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Yet somehow countries that regulate drugs merely by safety tend to produce better health outcomes than countries that regulate for safety and efficacy like the US FDA does. You're just asserting that the upsides outweigh the downsides, but every study I've seen that tries to measure things quantitatively comes to the opposite conclusion.

The gullible are already getting snake-oil in the form of herbal remedies and homeopathy.

The point here is that this drug hasn't been tested for its safety, much less its efficacy. It is still at an early testing stage. The researchers seem to have a reasonable theory for why they believe it will be effective. But molecular biology is complicated and the risk for harmful effects in humans is not trivial.

Ben Goldacre's book Bad Pharma details the serious personal and social costs that come with poor drug trials. Everyone urging the abandonment of caution here seems to assume this new drug already works or, at the very least, the effects of its usage could not be worse than the grim prognosis patients already confront. But that's what proper trials are meant to establish. Snake oil can come in pill form, too. And even with the current precautions, we've ended up with a number of ineffective, expensive, and sometimes deadly drugs on the market.

I'd go further in saying that the gullible are going online where they learn of really shady solutions. From there, they go underground or to other countries to get snake-oil of a particularly strong reptilian flavor.

As with the drug war, we drive people into being basically criminals when they're in reality suffering from a medical condition.

So rather than being allowed to experiment with extremely desperate volunteers who could likely one day provide some real EUREKA therapies, we send those folks to the dark side where they're much more likely to spend a great deal of money and be taken advantage of.

That's a huge practical loss, but an even greater ethical loss. At its very core, we are throwing away people's right to choose what to do with their own bodies. Being okay with that ethical tragedy is like being okay with rape or torture for some poorly proven "greater good".

Rhetorical tip: If you seek a dysphemism for alternative therapies of which you disapprove, "snake oil" is a poor choice, given that that substance is a rich source of omega-3, the same fatty acid that so many physicians now recommend to their patients. Snake oil's nutritional profile may well account for its value to practitioners of Chinese medicine.


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