There's a good story on NPR's Morning Edition today about the FDA's procedure for follow up on newly approved drugs. There is a scientific review commitee (convening today) created to evaluate how this method can be improved.
Currently the FDA has 2 methods of follow up in place for fast track drugs:
1) Spontaneous Adverse Reaction Reporting System - almost totally ineffective because busy physicians, pharmacists, etc. do not take the initiative to report what they observe.
2) Mandatory follow up (continuation of the trial) by the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug.
In light of this story, it should be noted that Biogen's fast track of Tysabri was not an isolated incident by a, some would argue, particularly greedy inethical drug company. (For the record, I am NOT in the camp of consumers who feel this way.) Fast track approval occurs, and we are going to see more of it as drug companies shift their focus to therapies for tough diseases like MS.
Taken into consideration, this info should alleviate some of the harsh criticism of the drug companies. IMO, they provide a service that we would be SOL without. Furthermore, that industry has exorbitant R&D costs which must be absorbed by the consumer. There is no free lunch. Their endeavors are not philanthropic. Somebody has to pay. If you believe the federal government should provide a subsidy, that would be passed along to the masses in the form of higher taxes...and that's not fair since the majority of people don't have off-the-chart expensive medical conditions.