| LE Magazine January 1998 |
As We See It
An Archaic System
The idea of the Food and Drug Administration determining which health and medical therapies should be made available to Americans may have been serviceable 50 years ago when far less medical research was being conducted, and home computers and the Internet hadn't yet been invented.
Today, however, the idea of the FDA controlling the availability of new therapies is utterly absurd. There are thousands of new health and medical studies published weekly, regular breakthroughs in prevention and treatment, advances in aging research, and a system that puts much of this information at the fingertips of anyone with a computer and a modem.
We've written extensively about the harm caused by the FDA's longstanding bias against dietary supplements, the agency's cozy relationship with large pharmaceutical companies, and its illegal and unconstitutional acts against Americans and (lately) citizens of other countries as well.
It's important to understand, however, that even if the bias and corruption of the FDA were entirely eliminated, the system itself would remain archaic and obsolete. In order to better understand why this is so, let's take a look at how the system operates.
All health and medical therapies go through an extensive and complex FDA approval process-which costs vast amounts of money and a great deal of time-before the public is permitted access to the therapy. The costs of this process must be borne entirely by the company that wants to offer the therapy to the public. This makes it extremely difficult for small companies to obtain approval for therapies, and gives the large companies huge advantages. Yet, it is usually small, innovative companies that develop the most exciting breakthroughs.
Plus, there is the vast number of approval applications stemming from the explosion of new health and medical breakthroughs. The FDA has traditionally taken a leisurely, highly cautious approach to the approval of new therapies, but in recent years they've been overwhelmed by an onslaught of new applications for approval of therapeutic claims, causing long delays.
Also, the increasing percentage of health and medical breakthroughs with nutrients and other natural products simply don't fit into the current regulatory scheme. With the emerging availability of phytochemical and herbal extracts to add to vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids, there are now hundreds of natural therapies-often with a history of medical use that goes back thousands of years-which are being proved effective for a wide variety of conditions and diseases.
It is clearly in the public interest to have information about these therapies readily available so that doctors and their patients can decide for themselves if they want to try them.
Just this past autumn, for example, studies have been published showing that vitamin E can prevent heart attacks, ginkgo biloba can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, N-acetylcysteine can prevent flu symptoms, carotenoids such as lutein can prevent macular degeneration of the eye, and soy extracts can prevent various types of cancer . . . to name only a few recent findings.
These therapies are safe, have multiple health benefits, and can be purchased easily at affordable prices. It is both inappropriate and impractical to require government"approval" (or any other kind of approval) for the use of these therapies in preventing and treating diseases. To do so would be to sacrifice people's lives needlessly.
Life Extension Foundation