According to the Financial Times, the FDA once enjoyed a high reputation. Few consumers challenged its judgement. The FT writes: "Such trust is one reason why the US public has been more willing than Europeans to accept foodstuffs containing genetically modified organisms."
So what has eroded this authority trust? The FT identifies two factors that may be relevant.
- One can detect a regulatory cycle in drug approval. Testing standards became tougher after Thalidomide, were relaxed when AIDS stimulated demand for new and experimental drugs, and so on.
- Division of responsibility and inconsistent handling of drugs at different stages of the innovation lifecycle. Approval follows one process; monitoring of approved drugs is done by a different department and follows a different process.
So whither the FDA - towards a restoration of authority, or towards an engagement with authenticity (if we can believe that)? Either way, a more intelligent and honest attitude to risk (as recommended by the FT) will be useful.
Source: FT Editorial No Pain-Free Option (November 20, 2004)