In todayâ€™s edition of the Wall Street Journal, Scott Gottlieb addresses the fact that â€¦
â€œA decade ago, we were mostly focused on uncovering the remote risk that certain drugs could, in rare cases, cause immediate, unexpected and potentially life-threatening problems such as liver damage or disturbed heart rhythms. Surfacing these problems was made easier by the fact that the side effects occurred in close proximity to administration of the medicine, so it could be deduced when the drug was at fault.
Now we're focused on unearthing cases where prolonged use of some drugs may prompt small elevations in the risk of otherwise naturally occurring and even common events, like heart attacks. This was the issue that caused the withdrawal of the painkiller Vioxx and the premature flap around the diabetes drug Avandia.
Our heightened vigilance will surely improve the information people have to make informed choices. But finding and proving these kinds of rare and latent problems will often take many years and entail large and rigorous clinical testing. Even then, deciding if such remote kinds of risk outweigh benefits requires an often subjective calculus that is best left for patients and doctors to decide individually.â€
In short, rhetoric and politics, and now actual legislation in the form of REMS, are forcing the FDA ever more towards adopting the Precautionary Principle. Thatâ€™s the one-dimensional dogma that dictates that nothing should be done until everything is understood. Prudent? No, puerile. And the unintended consequences are fatal. Fatal like in no new medicines.
A little harmless politicking? Hardly. Just ask the people who may soon longer have access to the medicines they need, or to those who will suffer needlessly in the wake of Tropical Storm Safety â€” since the inevitable result of the Precautionary Principle is a dearth of new medicines in the pipeline.
Is it time to recall Ivory Soap? Is it safe? After all, itâ€™s only 99 44/100% pure.
We must not allow safety to be hijacked.