Despite celebrity endorsements courtesy of Photoshop (above), and a real endorsement by eDrugSearch.com and others, Pfizer whistleblower Dr. Peter Rost came up short in his bid to become the next FDA commissioner. President Obama on Saturday announced the selection of Dr. Margaret Hamburg for the top food and drug post.
We knew Peter was a longshot for the post, but what the heck — it was worth a shot.
The good news is that Dr. Hamburg will bring a passion for and history of reform to an agency that needs it desperately.
For Americans under 30, it might surprise you to know that the FDA has not always been a public laughingstock. In fact, in the 1970s, it earned a public confidence rating of 80 percent — among the highest of all government entities. That rating has now dropped to less than 40 percent, making it one of our least trusted federal agencies.
It’s not difficult to track this decline.
During the Reagan presidency, the FDA’s staff was slashed by 30 percent. It was cut even more in the ’90s, when Newt Gingrich led a pogrom against the agency, effectively arguing that private businesses could police themselves. This “starve the beast” mentality continued under George W. Bush. From 1994 to 2007, the agency staff was chopped from 9,167 to 7,856.
Ironically, the whole anti-FDA movement started with President Reagan’s claims that the agency 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 agency 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.
And so finally, the FDA reached a breaking point — and we’ve seen an across-the-board meltdown over the past few years, both with food safety and drug safety.
President Obama clearly wants to turn the ship around, back in the right direction. Here’s a brief video in which he outlines his plans for the FDA:178