Feds admit to missing drug problems

Imagine NASA patting itself on the back over the discovery of a new asteroid -- but only after it crashed into the planet and wiped out Los Angeles.

It's crazy, but that's exactly what the FDA's been doing lately.

Up to 50 percent of all drug side effects -- including dangerous and even deadly risks -- aren't spotted until after a drug has been approved by the agency and given to millions of Americans.

It's a shameful and downright embarrassing track record for any agency charged with drug safety -- but the FDA seems to think the fact that they eventually spot those risks is worth bragging about.

In a new report with the comically ignorant title of "Advances in FDA's Safety Program for Marketed Drugs," the FDA says it's required 385 post-market studies and made 65 changes to drug labels to reflect new safety guidelines since 2008.

Here's an idea: How about requiring those studies before a drug is approved, so the label won't have to be changed at all -- because we'll already know most, if not all, of a drug's risks?

Apparently, that's asking too much in today's "approve first, ask questions later" environment.

What's even more amazing is that the new report doesn't even hint at the agency's other huge problem with approved drugs -- and that's the fact that they often wait years to act even when they do learn of new risks.

Case in point: Statins.

Earlier this year, the FDA required a new warning for statin labels saying the drugs can cause diabetes, memory problems, confusion, and serious muscle pain.

We've known about those risks for years now. One friend of mine, a retired doctor, has battled neuropathy pain since taking statins a decade ago. And the diabetes risk was exposed in a major study four years ago.

Yet the FDA is only just getting around to revising the warning label.

And if you think that's bad, just wait -- because this is about to get a whole lot worse.

I'm sure you've heard plenty about all the gridlock in D.C., but there's one area where both parties have been able to work together. In a rare act of bipartisanship, Congress is getting ready to make it easier for new drugs to reach the market quicker than ever.

That's something to think about next time you read about a newly approved drug -- and how "safe" it's been shown in studies "so far."