The US Food and Drug Administration is celebrating its centenary, but a good proportion of its scientists are not so thrilled with what it has become. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) just released a survey of 997 FDA scientists, co-sponsored by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to a total of 5918. This is not the world’s best response rate, so the results can’t be claimed representatives. But what it revealed is disturbing in itself. One hundred eighty three scientists in this sample reported they “have been asked, for non-scientific reasons, to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information or their conclusions in a FDA scientific document.”
Forty percent of respondents fear retaliation for voicing safety concerns in public. This fear, scientists say, combines with other pressures to compromise the agency’s ability to protect public health and safety. More than a third of the respondents did not feel they could express safety concerns even inside the agency.
The survey also revealed other compelling points of concern:
* 61 percent of the respondents knew of cases where “Department of Health and Human Services or FDA political appointees have inappropriately injected themselves into FDA determinations or actions.”
* Only 47 percent think the “FDA routinely provides complete and accurate information to the public.”
* 81 percent agreed that the “public would be better served if the independence and authority of FDA post-market safety systems were strengthened.”
* 70 percent disagree with the statement that FDA has sufficient resources to perform effectively its mission of “protecting public health*and helping to get accurate science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.” (UCS Press Release)
FDA is not unique in the Bush administration and the Republican congress. Whether it is the science of climate change, stem cells or health and safety, science takes a back seat to lobbyists, corporate influence and religious pressure.
In other words, business as usual.