The FDA’s Power Grab

At a campground in California, large warning signs on the water spigots read: “Boil water for five minutes before consuming it.” The message was not placed there because of a bacterial infection in the water system or because someone had died drinking from the spigots. Rather, the water had not yet been tested for that year, and though there had never been problems with the water before, camp officials erred on the side of caution and posted the warning sign.

It’s a similar story with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the media’s coverage of it. The FDA, using the media as its voice, provides us with alarmist and unhelpful messages about medicines all the time. These messages reflect a subtle type of bias—that any drug not specifically evaluated by the FDA must be unsafe. And the awful result is that there are fewer safe drugs on the market and more-expensive drugs overall.

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