Friday, July 1, 2011

How the FDA Impedes Innovation

GMU economics professor Alex Tabarrok discusses a disturbing example of "How the FDA Impedes Innovation".

In particular, he cites the case of the FDA using unrealistically strict criteria to reject a melanoma (skin cancer) detection device. In particular, he notes:
But even if MelaFind is not perfect today nor appropriate in all circumstances it’s exactly the type of innovation that we should encourage. Devices such as MelaFind could not only improve medical care they can reduce costs and make good quality medical care more widely available in developing countries, for example, where experienced dermatologists are in short supply.

Most importantly, innovations get better over time. But if you impede the first generation the second generation may never come into existence and, as Mandel notes, no first-generation device could satisfy the FDA's conditions. It's like refusing to give the Wright Brothers a license to fly because their first airplane only flew for 59 seconds...
By stifling promising fledgling technologies in their infancy, the FDA thus deprives us of countless future improved versions as well. But because we don't know what will never be invented, we don't know what life-sustaining benefits we're missing out on.

The FDA's policies thus represent just another (deadlier) version of Bastiat's principle of "the seen vs. the unseen".