Welcome to the Jungle

There is a lot of talk these days about the benefits/terrible consequences of the switch to a single-payer healthcare system in the United States. For me, this brings up the very potent issue of the current lack of health in our current insurance controlled American healthcare model, something I feel that government regulation will not only fail to  address, but will likely make worse. As part of that debate, I would like to share a very interesting point made by one of my personal internet heroes, Bill Whittle. In last night’s podcast, he made a very strong point about the role of government when it comes to healthcare and, more specifically, the role of the FDA- skip to 28:30


The notion that the FDA, in its current role, does more harm than good has long been my stance as well, although I’ve never been able to articulate it so brilliantly. A lot of us had the pleasure of reading about early 1900s meatpacking facilities in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle back in AP U.S history, and clearly the FDA came about with all the good intentions in the world- to protect the American people, their food supply and their medications. Certainly that is not without merit. But this was long before the age of randomized control trials and pharmaceuticals. With FDA imposed standards of long wait periods and expensive trials, it becomes increasingly impossible for any individual innovation in drug development, without the backing of big pharma. Aside from leaving a void of decent treatments for less profitable illnesses (i.e. the rarer ones) that might never recoup their expenses once they hit the market, it makes it increasingly desirable to market the so-called life-style treatments (drugs for for weight loss, sexual dysfunction, quitting smoking, mild anxiety, sleeping disorders and vaccines for HPV and shingles) which can be sold to anyone, though are not life-saving or necessarily safer to be taking than living a life without them.

The problem is, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare in general for that matter, are a business. Big pharma companies invest in research looking for a huge payout at the end. But, with the interference of the FDA, they are a business that escapes the usual forces of the results-driven competition-based market that compels companies like Samsung and Apple to produce things that work at the lowest price possible. In unregulated markets, companies have to maintain their individual character and reputation in order to survive. In regulated ones, companies need only seek a seal of government approval. In the case of pharmaceuticals, because it’s not the customers (i.e. patients) that matter, not only is there no reason to keep costs down, there is a hugely disgusting potential for corruption in standards set by the FDA or speed of drug-approval wait time based on who the FDA is feeling more friendly with. And that doesn’t necessarily equate with safety.

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