The Food and Drug Administration seems determined to show it is impervious to reform, even if it means dying on the smallest of hills. Now the bureaucracy is defying Congress and the White House by refusing to approve the modern sunscreens that everyone else in the world is allowed to use.
Sunscreen’s active ingredients are regulated by the FDA like new medicines, albeit with even less moral urgency than usual. In this case the problem is skin cancer, most types of which are preventable. But their incidence is rising rapidly in the U.S. even as other cancer rates fall, and part of the explanation is the FDA’s unfathomable, dozen-year blockade of better sunblocks.
Since the 1990s, advanced sunscreens that counter the UV-A rays that contribute to carcinomas have been widely sold in Europe, Canada and Asia. Americans must rely on an older generation that merely prevents sunburn, because since 2002 the FDA has refused to provide up-or-down answers for eight pending applications to approve the superior compounds.
Last year the Surgeon General declared skin cancer a public-health crisis—there are now 63,000 new cases each year of melanoma, the deadliest form. So Congress tried to thaw the FDA deep freeze with the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which passed both chambers unanimously and President Obama signed. The law imposed hard deadlines under a process meant to expedite products that are “generally recognized as safe and effective,” i.e., commercially available in other countries…
One would think that 20 years of use in Europe and Asia would be a big enough experimental sample, but then most of us don’t think like bureaucrats.
Just wait until they start messing with the Internet.