October 10th, 2011
Posted by Caroline Popper, M.D., M.P.H.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) likes to trot out the statistic that claims it regulates about $100 billion in biomedical R&D each year: investments made by industry (and government) to create new innovations to treat today’s health challenges. But the agency has been hesitant to address another facet of investments: that they should be predictable. As the late, great economist Paul Samuelson said, “Investments should be like watching paint dry. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.”
Anybody who’s watched the stock market the last few years knows we would rather live without this kind of excitement. However, the latest documents issued by the FDA – from Research Use Only/Investigational Use Only (RUO/IUO) guidance to LDT to the latest strategy document on boosting innovation (read coverage from Xconomy) – are inconsistent enough to make drug development resemble a Roulette wheel, rather than a science-based, multi-year, multibillion-dollar strategy to develop therapeutics and diagnostics. Even venture capitalists, not known for their risk-averseness, have gone to Congress to demand more predictable responses from the FDA.
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