A Defence of Pharmaceutical Paternalism

Journal of Applied Philosophy 37 (4):528-542 (2020)
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Abstract

Pharmaceutical paternalism is the normative stance upheld by pharmaceutical regulatory agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration. These agencies prevent patients from accessing treatments declared safe and ineffective for the patient’s good without their consent. Libertarian critics of the FDA have shown a number of significant flaws in regulatory paternalism. Against these objections, I will argue that, in order to make an informed decision about treatments, a libertarian patient should request full disclosure of the uncertainty about an experimental treatment. But pharmaceutical markets, on their own, are not a reliable source of information about such uncertainty. And companies have the power to capture any independent expert who may assess it. Therefore, the libertarian is better off deferring on an independent regulatory body the assessment of the pharmaceutical risks, constraining access to treatments until tested.

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David Teira
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia

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