It would be nice if politicians and regulators left us alone. But they don't. They always want to do more. Recently, there have been shortages of some medicines. Cancer patients can't get drugs they need. Why not?
One reason is that a big drugmaker shut down for a year in part to meet Food and Drug Administration rules. The FDA makes it so expensive and difficult to sell drugs that there isn't an eager pack of companies rushing to the fill the gap. The free market would provide that, but government intervention, such as low Medicare reimbursement, strangles it. So people suffer.
Does the FDA say it's sorry for its part and back off? Of course not. Regulators almost never do that. In fact, the FDA wants more power.
It wants to regulate how your doctor uses his smartphone. I'm not kidding! The FDA wants the power to approve mobile medical apps that let doctors monitor patients' vital signs over their phones. As one doctor put it, "Even though I'm away from the hospital, I can still look at ... real-time wave form data just as if I were at the patient's bedside."
Sounds great. It makes doctors more efficient. But the FDA basically says, "No, you just can't put something on your phone if it's a medical device. What if it doesn't work right? We have to approve it first."
That caution makes sense to people. Our first instinct is to say, "I don't want someone getting rich off a device that might not work right. It might kill me. I want the FDA to make sure everything is safe and effective."
But lawyer Jonathan Emord says our instinct is wrong.
"It is wrong because these regulations are costly, burdensome, and they prevent essential medical apps from getting into the marketplace," Emord said.
But an app might kill me.
Emord said that although many medical apps are available, there is "not a single complaint that someone has died or been seriously injured by a single one."
But what's the harm in running apps past the regulators?
"There is so much corruption at the Food and Drug Administration ... so much anticompetitive bias."
The FDA takes bribes?
"Almost," Emord explained. "If you feather the right nest, you will do well for yourself after you leave. This is well known."
This is known as "regulatory capture." A regulator makes it tough for some company's competitor and then gets a job with the first company when he leaves his government job.
There's a big cost to the public when companies submit applications and then wait years for FDA approval.