Robert Kuttner discovered an excellent treatment for colds while vacationing in France and is rightly outraged that it’s not available in the United States:

Toward the end of our stay, my wife and I both got bad coughs (happily, not COVID). We went to our wonderful local pharmacist in search of something like Mucinex or Robitussin, which are not great but better than nothing.

“We have something much better,” said he. And he did. It’s called ambroxol. It works on an entirely different chemical principle, to thin sputum, facilitate productive coughing, and also operates as a pain reliever and gentle decongestant with no rebound effect.

We experienced it as a kind of miracle drug for coughs and colds. A box cost eight euros.

Ambroxol is available nearly everywhere in the world as a generic. It has been in wide use since 1979.

But not in the U.S.

He continues the story:

…You can’t get ambroxol in the U.S. because of the failure of the Food and Drug Administration to grant reciprocal recognition to generic medications approved by its European counterpart, the European Medicines Agency, when they have long been proven safe and effective. To get FDA approval for the sale of ambroxol in the U.S., a drug company would need to sponsor extensive and costly clinical trials. Since it is a generic, as cheap as aspirin, no drug company would bother.

…I’ve petitioned the FDA, asking them to create a fast-track procedure, whereby generic drugs approved in Europe, and well established as safe and effective, could get reciprocal approval in the U.S.

This would produce approval of ambroxol as over-the-counter medication for coughs and colds without unnecessary new clinical trials. And should ambroxol turn out to have real benefits for Parkinson’s as well, it would already be well established in the U.S. as an inexpensive generic.

Influenced by my work on FDA reciprocity aka peer approval, Ted Cruz introduced a bill, the Result Act to fast-track approval in the United States for drugs and devices already approved in other developed countries. Similarly, AOC has noted that the FDA is far behind the world in approving advanced sunscreens. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for bipartisan support.

Hat tip: the excellent Scott Lincicome.

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