologies away from the marketplace for years past their time. When progress is made costly, progress becomes slow - but worse, an entire range of invention and endeavor simply vanishes, priced out of existence.

But most people can't see the invisible cost - the cost of things that might have been. Most people suffer a great failure of the imagination when it comes to anything the government has a hand in; they can't imagine it any other way, even when presented with thriving examples from other industries. Medicine could be as dynamic, inventive and productive as the computer hardware industry, or the fashion industry. But it is not, and so we will suffer because progress will be slow and the delivery of goods funneled through organizations so regulated that their employees and owners have no incentive to do a good job.

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