The FDA is a Destructive Force

The employees and appointees of the US Food and Drug Administration have caused an incredible destruction of value and progress over the time that the agency has existed. Their regulatory policies become ever more onerous with each passing year, as unaccountable bureaucrats follow their incentives: nothing good can happen to their careers as a result of approving new technologies, and nothing bad tends to happen to their careers as a result of making it really, really hard to bring new medicine to the clinic. So of course you wind up with an organization whose members collectively pay nothing more than lip service to their declared mission, while working to make sure that medicine stays moribund in a slow-motion stasis. This is most evident in the cancer research community, largely because of its size, but it applies just as evenly across all forms of medicine:

A 2010 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology by researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas found that the time from drug discovery to marketing increased from eight years in 1960 to 12 to 15 years in 2010. Five years of this increase results from new regulations boosting the lengths and costs of clinical trials. The regulators aim to prevent cancer patients from dying from toxic new drugs. However, the cancer researchers calculate that the delays caused by requirements for lengthier trials have instead resulted in the loss of 300,000 patient life-years while saving only 16 life-years.

To add to this picture, you must also see incumbent Big Pharma entities and their executives and lobbyists - a deeply enmeshed network of regulatory capture. They are far more willing to use the current system as a weapon to suppress disruptive innovation in their industry than to be a source of innovation themselves. So it goes, just as in any other heavily regulated market. The strategic goals of the major players wind up having very little to do with creating beneficial change, and everything to do with keeping things the same as they are now.

As I've said in the past, it is a waste of energy to fight this. That's a money pit, and resources are better spent on creating actual progress than lining the pockets of politicians, their lackeys, and other corrupt cogs in the system. Work around the roadblock instead: start companies and partner for research development outside the US. Deliver services in Asia and take advantage of cheap flights and the growing medical tourism industry. The only way that the FDA will whither away is to make it entirely irrelevant - and as the bureaucrats keep piling on the costs, erecting an ever higher barrier to actually developing any new medicine in the US, that will become a more popular option. You can be sure that the wealthier and more connected individuals who make regulations and advocate for ever greater powers to accrue to the FDA will be amongst the first flying beyond the US to undergo newer therapies - treatments that they have managed to make illegal or too expensive to exist in their own country.

Some more on this topic:

Though the United States urgently needs new treatments for common illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, the nation's system for drug approval discourages innovation and investment, especially for our most pressing public health challenges. In this paper, we find that the main culprit is the high cost of Phase III clinical trials, which are required for FDA approval of most drugs. We examined drug development in four major public health areas and discovered that for any given drug on the market, typically 90 percent or more of that drug's development costs are incurred in Phase III trials. These costs have skyrocketed in recent years, exacerbating an already serious problem.

The enormous cost and risk of Phase III trials create incentives for researchers and investors to avoid work on medications for the chronic conditions and illnesses that pose the greatest threat to Americans, in terms of health spending and in terms of the number of people affected. This avoidance, in turn, harms overall U.S. health outcomes and drives up the cost of health care.