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The pharmaceutical industry is far from perfect, to be sure. Drug companies develop too many “me-too” drugs that differ little from earlier products, and spend disproportionately on marketing and promoting them. And they have been woefully ineffective in lobbying for public policy that would create needed incentives for R&D.

But in large part these developments are the result of the industry’s being the victims of government policies, not beneficiaries, as some industry critics would have us believe. In spite of increasingly powerful and precise technologies for drug discovery, purification and production, development expenses have soared.

One important reason for these debilitating costs is that an increasingly risk-averse FDA keeps raising the bar for approval, especially for innovative, high-tech products. The FDA is too often a reed in the political winds: Regulators now find themselves in a gale blowing them toward a more imperious and adversarial posture toward drug companies.

We need public policy strategies that will lower the costs and time of development. That would stimulate formation of new companies (the number of which is now shrinking) and enable them to pursue more drug candidates, including some that are medically needed but offer only modest revenues. In the meantime, Americans will go on dying for reform.

Henry Miller, a physician, is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was an official with the Food and Drug Administration from 1979 to 1994.