A powerful editorial in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, describing the FDA's effort to withdraw approval of Avastin, an anti-breast cancer drug. As the Journal notes, the Scarcitarian goal reaches beyond Avastin; the true goal seems to be to squelch all expensive medical R&D:
So here we have government-anointed medical patriarchs substituting their own subjective view of Avastin's risks and costs for the value that doctors and patients recognize. If Avastin is rescinded, thousands of dying women will lose more than proverbial false hope in the time they have left. They will lose a genuinely useful medicine. . . .
The Avastin mugging is really an attempt to undermine regulatory modernization like accelerated approval that offends the FDA's institutional culture of control and delay. It is also meant to discourage innovations like Avastin that the political and medical left has decided are too costly, with damaging implications for the next generation of cancer drugs.
Investigations at the frontiers of genomic science have only begun, and the learning curve for how subsets of patients respond to biologics, and how to target them, is steep. Yet the world's oncologists agree that the future of their science lies in patient-specific, biologic treatments. Cancer survival rates have improved gradually over the last several decades, thanks in part to improvements at the margin like Avastin.
After all, from the government's point of view, it's cheaper for people to die. Of course, such a ruling is not only cruel, it is also short-sighted, because healthy and longer-lived people produce more for the overall economy. And over time, drugs have a way of multiplying, and getting cheaper--that's the story of the whole industrial revolution over the last three centuries, and nothing about economies of scale will change in the industrial revolution's fourth century.