The FDA can’t protect you; this is why you need to protect yourself

In an article today excoriating the FDA for its regulation of prescription drugs, the New York Times reports:

The Institute of Medicine, the Government Accountability Office and the F.D.A.’s own Science Board have all issued reports saying poor management and scientific inadequacies make the agency incapable of protecting the country against unsafe drugs, medical devices and food.

Indeed, in the years since the last China drug scandal [in 1999], the share of drugs coming from that country has soared while the F.D.A.’s inspections of overseas drug plants have dropped. There are 566 plants in China that export drugs to the United States, but the agency inspected just 13 of them last year.

The agency does not have the money to inspect many more, and the Bush administration has no plans to fix this most basic of problems. The administration’s budget calls for a 3 percent increase in allocated funds next year, not enough even to keep up with rising costs. would like the FDA to receive more funding — a lot more. We’d like it to be truly independent — separated from the cash and influence of the pharmaceutical companies they are supposed to regulate. We would like it to ban or at least signficantly limit DTC advertising, as a matter of fact.

But none of this is going happen. The horse is out of the barn. Americans have an inherent mistrust of government bureaucracy and government regulation. When regulations are in place, it is often the will of Big Pharma rather than the will of the people. That’s why the FDA officially “bans” drug reimportation from legal, licensed Canadian pharmacies, while admitting that it fails to inspect the facilities where drugs are manufactured in China for U.S. consumers. Such FDA policies wouldn’t make any sense if the agency’s customer were the American consumer; but since the FDA’s customer is effectively Big Pharma, it makes perfect sense.

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And so there’s another crisis, and the politicians huff and puff, and then it’s forgotten and nothing important happens to improve public policy or public health. It’s a shell game; distract you until Britney or Paris or Lindsay gets in trouble again, then hope you move on and do nothing.

That’s why we created and the Online Health Community. Because we want to empower you to make your own decisions about your own life, and your own health. Take the FDA as a reference point — one reference point. But also listen to your doctor, and to Web sites like Doublecheck MD and Pharmasurveyor, and to other people (such as members of our community) who have been through what you’re going through. Choose pharmacies that are properly licensed and offer affordable prices — and if you get bad service or have a complaint, write about it on our site so others will know and can learn from your experience.

That’s the Health 2.0 way. It’s about empowering yourself. If you’re depending on the FDA to take care of you, you’re making a mistake.

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs. - Search. Compare. Save.

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