The FDA’s Deadly Role in the AIDS Crisis


Another Pride Month full of celebrations all over the world has come and gone. If not for the FDA, there would’ve been hundreds of thousands more people celebrating.

Its role during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s was one of obstruction: simply put, the FDA made it harder for pharmaceutical companies to develop and market drugs that would’ve saved lives. A drug called AZT, for example, wound up earning FDA approval for AIDS treatment … SEVEN years into the crisis, long after thousands of people had suffered and died.

If that reminds you of its role during a more recent crisis, in which it delayed approval of pharmaceuticals and sowed doubt among the American public about vaccines, well, you’re not alone.

For more context on the FDA, its negation of fundamental rights, and how a world without it might look, we spoke to Professor Jessica Flanigan, the Richard L. Morrill Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values at the University of Richmond, where her research addresses the ethics of public policy, medicine, and business.

Professor Flanigan minced no words in in describing what the FDA is and does, the incentives it creates, and how they lead to “drug lag” and “drug loss.”

This video also includes highlights from David Friedman’s 2018 address at Oxford. See the full address here.

0:00 Celebrating 52 Years of Pride
1:00 The Creation of the Food and Death Administration
2:04 FDR Steps In :/
3:02 David Friedman Goes Off
3:57 “Hey Hey FDA, How Many People Did You Kill Today?”
4:44 How to Slow a Pandemic
5:56 Drug Lag and Drug Loss
7:22 Incentives/Dying of Regulation
9:12 David Friedman Goes Off, Pt. 2
9:40 The FDA’s Role in Covid
10:28 What Could They Have Done Differently?
11:10 A Second-best Alternative: Challenge Trials
11:37 Risk-Reward Ratios