Although industrialized nations regulate pharmaceuticals to ensure their safety and efficacy, they balance these concerns with those related to the timeliness of the approval process and the burdens involved in meeting regulatory criteria. The United States, Canada, Britain, and France have adopted different approaches to the regulation of pharmaceuticals that place varying emphases on these competing goals and involve the participation of private interests to different extents. The regulatory approval processes and the government–industry relationships inherent within them are compared in the United States, Canada, Britain, and France by analyzing five features that distinguish the U.S. pluralist from the European corporatist approaches to policy development: representation (internal versus external),process (closed versus open), stance (informal,accommodative versus formal, adversarial), institutional power(fragmented versus centralized), and resources. An institutional framework further characterizes these approaches as based on models ofmanagerial discretion and adjudication (United States),consultation (Canada), and bargaining (Britain, France) to clarify the patterns that emerge. While the approach that most effectively supports product safety involves managerial discretion as occurs in the United States, formal mechanisms for negotiation might be incorporated rather than a reliance on the judicial process. In an era of globalization and regulatory harmonization such divergence has significant implications. First, where harmonization in Europe involves the mutual recognition of one country's product licensing decision by the others, differences in evaluative processes remain important. Second, as harmonization leads to a common set of regulatory criteria, the criteria adopted tend to be those of nations with the least stringent regulatory standards, making evident the need for more responsive systems of post-market surveillance to protect the public interest.

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