The FDA has two critical missions. One is to ensure that medications approved for sale to patients are safe and effective. The other is to get treatments to patients as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, the two missions can come into conflict.
Approve a drug too quickly, without a comprehensive review of safety and efficacy, and the example that haunts all regulators might come to pass yet again. That would be the thalidomide tragedy of the 1950s, when a treatment for morning sickness in Great Britain in pregnant women led to severe birth defects.
But taking too long to approve a safe and effective treatment also takes a toll: patients who could benefit from the new treatment don't get it in a timely fashion, sometimes with fatal consequences.