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Commentary

Pharma Furor
Richard A. Epstein, Legal Affairs, 2-1-05

Richard Epstein, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, reviews two books on the pharmaceutical industry, both by former editors in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell and Jerome P. Kassirer. Both authors are ardent critics of the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA, and advocate much more extensive regulation of how drugs are developed and marketed in the U.S. Epstein, however, takes them to task for straying beyond their true expertise.

“Angell, a pathologist, and Kassirer, an internist, aren’t writing about medicine. They are writing about complex social institutions in which it is not possible to have all good things simultaneously. You can’t get new drugs to market if you make them freely available. And you have to absorb some risk of injury to push needed drugs through the FDA process.”

Concludes Epstein: “Their inability to grasp fundamental economic principles about market incentives, gains from trade, the time-value of money, and the importance of innovation leave the authors open to easy attack.”



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