Drug rush

August 13, 1992

In recent years, pharmaceutical progress has been fast outpacing regulators at the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, potentially life-saving drugs are going unused because the FDA doesn't have enough staff to test them quickly.

But disease doesn't wait for product testing, and some people who might otherwise benefit from newly developed drugs are dying. The human cost can't be tallied in dollars and cents, but pharmaceutical companies do put a dollar figure on the losses they incur -- $10 million per drug for each month's delay in FDA approval.

In a happy instance of government-industry cooperation, pharmaceutical firms and the federal government are nearing agreement on a plan in which companies would agree to special fees to cover 600 additional FDA staff members to speed the approval process. When government budgets are stretched thin, this is the kind of creative thinking we need to see more often.

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