Battlepanda: Bad medicine


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bad medicine

OK, I know I'm way behind the curve on this one, but this is dismaying news:
WASHINGTON -- Former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford pleaded guilty Tuesday to conflict of interest and false reporting of information about stocks he owned in food, beverage and medical device companies he was in charge of regulating.

Crawford admitted to falsely reporting that he had sold or did not own stock when he continued holding shares in the firms governed by rules of the Food and Drug Administration. Beginning in 2002, Crawford filed seven incorrect financial reports with a government ethics office and Congress, leading to the charges.

Of course, Crawford is working at a lobbying firm now...

It's not until that I started covering the medical beat here in Taiwan that I realized how much weight the FDA seal of approval carries abroad. California Medicine Man, the blogger I got the heads-up from, is right -- a loss of objectivity in the FDA has the potential to make lives worse all over the world.

Even the appearance of impropriety can cause a devastating loss of faith in as essential and as politically sensitive an institution as the FDA. With the legion of questions that have been raised about conflicts of interest, hidden agendas and behind the scenes lobbying over the last few years, no one should better understand this than Lester M. Crawford.

His selfishness and his dishonesty was both shameful and destructive. His assertion that "Nothing that I have done, I hope, can be construed to affect the integrity of the FDA," is both self-serving and a manifestation of wishful thinking.

Crawford's cynical acts have lowered the credibility of a government agency that has at least the potential of improving countless lives. He deserves far more than a slap on the wrist.

I'm sure my libertarian friends are snickering about how this proves the FDA is a flawed organization, and we'll all be better off if the consumer/patient is allowed to make up their own minds on whether a med is worth the risks in conjunction with their doctors. That's nuts too. This news is so damaging precisely because the agency's guidence is so badly needed. I can tell you now that pharmaceutical companies are monkeys. Disingenuous monkeys. I don't even know how many press conferences for the latest miracle cures in diabetes, asthma, heart conditions etc. etc. I've been to. To some degree it is up to the patient and their medical provider to get informed, but some regulatory body is required to make sure that there are some basic standards in place.