Big Pharma dances on the FDA’s grave, part 2

I wrote the other day about the hypocrisy –not to mention true gall — that pharma apologists like Peter Pitts have shown in their attacks on licensed Canadian pharmacy drug reimportation.

Essentially, Pitts argues that Americans should not be permitted to buy Canadian drugs because the FDA is incompetent to regulate these imports and keep the public safe. This is now the pharmaceutical industry’s leading argument against Canadian drugs.

The exquisitely painful irony here, of course, is that Big Pharma has been leading the charge to de-fang (and then de-gum and de-tongue) the FDA for decades now. I like the analogy I used the other day, so I’ll use it again: It’s like a child murdering his parents — then begging the court for mercy because he’s an orphan.

All of which brings forth the larger question, “Who killed the FDA?”

Was it Ronald Reagan with a candlestick in the library? A Big Pharma lobbyist with a lethal injection in the spin room? Or WHO, exactly?

I came across an article by Greg Anrig in The American Prospect, via the Campaign for America’s Future, that provides a useful history lesson. Here’s an excerpt:

Charting the phases of the FDA’s decline lays bare the responsibility borne by movement conservatism. The first phase was the two terms of the Reagan presidency, when the FDA’s staff declined by 30 percent.

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After a reprieve from 1988 to 1994, when more moderate presidents and a Democratic Congress provided ample boosts in the agency’s budget and staffing, the FDA’s garroting resumed with a vengeance in the wake of the 1994 Republican landslide that catapulted Gingrich to the House Speaker’s chair. He led a highly effective jihad against the agency, pushing to privatize many of its activities.

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The onslaught continued under George W. Bush and the Republican Congress. From 1994 to 2007, according to former FDA chief counsel Hutt, the agency’s appropriated personnel declined from 9,167 to 7,856, while its funding increased by only two-thirds of the amount that would have been needed to keep up with inflation…

Ironically, Reagan’s anti-FDA movement got traction with his claims that the FDA was effectively “murdering” Americans by spending too long approving needed drugs. Of course, cutting agency personnel by 30 percent doesn’t necessarily speed things along; it just spreads its resources more thinly, so that more mistakes are made, the agency gets blamed, and more resources are cut to punish the agency as a result.

It’s an irrational cycle that ends with, “Will the last FDA employee hand the keys to Big Pharma on his way out?” But so far, it’s worked like a charm. As Anrig writes:

Back in the 1970s, the FDA ranked among the most respected public agencies, with a public confidence rating of 80 percent. By 2000, that level had dropped to 61 percent; last year, it was just 36 percent. Quite clearly, the conservative movement has accomplished its mission of causing the general public to share its hostility toward what was once an admired governmental institution.

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs. - Search. Compare. Save.

0 thoughts on “Big Pharma dances on the FDA’s grave, part 2

  • Philip Taylor says:

    We invite you to visit our medical info website. We’d like your permission to add a link to your site (at no charge) as a resource for our readers.


  • I know for myself I have lost faith in many branches of the government, not just the FDA. It seems we spend way more money to pay fewer people to do a poorer job than we did 30 years ago. It’s not just the FDA, it’s all government agencies!

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