That’s what a group of former FDA bigwigs want. If they get their way, natural medicine could be in even greater jeopardy.
This week, six former commissioners of the Food and Drug Administration dating back to President Reagan have called on Congress to give the FDA more power by making it an independent, cabinet-level agency. They argue that the agency, which regulates about a quarter of the nation’s economy, has been hamstrung by red tape and micromanagement from the top.
The ex-commissioners plan on releasing a white paper for the next administration to push the idea.
So let’s see what this means. It means that an agency which receives much of its funding from Big Pharma would sit at the same table with the Departments of State and Defense, answerable to no one other than the president him- or herself! This would represent the total triumph of crony capitalism.
Consider also the FDA’s record. Congressional auditors have reported that the FDA is sorely lacking in both scientific competence and accountability. A 2007 congressional report concluded that the “FDA cannot fulfill its mission because its scientific base has eroded and its scientific organizational structure is weak.”
Most recently, the agency is:
- On the verge of completely eliminating the compounding industry, and along with it, many natural, customized medicines such as intravenous vitamins and bioidentical hormones.
- Throttling innovators in many fields—especially the field of medical testing, which is the future of medicine. Although the agency says this is about protecting patients, it really isn’t. It is about how much money the innovator has to pay the FDA. It is strictly pay-to-
- Demonstrating antipathy toward dietary supplements, seeking to treat them like drugs and thus eliminate many from the market.
- Setting its sights on homeopathy and considering stricter regulations and enforcement policies—all of which are designed to protect the agency’s Big Pharma “clients.”
- Censoring—with threats of fines and even jail—commonsense communication of legitimate, peer reviewed scientific research on natural health products.
There are many examples of FDA failure, the most famous being Merck’s arthritis drug Vioxx. The drug was known to increase the risk of heart attack, yet the agency approved it anyway. Some 55,000 Americans died, and 140,000 others experienced heart attacks before the drug was finally pulled.
In short, more power for the FDA means more power for an incompetent agency and more influence for pharmaceutical companies. Is that what this country wants?
To truly protect the health of this nation, what is really needed is to break up and restructure the FDA so it is no longer servile to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry and can actually serve its stated functions. Supplements and food regulation should not reside in the same agency that supposedly regulates drugs or medical equipment. It is hard enough to keep supplement and food regulators from being captured by junk food companies. To have them under the thumb of junk food and drug companies is a disaster for the American public.
There are risks to this approach. Big Pharma, wishing to eliminate supplements, would likely argue that food can be regulated separately, but that supplements must stay with drugs! The FDA, which largely does what the drug companies want, would no doubt agree. But supplements, by law, are not drugs—they are food. Unfortunately, being right would not guarantee the right outcome, given the crony capitalist society in which we live. Undoubtedly this issue would become a massive battleground to secure the right outcome.
In the coming weeks we’ll have a more in-depth look at the failure of the FDA to protect and promote the health and safety of Americans.