The Need for FDA Reform: Four Models

Economic Perspectives, The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, (2016)

7 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2016

See all articles by Adam D. Thierer

Adam D. Thierer

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Michael Wilt


Date Written: September 14, 2016


The Food and Drug Administration, one of the oldest regulatory agencies, is showing unfortunate signs of age, particularly in its drug and device approval process. The approval process was established with the best of intentions — namely, to keep unsafe products off the market — but it has always come at a cost in terms of delaying life-enriching, and even lifesaving, drugs and devices.

The current cumbersome approval process generates both expense and uncertainty for inventors. The slow pace of approvals from the agency imposes avoidable suffering on patients, even as the FDA falls further behind technological progress. The agency’s review process needs to undergo comprehensive reform to streamline the process so that it may keep pace with modern developments and the need for speedier drug and device approval. The most important reform is for policymakers to determine where the FDA has a comparative advantage and where the private sector can take on some of the duties that the FDA has been performing.

The consequences of failing to implement comprehensive reform will be profound for innovators and, ultimately, patients. This policy brief summarizes four models for reform proposed by scholars affiliated with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and others which would change how medical products are brought to markets and removed from markets by creating a process to adapt to technological growth and consumer demand in the 21st century.

Keywords: healthcare, right to try, consumer, choice, innovation, medical, devices, FDA, regulation, patient,medical, device, personalized, medicine,

JEL Classification: I180, K320

Suggested Citation

Thierer, Adam D. and Wilt, Michael, The Need for FDA Reform: Four Models (September 14, 2016). Economic Perspectives, The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, (2016). Available at SSRN: or

Adam D. Thierer (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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Michael Wilt


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