Who Are The Good Guys And Bad Guys?

The often provocative Steve Forbes takes a look at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the following editorial from his magazine:

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2011/0214/opinions-steve-forbes-fact-comment-fda-may-kill-millions.html

The FDA is responsible for many things, including the safety of prescription drugs. That should make them “good guys,” right? The “bad guy” pharmaceutical companies must test their products for safety according to the directives of the FDA. These tests now take nearly 15 years to complete.

As soon as a company gets an idea for a new drug, it files a patent to prevent other companies from developing the same drug — for stealing their idea. A patent is only good for 20 years. After the patent expires, ANY company can manufacture your product, but for 20 years the product is exclusively yours. Is that new company a “good guy” or a “bad guy”? They will sell the product for less, but they didn’t come up with the life-saving product in the first place. The “bad guy” did that!

The real cost of a new medicine is not the manufacturing, but the research and development, including FDA tests. And until you survive the FDA process, you cannot sell your product to anyone — at least not in the USA. Where does your income come from for the first 15 years of product development? And where does your profit come from after 20 years, when EVERYBODY can manufacture and sell your product?

We have been bombarded with word of how evil and greedy the pharmaceutical companies are. But this piece by Forbes gives us another side of the story.

People will die prematurely of preventable or curable diseases, without these “bad guy” pharmaceutical companies. The FDA — and, indeed, no Federal or State government agency — has EVER developed a new medicine or drug. So, who provides the benefit to Humanity: the pharmaceutical company or the FDA? And does the FDA’s cumbersome process of safety testing actually cost people their lives by denying them life-saving medicines?

Are pharmaceutical companies really being greedy when they try to recover 15 years of expenses with “over-priced” medicines in the few years when they have the exclusive right to sell their product?

Who are the good guys and the bad guys?

In the water industry, we deal with regulatory agencies on a daily basis. The relationship is adversarial by its very nature. But who are the good guys and the bad guys in our industry? Are the regulators “good” because they represent the public’s interests. Or are the water purveyors “good” because they supply this vital commodity to everyone, every day?

There are many great people in the agencies that regulate water quality. I have held many positions in our industry, but I was never a regulator. It’s not the type of job that I would enjoy. However, I am thankful for the many “good guys” in the Department of Public Health here in California, and in the USEPA.

So, who are the good guys and the bad guys? The people that are dedicated to bringing safe drinking water to people are the good guys — whether they are regulators or water suppliers.

I think that’s probably true for the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies, too. Let’s hope that there are enough good guys on both sides so that these new medicines can get on the market sooner, and lives can be saved by the advances in medicine.

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