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Instead of following its mission statement, which directs it to protect the public health, the FDA frequently puts the financial interests of drug companies ahead of the health of American citizens. As a result of that betrayal, reports of drugs that make huge profits even though they cause severe personal injuries and wrongful deaths are sadly common. The FDA is supposed to regulate medical procedures such as Lasik surgery and hip replacements, but Lasik has caused so many vision problems and even suicides that its victims have formed a support group. Zimmer replacement hips are supposed to improve the quality of life for the people who receive them, but they have caused excruciating pain for many patients and have often required their own replacement.

If the employees of the FDA acted in the spirit of true public servants, they would assure us that foods we eat, the drugs we take, and the medical procedures we undergo will enhance our lives and not harm us. But too often FDA employees act in the best interests of the drug companies that fund their positions.

One major part of the problem with the FDA is its source of funding. At least one-quarter of the FDA‘s budget comes from fees paid by drug manufacturers, and those payments essentially guarantee that the best interests of American consumers are not the primary concern of the FDA.

Because pharmaceutical companies fund the FDA, cases like the one involving Bayer and its drug Trasylol show just how the FDA gives preferential treatment to its funding source.

One other huge danger to the American public which the FDA allows to continue is that drug companies are essentially free to pay the researchers of their choice huge fees for returning favorable reviews. The FDA is certainly aware of this practice, but doesn’t stop it.

The FDA is has the responsibility of monitoring drug companies’ advertising, but drug ads are everywhere, working hard to create the belief that relief from any problem is just a pill away. In fact, drug companies now spend twice as much on advertising as they do on research.

And don’t expect the FDA to tell you that doctors themselves won’t take many of the drugs that they regularly prescribe.

And it’s not just drugs and surgeries that are harming and even killing people. Recent events make it extremely difficult to have confidence in the safety of our food supply, which the FDA is supposed to ensure. This summer, tomato farmers lost millions of dollars in revenue as the FDA inaccurately linked tomatoes to an outbreak of salmonella poisoning. The outbreak went on for months before the FDA identified peppers as the source of the bacteria, and because of that mistake, tomato farmers’ losses may reach half a billion dollars.

The FDA‘s failures have been so damaging to public health that they’ve actually brought Democrats and Republicans together in an election year to condemn the agency and demand its complete overhaul.

No one who knows anything about the FDA has any confidence in it, and a group of concerned leaders has come together to form the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, and perhaps their efforts will eventually bring real reform to this faltering agency.

But we don’t have time to wait. Every day, more Americans become victims of the drug companies and their willing accomplices in the FDA. Every day, we all face the dangers of life-destroying prescription drugs. Every day, we all face a risk of food-borne illness. Every day, we deserve better protection from the FDA.

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Richard Alexander