Government Thwarts Cancer Cures and Production of Life-Saving Drugs

The federal government thwarted a promising cancer treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski on trial twice, saying “it did not matter” whether his “unconventional cancer treatments saved people’s lives,” only “that he had failed to get the FDA’s permission first.” But as Reason’s Jacob Sullum notes, the Phase II clinical trials that the FDA belatedly carried out “under congressional pressure have supported what the teary testimonials of patients and their families suggested: Although Burzynski’s antineoplastons are far from a cure-all, they seem to be more effective, and are certainly much less devastating in their side effects, than radiation and chemotherapy for certain deadly, intractable cancers.”

The government is also thwarting the production of life-saving drugs, causing critical shortages of key medicines. The supply of an essential cancer drug may run out within weeks: “A crucial medicine to treat childhood leukemia is in such short supply that hospitals across the country may exhaust their stores within the next two weeks, leaving hundreds and perhaps thousands of children at risk of dying from a largely curable disease, federal officials and cancer doctors say.” As a commenter quoted by law professor Glenn Reynolds points out, this is the result of government price controls: “So price controls are imposed on injectable drugs and lo and behold a shortage arises. Who would have thunk it?” As a doctor notes, this drug shortage is far from unique: “these shortages are very real… one center I work at has trouble getting propofol for anesthesia and another cannot get zofran (ondansetron), one of the most effective anti-nausea drugs on the market.” As another commentator notes, the “government has distorted the market and removed incentives for the production of life-saving drugs.”

The Obama administration has also sought to sharply restrict the market for bone-marrow transplants, potentially costing thousands of lives. It recently asked a federal appeals court to extend the reach of the National Organ Transplant Act beyond its text, in order to ban compensation for the collection of peripheral blood stem cells needed by many transplant recipients.  By doing so, it hopes to prevent organ transplants from being affected by “market forces.”

The federal DEA recently caused shortages of the drug Adderall, which is needed by people suffering from narcolepsy. Earlier, government regulations caused cancer and burn victims in the Third World to die in agony without any pain relief.  More links on the federal government’s role in causing shortages of hospital drugs can be found here.