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The FDA: Patients or Companies First?

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According to the FDA, it “is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.” Given this mission, it would seem to follow that the FDA should put the interest of public health ahead of other concerns, such as the profits of a pharmaceutical company. While many of those employed by the FDA are dedicated to this mission, federal agencies have an alarming tendency to be captured by industry. As such, it is hardly surprising that the FDA has acted in ways that benefit companies at the expense of public health. Charles Seife has provided a documented account of how this can occur in his article in the February 2018 issue of Scientific American. While the legality of this matter is up to the law makers and courts, the ethics of the matter are philosophically interesting. Image Credit On the face of it, the moral problem should be easy to solve. Since the FDA is tasked with protecting public health and is a federal agency, its moral duty is to do just that. To act in ways that put public health at risk to benefit a company would seem to be clearly wrong. Part of the problem, as noted by Seife, is that the FDA is very secretive, and this makes it difficult for the public to know the truth about the operations of the FDA and the products that it approves. Another part of the problem, also noted by Seife, is that the FDA seems willing to allow research misconduct to remain unreported. While it is tempting to suspect foul play when approved drugs are later recalled or given new warnings, it must be noted that this is just what  should be expected even when products are properly evaluated. This is because of how the inductive reasoning that governs trials works. While inductive logic is essential, it has a fundamental problem that is called,. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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