Seven former commissioners of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) joined forces Tuesday to condemn increasing White House pressure on the agency they once headed.
The administration pressure is eroding the faith Americans have in an agency set up to protect them from bad drugs, contaminated food and other dangers, Drs. Robert Califf, Scott Gottlieb, Margaret Hamburg, Jane Henney, David Kessler, Mark McClellan and Andy von Eschenbach wrote in a commentary in the Washington Post.
“The White House has said it might try to influence the scientific standards for vaccine approval put forward by the FDA or block the agency from issuing further written guidance on its criteria for judging the safety and benefits of a potential Covid-19 vaccine,” they wrote.
“On Sept. 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar revoked the FDA’s authority to establish rules for food and drug safety, instead claiming that sole authority for himself,” they added.
“This came in the wake of acknowledged acts of political influence on the FDA’s coronavirus communications, significant misstatements by the secretary and other political leaders about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, and the overruling of FDA scientists on the regulation of covid-19 laboratory tests. At risk is the FDA’s ability to make the independent, science-based decisions that are key to combating the pandemic and so much more.”
The former commissioners, who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, said the actions were undermining 114 years of work the FDA has done to build trust.
If people doubt the safety of any coronavirus vaccine, they won’t get immunized, the seven argued.
Kessler now advises the Biden campaign. Gottlieb, who was FDA commissioner under Trump until last year, is on the board of Pfizer, which is working on a Covid-19 vaccine and McClellan, who served under George W. Bush, is on the board of Johnson & Johnson, also developing a coronavirus vaccine.