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Deja Vu, Indeed - a Paean to the FDA


The Wall Street Journal's Cynthia Crossen, whose history column is called Deja Vu, recounted a 1937 incident in which a drug containing antifreeze killed 75 people, leading to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, which led, of course, to many, many more deaths in the decades it has been in force.

In this article (subscription to wsj.com required), Crossen refers scornfully to Americans - evidently numerous at the time - who claimed the right to "self-medicate."

Here's part of the feedback I sent to her e-mail address:

Your paean to the efficacy of government regulation of food and drugs since 1938 is as hastily ill-considered as was the 1937 decision by Massengill to release its Elixir Sulfanilamide. Completely ignored were, among other things, consideration of the additional costs federal regulations have imposed on food and drugs; beneficial drugs that were never released because of these regulations, and delays in the release of beneficial drugs otherwise quite ready for release. All these, you would have us understand, despite recent fiascoes like Vioxx, and a long string of earlier ones, are offset by the prevention of innumerable incidents presumably more or less resembling the Massengill one.


N. Joseph Potts studies economics at his home in South Florida. Send him mail.

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