FDA's Pharma-First Focus Driving Medical Device Tech Away From The US

from the total-failure dept

Five years ago, we wrote about Andy Kessler's excellent book, The End of Medicine, a book I still think about frequently. Kessler's book explores why medical innovation hasn't followed the same innovation curve as every other technology space, where the technology gets better while the prices get cheaper. There are many reasons described in the book, but one key hurdle? The FDA. And it's not just the FDA's process, but the entire concept of the FDA, which is set up to approve or disapprove drugs. That's it. It's not designed to help review what will make people healthy. And for that reason, it pretty much ignores medical devices and technology. This was a big problem described in the book, and a few FDA folks in the book suggested the FDA was working on solving that issue. But it's been five years, and new reports suggest nothing much has changed.

Reason has an article about how the FDA is driving medical device innovation to Europe and elsewhere because it's still not set up to even think about medical devices. The article focuses on the new X-Prize attempt to create a "tricorder." It's a great contest, but then the article points to the news that the FDA won't certify such things:
The regulatory environment could present problems for any such device. "The Food and Drug Administration has stated that it will not certify tech that makes a diagnosis directly," said Ross Mitchell, the author of a study published last week that shows that strokes can be diagnosed with the aid of a smart-phone application with the same degree of accuracy as with a hospital computer.

Bartholomew says that because of FDA restrictions, the contest could lead to innovations that might only be used outside the United States.
Indeed, the report points to many other examples of useful new technologies showing up elsewhere, but not in the US due to the FDA. So why is the FDA so bad at actually helping people get healthy? Take a guess. It seems like regulatory capture has taken hold of the FDA in a big bad way. Just recently, we discussed how the FDA has set up a system to limit competition in the medical field to just a few giant pharma companies, and has been actively banning cheaper drug competitors, in order to help big pharma companies jack up the prices on old medicines.

While the FDA is supposed to be keeping us healthy, it looks like its general focus is on keeping the profits of a few pharma firms healthy instead.

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    Overcast (profile), 8 Jun 2011 @ 6:28am

    And being so completely out of the loop would also explain why you think anyone is calling for the dismantling of the FDA.

    I wouldn't say a total dismantling would be good. We need an agency that protects the people from bad pharma.

    But as it stands - we have no agency that does that now. Only one who takes lots of kickbacks from pharma - at least, that's the way it seems. It's amazing some of this garbage gets approved, but I guess it keeps trial lawyers busy.

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