Do we need the FDA?

posted at 3:20 pm on February 25, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

John Stossel got a lot of angry mail over his recent contention that the Food and Drug Administration amounted to an unnecessary and burdensome exercise of federal authority.  Stossel argues that the FDA (and also the DEA) should interfere less with our liberties and let consumers protect themselves.   Tonight, he’ll address the question on his Fox show, but in the meantime he responds to his critics on his blog, including this post from Frances Martel at Mediaite, prompted by Stossel’s appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show:

Stossel argued that private consumer reports would be enough to keep the companies on their toes, but a private system would be based on trial and error and on trusting the drug companies, with no authority to coerce them into honesty. Stossel’s “private” version of the FDA would look something like the current news media, with consumers picking and choosing who they trust based on personal biases. This works great in a field where the product of consumption is the bias itself, but when the product of consumption can potentially kill the consumer, the stakes change and an impartial authority should take control. This segment was likely a victory for O’Reilly.

Stossel says he’s not asking for blind trust:

They miss the point. A “private system” is not simply based on “trusting drug companies.” Competition leads both drug companies and private regulators to be trustworthy. If they are not trustworthy, they die. Fear of losing business and fear of lawsuits (some lawsuits are useful) “coerce them into honesty.” American food makers rarely poison us today not because of government regulation, which is largely ineffectual, but because they know that if they poison their customers, they’ll go out of business.

My bigger point is that allowing the FDA to hold a total monopoly on drug testing and allowing the DEA to limit pain medication deprives free people of the right to medicate themselves. If I am dying, how dare the FDA tell me I may not take an experimental medication! If I am in terrible pain, how dare the DEA limit the pain reliever that I take. It’s my body. Leave me alone.

There is a private-sector middle ground between government control and blind trust. In many industries, that is provided by insurers to make sure that products and services are genuine, safe, and tested. The most well known of these, Underwriters Laboratories, performs the FDA function in the private sector on a wide range of products and services. Hardly any consumer electronics gets sold today without the UL label on it. The certification process costs manufacturers and other providers a pretty penny — and I can tell you this from personal experience.

In my former industry, burglary/fire alarm services, businesses and residences can get insurance-premium breaks when they install alarm systems and have them monitored by UL-certified providers. UL requires providers to meet a lengthy series of requirements on manufacturing, installation, and service, and the providers pay thousands of dollars every year to retain their certification. Factory Mutual provides a parallel certification, mainly in fire systems, which competes with UL. Each monitoring facility gets an annual inspection to ensure compliance, and UL follows up on complaints from consumers to determine whether certification should be suspended. It’s a powerful compliance incentive, and it comes completely separate from any government intervention.

Could that same process be used for pharmaceuticals? It’s difficult to see why it couldn’t — and I’d bet UL itself would jump into that space quickly, especially since insurers already pay for much of the prescription medication on the market. They would have more incentive to expedite research and hold pharmaceuticals accountable for their actions, since the underwriters themselves would be on the hook for failures. Other associations would form to compete, and consumers (and insurers) would be able to make the decision on which organization to trust most. Meanwhile, the government could get out of a process in which it clearly has no authority to intrude, and for which it presents a nearly-unaccountable stumbling block for quick turnaround on new treatments.

We can argue whether that would be the best approach, but let’s not kid ourselves that government control is the only approach for consumer safety.

Update: I’m told that Stossel has also used UL on occasion to exemplify the potential for private-sector compliance, so I’ve edited out the reference that Stossel missed that point in his blog post.

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Comment pages: 1 2

There are plenty of less useful, more burdensome agenies that need removal from the government teat before the FDA is approached.

Oversight by a group less-likely to be bribed (by such sectors where billions are involved, daily) to make sure of basic rules being followed for safety, accuracy, purity, efficacy, etc., is vital, as the snake oil-tainted history of pharmaceuticals shows.

History is the best teacher. Too bad we can’t send certain people back to an era without the system that’s shielded them from quackery for their entire lives.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 4:34 PM

No argument about over intrusion. On the topic of opiates being unregulated I am inclined toward the status quo. I just want the DEA to leave doctors alone.

Bill C on February 25, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Maybe we should go to a Department of Homeland Security model. Drugs could be sold with green-yellow-orange-red labels accordint to their possible side effects, and Janet Napolitano could give everyone a physical exam on the way out of the pharmacy.

percysunshine on February 25, 2010 at 3:26 PM

You’re excited for her to give you the prostate exam aren’t you?

Tim Burton on February 25, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Of course, I can see how it’s hard to be a smart consumer of beef; usually you have some processed strips that could have come from anywhere.

Chris_Balsz on February 25, 2010 at 4:37 PM

That’s because the companies are fighting tooth and nail to prevent having to label where product comes from. Far better to simply serve it to the proles with a smile and say ‘trust us’.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:42 PM

These agencies are obsessed with extending their power, while neglecting the core mission. If your doctor knows generic versions of a given medicine are unstable, then many others know it too. The mass-marketing of powerful pharmaceuticals is something I changed my opinion about. If peddling anti-psychotics for depression isn’t going too far, I don’t know what is.

Don’t know how some imported junk elecronics ever got UL or FCC part 15 approval.

Looks like the whole system is breaking down from its own contradictions, complexity, and corruption. Moral relativism gave us bad players in all factions. I’m not sure the libertarian approach is the best answer right now.

Downsize government but don’t eliminate its ability to punish bad behavior.

Feedie on February 25, 2010 at 4:44 PM

You just touched on it with UL and Factory Mutual. The real third party group is the National Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. This is a consensus code with the utilities (customers), manufacturers (boiler and pressure vessel manufactureres) and insurance companies who inspect to the Code using Authorized Inspectors and Engineers. The Insurance companies (such as Royal Globe, Lloyds, Hartford, etc.) simply won’t insure vessels and piping that doesn’t meet code. Almost every state has laws that require the passing of the code for installation.

This system was originally imposed by Ohio (I think) to stop the blowing up of railroad engines, apartment boilers , etc., and grew to be internationally accepted. Essentially, if the insurance companies were going to warrant something as deadly as high pressure steam operation, they wanted to assure themselves that it was properly made. The only time the government gets involved is to pass the laws securing the requirement and to ajudicate (court) the results when failures occur.

This system could be duplicated for the pharma products.

By the way, the Code is maintained by the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and is updated quarterly. Maybe we should allow engineers to set up a system, they know how to do it.

Old Country Boy on February 25, 2010 at 4:45 PM

We’re never old enough to make our own decisions. That’s why we need a 95 or so year old policeman of our bodies like McCain, to tell us what to do and not to do.

The Dean on February 25, 2010 at 4:47 PM

the T-34 and the AK-47 aren’t medications. And for the record, I prefer the M-16A2.

mizflame98 on February 25, 2010 at 4:40 PM

Very true, I am unaware of any medical breakthroughs from the former Soviet Union but they could be innovative. I’m kinda partial to the M1 or the M14 but then I’m old :-)

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 4:49 PM

FDA function is needed – private or government. Otherwise, we’ll end up with a bunch of snake oil salesman.

blink on February 25, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Stossel’s whole point is that the FDA function can be done better and more efficiently by the private sector.

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 4:53 PM

m as conservative as they come, but there has to be some regulation for drugs in the market. Individuals can’t do that. Now, i don’t care what govt does it, it can be state or federal, but there has to be absolutely some regulation.

I actually think the FDA is working pretty well for a federal agency. They all usually suck, but the FDA has done some remarkable things, including the recall of certain drugs which have exhibited harmful side effects. I know we think too much govt is bad, but that doesn’t mean that there should be no regulation what so ever. This place would be like the wild west, and that won’t be good for anybody.

Chudi on February 25, 2010 at 3:28 PM

The best regulator is the free market. What has government done better?

nazo311 on February 25, 2010 at 4:56 PM

By the way, the Code is maintained by the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and is updated quarterly. Maybe we should allow engineers to set up a system, they know how to do it.

Old Country Boy on February 25, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Interesting idea but let’s keep engineers away from pharmaceuticals. Perhaps we could let the insurance companies underwrite the drug companies and they could decide who was going to write the code and determine the test requirements. That way if a drug that they released turned out to be flawed the insurance companies would bear the financial burden. With a little thought this would probably work, that’s why the government will never let it happen.

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Old Country Boy on February 25, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Interesting stuff. Thanks. “Market solutions” sound more plausible when spoken with examples.

Feedie on February 25, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Stossel’s whole point is that the FDA function can be done better and more efficiently by the private sector.

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 4:53 PM

It might, but would the private sector-based FDA have the authority to yank harmful product or put a hold on attempts at selling ‘remedies’ that were just modern snake-oil?

Now maybe we could knock it down to the state level…or at the very least put some public accountability on the FDA’s staff.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:57 PM

What? A private underwriter for all of our food and drugs?

How would the insurer be held accountable? Multiple insurance companies?

Then how will the customer trust one over the other?

ckoeber on February 25, 2010 at 4:02 PM

You have no idea how underwriting works, do you.

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 4:58 PM

“Market solutions” sound more plausible when spoken with examples.

Feedie on February 25, 2010 at 4:57 PM

^ Take note of this, conservatives.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Taking the global warming out of this question, I think we still need the EPA. What would stop companies from dumping their crap in lakes and the ocean?

ckoeber on February 25, 2010 at 4:06 PM

The people who live nearby suing the company out of existence. Which is what happened, until govt decided that citizens no longer had standing to sue over pollution.

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Very true, I am unaware of any medical breakthroughs from the former Soviet Union but they could be innovative. I’m kinda partial to the M1 or the M14 but then I’m old :-)

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 4:49 PM

Even with unlimited supply of cash, they cut corners and took a lot of needless risks when it came to the Space race. We still beat them.
I know that a lot of people try to hold NASA and our space race achievements as proof that the government can do great things. They’re only partially right. The innovation came from Capitalism. The government contracted with private companies to build the Apollo and Mercury rockets. The irony is private industry could have made those rockets for less than what the government was paying them.

mizflame98 on February 25, 2010 at 5:01 PM

If the UL can do it better – then even better! But something other than the pure free market needs to set standards.

JeffWeimer on February 25, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Funny, there are hundreds of private agencies for setting standards? Ever heard of ANSI?

YEt according to you, only govt is capable of setting standards.

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:01 PM

I do think as a society it is proper that we decide how far freedom goes without disturbing order.

Bill C on February 25, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Are you arguing that the public good, as defined by the majority, takes precedence over individual freedom?

How far does this license extend?

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:04 PM

I assume you’re comfortable drinking nonpasteurized milk from an unknown source, particularly from herds which haven’t undergone mandatory TB-Brucellosis testing and heifer vaccination?

a capella on February 25, 2010 at 4:25 PM

You seem to be assuming that unless govt does these tests, they won’t be done.
Why indeed would anyone drink milk that hadn’t been certified? But why do you believe that only govt is capable of giving such certification?

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:06 PM

All drivers are expected to obey the rules of the road even though some might find those rules onerous.

Bill C on February 25, 2010 at 4:28 PM

The govt owns the roads. Does the govt own your body?

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Does the govt own your body?

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:08 PM

You can’t use your body to do certain things…like murder someone…

But can we not turn this thread into another shouting match between the hyper-freedomists and the center-right? Please?

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Yes, and their sloppiness and risks cost dearly. I was 11 years old when Sputnik went into orbit. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon the Navy was moving me from Long Beach to Vallejo. The space race and the cold war dominated most of my younger years.

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 5:15 PM

I’m with Stossel. The FDA has way too much power, and many convincingly argue that it is protecting the interests of the big pharmaceutical companies rather than (or in addition to) the interests of the people.

The government is now going after supplements, which we have taken all these years as we see fit. It’s time to stop this power grab and hugely reduce the authority of the FDA.

FDA-approved drugs kill and injure many thousand people each year when used as recommended, so FDA approval is no guarantee of safety. FDA delays in approving drugs have cost people their lives. Small pharmaceutical companies can’t compete in the current environment; the cost of FDA approval is prohibitive.

I think there’s a place for the FDA. It can give its opinion, saying, “This drug has met our standards,” or “We haven’t evaluated this drug yet. Take at your own risk,” or “We’re pretty sure this drug will kill you.”

If we want to take a drug or undergo a treatment that has not met FDA standards, that should be our choice. The government can advise us, and most people would probably choose to heed the government’s advice. But in a free country, we should be able to make our own health care decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.

Cara C on February 25, 2010 at 5:20 PM

Different agency but, same concept…
As USA Today reports, 18 months ago the DOT had one employee who made more than $170,000 per year. Today, the DOT pays 1,690 employees over $170k.

Jeff2161 on February 25, 2010 at 5:25 PM

When the FDA can push the use of cancer causing aspartame for decades while suppressing alternatives like stevia because big aspartame lobby heavily…many aspects of the FDA as a whole need to be reconsidered. They render themselves not so much useless as dangerous and anti-consumer in many cases.

selias on February 25, 2010 at 5:28 PM

I agree with Stossel because of two points.

#1 Bad drugs still get through the FDA because it is a corrupt government bureaucracy. Phen Phen and countless other damaging drugs made it through.

#2 The FDA has killed millions by holding up life saving drugs for decades, many more than would have been injured or killed if all those drugs went straight on to the market after review from a private agency.

conservnut on February 25, 2010 at 5:29 PM

O’Reilly would persist the mandated trust in big government.
Ed Morrissey hearts big government, no surprise.

What Ed, O’Reilly and McCain would do is coerce public conformity with what Big Brother orders, including mandated prescriptions for over the counter items including vitamins and nutritional supplements like Vitamin C or Glucosamine.

Stossel would rather trust competitive private enterprise.

Pharmacists are available where drugs are sold to answer customer questions. Also, Americans have the opportunity to seek medical advice for prescriptions.

I would rather have the studies, literature and choice myself.

Like unions, many federal agencies have over-stayed their original usefulness. There are also those federal agencies like the Dept. of Education and the DHS that are unconstitutional. Paying grotesquely large taxes to subsidize bureaucracies that provide redundancy at best and go to the length of prohibiting educated freedom of choice is not good policy. Especially when our government is bankrupt and borrowing obscene trillions of dollars from China that we can never logistically repay, CUT SPENDING AND CUT TAXES!

It isn’t as if eliminating agencies would remove laws from the books that already exist to support legal ramifications should a company advertise false promotions or hide studies regarding possible side effects of their commercial product.

maverick muse on February 25, 2010 at 5:37 PM

I agree with the UL concept except for 1 caveat. The government may need to make sure that these private companies are not corrupt (i.e. taking bribes, etc).

The principle can be applied to other industries such as public education in the primary and high schools. As long as the government sets some base guidelines for requirements, the private educators can educate the children. If the government must collect taxes for education, it’d be better for it to contract out to private educators (ala charter schools).

md on February 25, 2010 at 5:50 PM

Rick Perry supports O’Reilly:

Trust Big Brother’s Nanny Nurse Statism.

There was no STD epidemic, and no threat of one, either. Nonetheless, Governor of Texas Rick Perry issued an executive order that disregarded his constituents’ civil rights. As chief law enforcement authority, he mandated that EVERYONE–no exceptions for educated choice, religion, allergies, or known side effects including paralysis, strokes and death–get a STD vaccine from Merck that provided Perry PAC a financial kickback. And Perry promised in debate to do it again, though the people already refused to support his executive order. He called this abuse of power ‘PROLIFE’ in self defense.

Conserve the Constitution.

maverick muse on February 25, 2010 at 5:52 PM

You seem to be assuming that unless govt does these tests, they won’t be done.
Why indeed would anyone drink milk that hadn’t been certified? But why do you believe that only govt is capable of giving such certification?

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:06 PM

I am very sure if the government didn’t force compliance it wouldn’t be done in many cases. How does a private agency keep a farmer from selling nonpasteurized, pathogen contaminated milk? It all gets mixed together. Why even test/certify if pure market forces are the answer? Do you want the private agency to also have enforcement power with all the potential for corruption that entails?

a capella on February 25, 2010 at 5:58 PM

The certification process costs manufacturers and other providers a pretty penny

So you can pretty much kiss new small entrepreneurial companies from coming up with new products.

Underwriters Laboratories, performs the FDA function in the private sector on a wide range of products and services.

No, it doesn’t. UL does not approve products for consumption or use, it only tests them and states whether they meet their criteria.
In the instance of a drug, they would test to make sure the product is “pure”, and not tainted. That the suppliers and manufacturing meets standards, but not if it is safe for long term consumption, or if it reacts to other drugs.
Often the standards are set by the government, then it is up to the companies to comply, so they hire UL to pass the certification demanded by the government.

right2bright on February 25, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Ok here’s the problem with Stossel’s argument. People no longer take responsibility for anything. So let’s say there was no FDA and a consumer took a drug and had bad effects- the right thing would be to blame him/herself, but they will look for someone else to blame. They’ll blame the doctor, the distributor, the company and the scientists who helped synthesize it. It’s just how people are. Heck they do that now with an FDA.

Can it be streamlined, more efficient and cheaper? Well yeah, especially with their flipping testing fees. But the FDA does serve a purpose and that is to set a standard when it comes to drugs, food, vaccines, etc.

However, the DEA… well don’t get me started. It’s not that I have a problem with law enforcement, but the DEA is annoying as heck. I see them as less of a law enforcement agency and more of a political agency. The War on Drugs is a miserable failure because you can’t stop people from doing drugs. It isn’t going to happen. I just think the DEA is pointless and a waste of money. There. That’s my rant.

xax on February 25, 2010 at 6:02 PM

That’s because the companies are fighting tooth and nail to prevent having to label where product comes from. Far better to simply serve it to the proles with a smile and say ‘trust us’.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Who’d read the label? The bulk merchandiser of beef sides? The food processing company that shreds the beef? The burrito maker? The vending machine company? Your corporate office? You in the lunchroom? At every step in between is a corporate entity that, in between inspections, can be bought out, traded, or fitted with a new management team. YOU will never know, even if the names stay the same. And who requires them to label, anyhow?

Chris_Balsz on February 25, 2010 at 6:05 PM

I am very sure if the government didn’t force compliance it wouldn’t be done in many cases. How does a private agency keep a farmer from selling nonpasteurized, pathogen contaminated milk?

a capella on February 25, 2010 at 5:58 PM

It’s been a few years but when I was doing it the farmer didn’t pasteurize the milk. We just put it in dairy cans and loaded it onto the trucks. That said not all dairy products are required to be pasteurized, even if shipped across state lines.

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 6:09 PM

I agree with the UL concept except for 1 caveat. The government may need to make sure that these private companies are not corrupt (i.e. taking bribes, etc).

The principle can be applied to other industries such as public education in the primary and high schools. As long as the government sets some base guidelines for requirements, the private educators can educate the children. If the government must collect taxes for education, it’d be better for it to contract out to private educators (ala charter schools).

md on February 25, 2010 at 5:50 PM

“Freely distribute information” is the Constitutional mandate regarding schools that are funded by LOCAL TAXES, not federal. “Independent” school districts should function accordingly to competitively prepare students to be their best.

To award a degree, a specific curriculum must be studied. In that, you can transfer general credits between institutions of learning. Standards were set long before the Dept. of Education was established and destroyed the meaning of “standards” revised to imply nothing special, “standardized” aka the previously substandard “standard”.

Formal education does NOT require any government official or bureaucracy to get involved in the administrative or classroom process of “freely distributing information”. Private institutions do not require a federal bureaucrat to order the educational process.

American public education standards were higher before the Dept. of Education began the federal intrusion resulting in revisionism and perverted curriculum that mandates explicit sexual activities and stories negating traditional values beginning with Fed-funded pre-school programs, with the Kindergarten children throughout their intermediate and higher education mandated curriculum. Reagan’s introduction of the convoluted Dept. of Education with Bill Bennett to solve problems has instead subsequently eliminated traditional curriculum, substituting social studies permeating all current coursework, increased rates of high school drop-outs and illiterate high school graduates.

maverick muse on February 25, 2010 at 6:12 PM

Why indeed would anyone drink milk that hadn’t been certified? But why do you believe that only govt is capable of giving such certification?

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:06 PM

That has happened many times.
Alta-Dena dairies is an example a few years ago. Many people have become ill drinking milk that did not meet gov. standards…most notably in the health foods area and “raw” milk.
Standards of Identity were devised by various industries, and put to law by the government for consistent standards.
That’s way there is a difference between ketchup and ketchup sauce, or honey and honey sauce, ice cream and ice milk, etc.
So you are guaranteed of a certain standard and the name of that product is accurate to the Standards of Identity to that specific genre.
Labeling is accurate to ingredients…if there is MSG, then it has to be noted,for instance…there is an overall benefit to all of society to be organized and accurate in areas of health.
Low fat milk has a specific fat content, that is important to be accurate. Better to be pro-active, then re-active.
Trust me, in food you would be ripped off and never know it.
I could cut honey, make a sauce, and you would never know it, but you would be paying the price for the honey and get ripped off. Same with ketchup, it has to have a certain amount of tomato solids, that is what you are paying for, mayo and eggs, mustard, milk, ice cream, butter, tomato paste, fructose, etc.
So complex is food, that the average person would have no idea what they would be buying and consuming.
How about baby food, until the gov stepped in, the were loaded with sugar, but didn’t have to report it…now they do and the baby food is infinitely healthier then 30 years ago.

right2bright on February 25, 2010 at 6:16 PM

It’s been a few years but when I was doing it the farmer didn’t pasteurize the milk. We just put it in dairy cans and loaded it onto the trucks. That said not all dairy products are required to be pasteurized, even if shipped across state lines.

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 6:09 PM

There are less stringent requirements for grade B which is used mostly for cheese. Grade A has pretty strict requirements. I’m a veterinarian and have had my share of dealing with regulatory red tape, but if you go back and look at the epidemiology of food bourne illness in this country, you see some very sharp correlations between a drop in those illnesses after government mandatory programs were established. There is also a significant uptick in profit to the food animal industry when many of these endemic diseases are eradicated in herds and flocks, which eventually ends up as cheaper food for all of us. I’m not a fan of big government, but APHIS, the DEA, the CDC, etc. do a lot of good work that goes unnoticed by the general public. I would hate to have the state diagnostic labs all trying to make the official call on certain reportable diseases. Too many cooks.

a capella on February 25, 2010 at 6:29 PM

They miss the point. A “private system” is not simply based on “trusting drug companies.” Competition leads both drug companies and private regulators to be trustworthy. If they are not trustworthy, they die. Fear of losing business and fear of lawsuits (some lawsuits are useful) “coerce them into honesty.” American food makers rarely poison us today not because of government regulation, which is largely ineffectual, but because they know that if they poison their customers, they’ll go out of business.

Good lord this kind of cr** gets old.

“Markets always work perfectly!!! There are never any market failures, ever! In practice, a massive economy containing millions of consumers who have varying levels of access to the information required for them to make rational choices works flawlessly! Why? Because my freshman econ teacher said so!”

crr6 on February 25, 2010 at 6:33 PM

If you want an example of a non-Federal group doing a good job with regulations, try the PA Dept. of Agriculture. They have damned strict standards and they are recognized internationally for those standards… to the point where the PA Dept. of Agriculture has overseas offices for inspection and compliance. It is because of that standard that industrial producers want that stamp of approval… and to sell in PA, of course, but you tend to ignore that label once you see it so often on so many products.

Recognized industry standards of safety and excellence can come from more than just the Federal government. Adhering to standards, demonstrating compliance and quality of product is something that comes from more than just the federal government, and we should recognize that there are other sources for such standards. Underwriters hate like hell to make payouts and have a major incentive to make sure that what they underwrite is actually safe and effective… look at the standards labels on the back of your PC monitor and see the long list of standards that it adheres to for things like electrical safety, energy use and emmissive radiation, plus lead content. Your assurance of safety is the big pockets of those underwriters not wanting to every have to pay out because of defective products or faulty testing procedures.

The FDA can approve a medication and then take two or more YEARS to approve the damned label for it… that is not giving me assurance that they actually want tested medications out to people who need them, but have a massive bureaucracy that stalls out on the back end because the front end of testing might not be so hot, so letting clinical trials run a bit longer waiting for a label is their way to try and ‘fix’ a process that needs addressing on the front end. But then I’ve had the frustration of waiting for a minor variant of a known medication get caught in label limbo and my health go downhill while the FDA twiddled its thumbs on something it had approved. Sorry, but that does not give me great confidence in them… fewer bureaucrats and more rigor on examining clinical trials, please.

ajacksonian on February 25, 2010 at 6:42 PM

a capella on February 25, 2010 at 6:29 PM

I’m not a fan of big government but I acknowledge that a lot of good has come out of these agencies. Therein lies the problem maintaining the good qualities while limiting their intrusion into our lives. There is no doubt that the regulations that have been imposed on the food industry have raised the quality of our food supply immeasurably.

Oldnuke on February 25, 2010 at 6:55 PM

Not to debate the merits of what was said by Stossel, but I must be growing cynical lately because I get the impression that O’Reilly is becoming less and less a tiger and more of a pussycat. He appears to have this streak in him that makes him look like a advocate of government. I thought that about his comments about the government taking an individuals guns when a state of emergency was declared. Could he be transforming into hope and change? Or is he just being a journalist and try to see it from both sides?

WileECoyote1952 on February 25, 2010 at 6:58 PM

The FDA really doesn’t do that much. For example, a popular baby shampoo is said to have both formaldehyde and does have PEG 150 (a possible carcinogen) in it. We slather our newborns in it because we expect that since the FDA approved it it’s fine. Not true. In all cases, buyer beware, that includes things cleared by a government agency.

NTWR on February 25, 2010 at 7:19 PM

If I am dying, how dare the FDA tell me I may not take an experimental medication! If I am in terrible pain, how dare the DEA limit the pain reliever that I take. It’s my body. Leave me alone.

If he goes blind from a bad reaction, is he going to find a kind barkeep who’ll let him earn a hot meal and a cot by mopping floors on his hands and knees until he passes? Or will he stoop to taking that evil big gubmint SDI?

Chris_Balsz on February 25, 2010 at 7:31 PM

Ummmm UL doesn’t test everything with it’s label on it.

Also the UL can’t force investigations.

MirCat on February 25, 2010 at 7:47 PM

For those who don’t know about the Code, it is enforced by the Authorized Inspectors who are employees of the insurance comapanies – not Alstate, BCBS, etc. but the real international underwriters. This solution could work for even small businesses. Like companies with Code stamps, some are very small like the east overshoe welding company and some are large like Bechtel, Stone and Webster, etc. With something like the Code existing (albeit for pharma) one size fits all.

One more thing – a few have talked about the government not owing their bodies. Er, tell that to my drill instructor in the Army. He didn’t own my soul, but he sure as hell owned my body! And he was the government.

Old Country Boy on February 25, 2010 at 8:32 PM

History is the best teacher. Too bad we can’t send certain people back to an era without the system that’s shielded them from quackery for their entire lives.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:41 PM

+1

BTW, the “kill the FDA” is a talking point for the Paultards. Sadly, Stossel has become one of them.

funky chicken on February 25, 2010 at 8:45 PM

If we want to take a drug or undergo a treatment that has not met FDA standards, that should be our choice. The government can advise us, and most people would probably choose to heed the government’s advice. But in a free country, we should be able to make our own health care decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.

Cara C on February 25, 2010 at 5:20 PM

You are free to travel to Tijuana to partake in pretty much any type of quackery that you like. It’s the real wild, wild west of medicine down there.

Their medicine is about as trustworthy as their water, IMHO, but hey, you are perfectly free to go for it.

funky chicken on February 25, 2010 at 8:51 PM

I have been regulated out of two businesses in the past two years and I am outraged.

.
I had an eBay consignment shop and the state of Pennsylvania started suing us. Claiming we needed to be bonded and all of our employees had to be schooled and licensed.
.
Luckily we were venturing into importing Japanese Mini Trucks. The absolutely best things for farmers and off road. 50 mpg, nothing compares.
.
The Feds came along and said the trucks needed to be certified. $500,000 bond for my company and each model had to be taken apart and sent to laboratories and testing facility, a $100,000 expense per model. I am so F*cked I owe someone $80,000 with no way of paying my friend back.
.
Apparently all manufactures have to comply with the Certification program. Any ‘at home’ or ‘small manufacture’ are out of business. You can’t even have a yard sale without fearing the Fed.
.
The joke is that this came about from lead in toys made in China sold by Mattel, and Mattel got to write the bill that created this certifications program. Mr. Stossel aired a program about this.
.
However, I believe you will not be able to recognized America in two years. You can not stop Americans. We are in the garage circumventing every law you throw at us. And we will put and end to this B.S. We will invent our way out of this.
.
Personally My dreams are to put GM out of business.
.
Check out the invention Im working on. I have it built and currently in the testing phase.
http://www.allvirtual.com/auto/teaser

.
I am an AMERICAN hear me Roar!

serendip2b on February 25, 2010 at 9:05 PM

serendip2b on February 25, 2010 at 9:05 PM

I am sorry to read this awful story. Sounds almost like a targeted political shake-down.

Any ‘at home’ or ’small manufacture’ are out of business. You can’t even have a yard sale without fearing the Fed.

Corporate fascism is the merger of Big Government and large corporate interests. The mega-businesses don’t even try to disguise their lobbyist, money-fueled jihad against small business.

The leftists are evil and hopeless, but small-business conservatives and casual liberals may find common ground by separating the idea of capitalism from corporate giantism. It could be the start of a powerful new alliance.

I think there are many average people who label themselves liberal and call for wrong solutions because so much bad behavior is justified as “the free market.” Hannity showed clips of Generation Zero and ideas in this vein appear to be coming to the surface.

Feedie on February 25, 2010 at 9:40 PM

I say we get it over with and election John Stossel as God.

He’ll fix everything.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 25, 2010 at 10:28 PM

Nobody wanted to explain why the FDA ignored the tainted peanuts?

The Dean on February 25, 2010 at 11:36 PM

What exactly is wrong with that. I think the FDA should regulate these things to make sure people are not killing themselves. You would be surprised the number of people we have seen in the hospital who have liver damage and kidney damage because of taking these pills. It’s absolutely crazy, and that is cause nobody warned them about it.

There should be some oversight on these drugs, cus that’s what they are.

Chudi on February 25, 2010 at 3:31 PM

Could you please be specific, what vitamins and what problems?

I’m currently controlling my atrial fibrillation with a combination of supplements — magnesium, potassium and taurine. I didn’t say cure but control (although some have cured) which has been a godsend for me.

A-fib is generally progressive, going from once or twice a year to daily. I went from once or twice a month to every two days. After I started taking the three supplements, I went back to 7-10 days which gave me my life back to certain extent.

The FDA actually screwed me with their regulations. Because if I would have known that the supplements taken together would have helped, I believe I could have controlled the a-fib to just few times a year. But of course, the FDA doesn’t allow companies to make such claims.

I love my supplements. They are cheap and natural. And I don’t want the feds to “help” us by regulating them like the Euro’s which means low dosage and high prices.

Oh, John McCain, why do you have to be so John McCainish.

Rahmulus on February 26, 2010 at 12:42 AM

I’ve been inveighing against the Federal Death Administration for decades.

They COULD be allowed to be ONLY an advisory body as a means of continued existence. A small, trim, FDA could vet research, report on it, and advise. BUT, it should not have ANY regulatory powers. If they decide a drug is not effective then they publish this on their web site. If I decide to take the drug anyway, because it has worked for me for a decade or so, that’s my informed lookout.

As they stand today the FDA is a collection of power crazed little Chavezes prohibiting drugs on whim rather than substance and permitting under-tested drugs equally on a whim. Remove the regulatory authority and you remove the petty dictators’ power.

It’s another way to shrink government’s intrusion in our day to day lives.

{^_^}

herself on February 26, 2010 at 3:21 AM

O’Reilly is such a clueless putz! He’s all over the place.
Megan Kelly could take his place and do a much better job.

kyslugbug on February 26, 2010 at 8:05 AM

That’s because the companies are fighting tooth and nail to prevent having to label where product comes from. Far better to simply serve it to the proles with a smile and say ‘trust us’.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:42 PM

In Dark-Star’s world, consumers are helpless and stupid.
If the majority of consumers cared about this, they would refuse to buy products that weren’t so labeled.

What most statists have trouble with, is the idea that just because they want something, doesn’t mean everyone else does.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:23 AM

You can’t use your body to do certain things…like murder someone…

But can we not turn this thread into another shouting match between the hyper-freedomists and the center-right? Please?

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 5:15 PM

I can’t use my hammer to kill someone either, that doesn’t give the govt the right to tell me whether I should build a shed or table with it.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:24 AM

The best regulator is the free market. What has government done better?

nazo311 on February 25, 2010 at 4:56 PM

The problem is that left to itself, the free market rarely produces the results that the statists want.

In their minds, this proves that the free market is broken and more govt control is the only solution.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:27 AM

It might, but would the private sector-based FDA have the authority to yank harmful product or put a hold on attempts at selling ‘remedies’ that were just modern snake-oil?

Now maybe we could knock it down to the state level…or at the very least put some public accountability on the FDA’s staff.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:57 PM

I love the way statists assume that control over others is the only possible solution.

If you want to buy something that is not certified, that is your right. If a company wants to be certified, it has to meet the standards set forth by the underwriters.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:29 AM

^ Take note of this, conservatives.

Dark-Star on February 25, 2010 at 4:59 PM

We’ve been giving examples all along.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:31 AM

#1 Bad drugs still get through the FDA because it is a corrupt government bureaucracy. Phen Phen and countless other damaging drugs made it through.

conservnut on February 25, 2010 at 5:29 PM

Phen Phen was not a drug. It was a combination of two other drugs. Taken individually, each drug was perfectly safe. It was only when taken together that a problem arose.

The FDA never approved the combination, and neither did either of the manufacturers.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:34 AM

Like unions, many federal agencies have over-stayed their original usefulness.

maverick muse on February 25, 2010 at 5:37 PM

In both cases, the alleged original usefullness is due mostly to self serving myth and has very little basis in reality.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:35 AM

I am very sure if the government didn’t force compliance it wouldn’t be done in many cases. How does a private agency keep a farmer from selling nonpasteurized, pathogen contaminated milk? It all gets mixed together. Why even test/certify if pure market forces are the answer? Do you want the private agency to also have enforcement power with all the potential for corruption that entails?

a capella on February 25, 2010 at 5:58 PM

A private agency doesn’t need to prevent a company from selling such a product.

The private individual is free to buy, or not buy such a product if it is their desire.

The only thing the company cannot do is sell their product as certified, when it isn’t.

You seem to feel that it is the responsibility of somebody else to keep you safe. It is not.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:38 AM

So you can pretty much kiss new small entrepreneurial companies from coming up with new products.

Which is no diffeerent from what is happening today.

In the instance of a drug, they would test to make sure the product is “pure”, and not tainted. That the suppliers and manufacturing meets standards, but not if it is safe for long term consumption, or if it reacts to other drugs.
Often the standards are set by the government, then it is up to the companies to comply, so they hire UL to pass the certification demanded by the government.

right2bright on February 25, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Since these are the only criteria that apply to the type of products that UL rates.
If they were to branch out to new products, they are fully capable of developing new standards.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:40 AM

That has happened many times.
Alta-Dena dairies is an example a few years ago. Many people have become ill drinking milk that did not meet gov. standards…most notably in the health foods area and “raw” milk.

right2bright on February 25, 2010 at 6:16 PM

You admit that with govt control, people still get sick.
No system is perfect, but it’s easy to demonstrate that govt is always more imperfect than the free market.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:43 AM

Good lord this kind of cr** gets old.

“Markets always work perfectly!!! There are never any market failures, ever! In practice, a massive economy containing millions of consumers who have varying levels of access to the information required for them to make rational choices works flawlessly! Why? Because my freshman econ teacher said so!”

crr6 on February 25, 2010 at 6:33 PM

Did you get a govt permit before building that strawman?
Nobody has ever, not even once claimed that the market is perfect.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:44 AM

Ummmm UL doesn’t test everything with it’s label on it.

Also the UL can’t force investigations.

MirCat on February 25, 2010 at 7:47 PM

If you mean was every single lamp tested? Then no.
What the UL does is test the design, then they certify that manufacturing process.

The UL can’t force an investigation, but they can withdraw the companies right to use the UL label if the company refuses to allow UL to do an investigation.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:47 AM

If the company makes even a small change to their product, they do have to go through a new UL approval process.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:48 AM

BTW, the “kill the FDA” is a talking point for the Paultards. Sadly, Stossel has become one of them.

funky chicken on February 25, 2010 at 8:45 PM

The Paultards are also against Obama’s attempts to take over the health care industry.

I guess you are now going to start backing Obama in this?

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:50 AM

Good lord this kind of cr** gets old.
“Markets always work perfectly!!! There are never any market failures, ever! In practice, a massive economy containing millions of consumers who have varying levels of access to the information required for them to make rational choices works flawlessly! Why? Because my freshman econ teacher said so!”
crr6 on February 25, 2010 at 6:33 PM

…And you can trace most of our current market failures to government intervention! The free market is always more responsive than government.

kyslugbug on February 26, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Taking the global warming out of this question, I think we still need the EPA. What would stop companies from dumping their crap in lakes and the ocean?

ckoeber on February 25, 2010 at 4:06 PM

The people who live nearby suing the company out of existence. Which is what happened, until govt decided that citizens no longer had standing to sue over pollution.

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Don’t you just love history, not that revisionist drivel in the public screwalls, but real history? What was the reason the big bad government HAD to step in before the people won and a company was put out of business by a crippling lawsuit?
 
Political Science is defined as “The study of who did what to who for how much and when”. Also, it was my dad’s favorite curriculum.

Blacksmith8 on February 26, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Mr. O’Reilly a centralized authority is able to lie to you and you will buy into because it is the Government.

Either Mr. O’Reilly was using this idea to keep the show going.

But, in reality Mr. O’Reilly there is a concept that your idea does not allow or condones – a second opinion.

MSGTAS on February 26, 2010 at 10:12 AM

#1 Bad drugs still get through the FDA because it is a corrupt government bureaucracy. Phen Phen and countless other damaging drugs made it through.

#2 The FDA has killed millions by holding up life saving drugs for decades, many more than would have been injured or killed if all those drugs went straight on to the market after review from a private agency.

conservnut on February 25, 2010 at 5:29 PM

#3 By lengthening testing times from a few years to more than a decade, they have dramatically driven up the cost of drugs.

Btw, a friend of mine has a small business producing specialty vitamins for physicians. You wouldn’t believe how heavy-handed the FDA is… you think the IRS is bad, you haven’t seen the FDA in action! The FDA is bought and paid for by the large pharmas and special interests. They have tried for years to get my friend’s business shut down, even though judges have ruled multiple times that they have not broken any laws.

(And physicians would not purchase the vitamins if they weren’t producing results in their patients!)

dominigan on February 26, 2010 at 10:16 AM

We’ve sunk a long way since Abraham Lincoln refused to consider banning opiates (wounded veterans were becoming addicted) saying that laws of prohibition did not conduce to the American Experiment.

The FDA has grown huge and oppressive because two legs of the stool prosper. Government gets more power over our lives, and established drug companies enjoy a huge cost barrier to three guys in a lab in a medical center somewhere coming up with a compound that appears out of nowhere and knocks one of theirs out of the market.

We, the third leg of the stool, get to pay more, wait longer and get used to others telling us what we can and can’t have. Public wariness of untested drugs coupled with consumer legal action when drugs prove unsafe would be sufficient to keep vigilence up.

And now we have that imbecile statist John McCain introducing legislation to bring vitamins and supplements under FDA control. How far Republicans have fallen since Lincoln!

Chaz on February 26, 2010 at 10:51 AM

“There are never any market failures”

I see responses to someone who said the above, but all are missing the point. Markets are there to expose failure, not prevent it. Markets provide for early detection by signaling problems. It is government intervention that masks problems (CYA bureaucrats) until they turn huge. You don’t get market bubbles causing widespread damage without the dead hand of government involved.

Chaz on February 26, 2010 at 10:58 AM

A private agency doesn’t need to prevent a company from selling such a product.

The private individual is free to buy, or not buy such a product if it is their desire.

The only thing the company cannot do is sell their product as certified, when it isn’t.

You seem to feel that it is the responsibility of somebody else to keep you safe. It is not.

MarkTheGreat on February 26, 2010 at 8:38 AM

I support your right to bake your own bread products.

If you buy any bread, you are blindly trusting some company that mills baking powder. And a different company that mills flour. And a different company that produces sugar. And a different company that produces powdered egg whites. And a different yeast manufacturer.

Maybe you can get a list of such companies when you buy bread. However you should consider that it is probably not “ACME Mills” that is the problem, it’s a building in Des Moines with moldy ceilings, whoever owns it. Just avoiding ACME Mills brand flour the rest of your life might lead you to eating tainted flour. Guess you’ll need a list of their plants. Keep a little map of the United States on your kitchen wall with colored pins stuck in it.

UL may itself be a nice example of a private concern. That is probably due to govt requirements that people get insurance, which they can’t get, unless their fire alarms are up to national standards, and, at this point in time, no one client brings enough business to UL to be worth their reputation, which would not be true if it started up today. A private alternative to the FDA might run as honestly, smoothly and accurately as Microsoft Vista…

Chris_Balsz on February 26, 2010 at 12:19 PM

I’m sure that the sun would still rise in the east if we abolished the FDA. It would probably even be an improvement. Of course, you could also abolish the Department of Education, the EPA and many others and the nation would still survive and prosper.

duff65 on February 26, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Meh, How many dismissing Stossel even watched his full program on it?

He presented a very convincing argument against the FDA.

V-rod on February 26, 2010 at 3:22 PM

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