Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Cure Is Worse Than The Disease

An FDA report will be discussed tomorrow concerning the agency's poor performance. The agency claims it simply needs more funding which it will use to centralize its work and add management positions.

It would make more sense to return the agency to an advisory status. This would drastically reduce its costs and could accomplish a handful of things really well instead of doing many things poorly.

Throwing money at a problem rarely solves it--the organization must have to have a strong incentive to use resources wisely. Companies have an incentive to make a safe and useful product. Dangerous ones will slip through, but at least the error is self-correcting. When things go bad, the drug is pulled. The FDA, however, is rewarded when it turns out most drugs--even good ones that can save lives. And this error doesn't disappear. People continue to needlessly die.

The question is not if free markets or government is perfect at screening disease. Neither is perfect; it's a useless inquiry. The question is which one is most robust against error: a single government agency or the collective wants and constraints of millions of interacting people.

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