How to Streamline the FDA

Rand Paul got a genuinely interesting idea passed yesterday:

Today the U.S. Senate voted to pass the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (S.3187), which included language inserted by Sen. Rand Paul. This language would force the FDA to accept data from clinical investigations conducted outside the United States, including the European Union, to speed the process of getting life-saving drugs on the market by the FDA.

Alex Tabarrok would go even further:

Any drug or medical device introduced into say the EU, Japan, Canada or Australia ought to be automatically approved in the United States within 90 days. Such a procedure would reduce delay, eliminate needless duplication and cut costs.

I can’t think of any reason not to do at least what Paul is suggesting, and probably Tabarrok’s idea as well. Perhaps in a perfect world we could have some agreement between nations with standards, best practices, and a division of labor, but given the already quite malign influence the drug companies have on the scientific process, this wouldn’t make things worse, and would speed things up considerably. This could even possible dilute the influence of the pharma lobby, as it would be more difficult to influence scientific trials across several continents.

After all, our brethren in the industrialized world have every bit as much incentive to protect their citizens as we do.

UPDATE: For more on this issue, see this Steve Teles piece from a couple years back.

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is national correspondent for the Week, and a former web editor for the Washington Monthly.