Scientific McCarthyism

  • by: |
  • 01/08/2008
We are truly confounded by Senator Charles Grassley's "suggestion" that anyone inside the FDA with a beef about the safety of a drug simply vet it in front of an Advisory Committee.

Where could he have gotten such an idea? Perhaps from David Graham, who mixed and matched methodologies and half-baked studies to trash conclusions he disagreed with.

Here's a suggestion: Why not let other Senators from committees other than Finance weigh in with their own opinions, studies and comments during markups and in front of the cameras to trash and second guess the work of staff. Or better yet, let every buck private who disagrees with a procurement policy or a military tactic attack the decision after it's been debated and made. That's just a recipe for chaos.

The benighted effort to move decision making out of the realm of well-established processes of collegial review is an attempt to make all questions disputed and therefore political matters. To do so increases the amount of conflict around the issue of acceptable risk at a time when the FDA is developing and adopting tools that can define risk at the individual level and is creating systems to that can respond to risk quickly through personalized medicine.

It seems that Senator Grassley and Dr. Graham believe the risk of drugs flows from a conspiracy of silence between the FDA and industry. This is a naive and romantic view of safety that sells well but ultimately places the public health in grave danger by demoralizing scientists and discouraging innovation.

Leadership and courage will be required to stand up to his attempt at scientific McCarthyism.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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