7 former FDA commissioners write opinion column lamenting White House's treatment of agency

Seven former FDA commissioners wrote an opinion column for The Washington Post Sept. 29, in which they detail their disapproval of the White House's involvement in the agency during the pandemic.

Some of the main grievances the authors laid out were the White House's announcement that it might block the FDA from issuing scientific guidance on vaccine approval; HHS Secretary Alex Azar's Sept. 15 renouncement of the agency's authority to create safety rules; and the White House's overruling of FDA scientists' decision on COVID-19 tests.

The former commissioners acknowledged the "integrity and high-quality scientific work of FDA staff" and the agency's commitment to adhere to strict standards for vaccine approval, but expressed concern that the perception of political influence is causing Americans to lose trust in the agency. The letter pointed out that September's Axios-Ipsos poll results found that 42 percent of Americans lacked trust in the FDA's ability to make reliable decisions.

"The implications of the recent shift are potentially dire," the former FDA commissioners wrote. "When the FDA warns about a risk from contaminated food, will people heed it? When a new drug for cancer or heart disease is approved, will clinicians and families trust it to work? And most urgent for today: When the FDA approves a covid-19 vaccine, will Americans accept it?"

They concluded their column by writing, "Political intrusion only prolongs the pandemic and erodes our public health institutions."

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