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A leading libertarian scholar explains why the coming age of molecular medicine will dramatically revolutionize our lives - but only if we confront the out-of-date regulatory system that threatens to derail it. Nature took four billion years to develop the molecular code that choreographs life on earth. That code, composed of nucleic acids, genes, and proteins, is tremendously complex, and medicine didn't understand it until very recently. But today, medicine is a true information industry, with drug designers able to read every molecular letter of life's code and create miracle drugs to control that code. The process isn't easy, but it's as logical as the one that composes the software that controls our computers. Our understanding of life's code is getting so good that we've figured out that every person reacts to medicine in a different way; we're consequently starting to build a medical system tailored to individuals. But there's a fly in the ointment, argues Peter Huber in The Cure in the Code. Now that medicine takes place on the molecular level, massive public health initiatives designed to attack infectious diseases (such as the one that eradicated smallpox) are no longer viable or necessary. Government intervention has instead become a burden: it stifles drug innovation, creates deadweight losses, and strangles industries with bureaucracy. Further, the government's attempts to make medicine cheap and universally available will actually prove enormously expensive, since they discourage capital from investing in the invention of cutting-edge molecular drugs.
The Cure in the Code provides a startling look at Washington's inability to handle the torrents of complex data that propels the advance of molecular medicine. The process that we currently rely on to regulate the development and licensing of drugs is now frozen and has fallen so far behind new science that it obstructs it at almost every turn. In every area where the power of molecular medicine has been unleashed, the cost of health care is falling fast. But most of the health care system remains locked in the old world of helpless care that keeps getting more expensive. The heavy-handed pursuit of what bankrupt governments call affordable health care cannot be reconciled with the dynamic, innovative molecule-by-molecule development of cures that work.