Why We Really Keep Seemingly Beneficial Drugs Off the Market
President Trump has received a non-FDA approved drug under a “compassionate use” exemption. Can a legal regime that allows the President access to a medicine but generally prohibits the public from purchasing it be justified?
The most obvious justification is that the President should receive special treatment. Sure, it is worthwhile for the country to spend a great deal of resources protecting the people’s electoral choice by giving the best medical care possible. But that does not explain why the government forbids voluntary transactions between others and the drug maker. If the bulk of the evidence right now is that the drug is helpful, then why not approve the drug at least provisionally? Tyler Cowen advances this line of argument, suggesting that there should be more individual freedom to buy drugs.
One potential counterargument is that drugs might be misused. Doctors might have conflicts of interest, and anyway they might make bad decisions. We’ll allow the President to use the drug because we can be fairly confident in his medical team. But if we allowed just any doctor to prescribe the drug, then on net we would do more harm than good. But it doesn’t sound like President Trump’s doctors have performed an especially complicated calculation here. It’s worth it for the President to take the drug given his age and weight. Why then can’t the drug be approved for everyone meeting certain condition
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