When is Too Little Too Much?

  • by: |
  • 08/10/2005

The debate over FDA’s new Drug Watch plan is a bellweather for how the FDA views both the pharmaceutical companies it regulates and the public it must keep informed. PhRMA’s position is that “Plans by U.S. regulators to release preliminary information about potential drug side effects could lead to unnecessary confusion and irrational fears about medicines.” And, according to Reuters, “PhRMA also voiced concern that the FDA may not provide companies with adequate notice of new information for the Web site or a chance for input.” These are all rational concerns. Where’s Aristotle when you need him? Where is the moderation? Does the public deserve to know about potential risks earlier? Of course. But what does that mean? It should not mean scaring people with the results of early, often ambiguous studies. Unfortunately, the media and some politicians jump on these FDA postings to bash drugs that are, overwhelmingly, safe. Precipitous postings only magnify the media’s thirst for “the next Vioxx,” and magnify the unintended consequences of non-compliance. And unintended consequences are not in the best interest of the public health. But this does not mean that swifter release of appropriate science isn’t a crucial goal. It most certainly is and on this both sides agree. The proper answer, the “how to,” is somewhere in the middle — but seeking that out through dialogue and debate is exceedingly hard in today’s highly-charged political environment. It’s time for politics to take a back seat to science and the public health. It’s time to abandon the Precautionary Principle for the Aristotelean Mean.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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